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From Seconds to Eternity - Part Three: Time and Space in Fictional Writing

Contributing author: T.K. Millin

“The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein

In Part One, we explored two methods used for capturing time and space in fictional writing: summary and scene. Then, in Part Two, we discovered the use of flashback in fictional writing. Today we are going to venture into the final method used for capturing fictional writing time travel, slow motion.

Slow motion is a technique used quite often in film due to the impact it can have on a person’s psychic. Whether it’s a scene of an explosion, a car or train wreck, or two lovers rushing toward each other on a sandy beach, slowing down the action allows the viewer to register every motion and sound thus making them feel as if they, too, are experiencing the same thing.

The same technique can be used in fictional writing, adding depth to both setting and time.

Let’s explore:

In real-life, there’s a universal phenomenon that when people experience something of an intense nature, their senses become highly alert and they can remember every minute detail of the moment with rich clarity. During times of an extremely intense incident, it can feel as though time has slowed down. That is why the slow motion technique in film can be so powerful.

In fictional writing, the sky is the limit when it comes to slowing down time. How? First, an author is not constricted by time, like a director and, secondly, an author has the luxury of utilizing words to create an imaginary image in the reader’s mind. And imagination can be even more powerful than film!

Just as a director uses slow motion as a tool to achieve an objective, an author also has a tool at hand to use. They have the ability to create an atmosphere that touches all of the five senses.

Most beginner writers will either rush through or skimp on the components of setting and time. This may be due to believing that having too much description will turn readers away. However, when atmosphere is well crafted a reader will not experience it as description, they will simply experience it.

For example: Which passage do you find your eyes beginning to glaze over on and which passage do you immerse yourself in and feel as though time has slowed down, letting you experience what the character is experiencing?

I cupped my hand around the gaping hole in my right leg, slowing the gushing blood from the bullet torn artery. Sweat dripped from my brow as if it were keeping beat with the pounding missiles surrounding my platoon and me. Flashes of light danced above our heads, reminding me of simpler times when my brother and I would play army at night and pretend the fireflies were our enemy. The rancid taste of death and faded screams of pain became a deafening reminder to me that war was real and the enemy doesn’t disappear in the light of day. I counted the seconds like hours waiting for any sign of rescue when darkness stole my hope.

I cupped my hand around the gaping hole in my right leg and wiped the sweat from my brow. Missiles flew over my platoon and me, reminding of when my brother and I would play army at night and pretend the fireflies were our enemy. The screams around me reminded me that war was real and the enemy is always awake. I counted the seconds waiting for signs of rescue when it turned dark, stealing any hope that I had.

In the first passage, detailed imagery was used to describe the moment in time the character was experiencing. By understanding the universal concept that people’s awareness is heightened during intense moments or that time seems to slow down under extreme situations, we described the details of the scene in such a way that the reader could see, feel, hear, touch and taste as if they were in our character’s shoes and time seemed to slow down. In the second passage, the details were non-descriptive, and pretty much boring.

The next time you're experimenting with your writing; give all three of our fictional writing time travel tips a try. You may be surprised just how easy it is to travel through space and time.

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin

I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Breaking free of fear
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