Tag Archives: fiction

Time Transitions in Fiction

Time passes in our stories, but communicating that to readers can be tricky.

Not acknowledging the passage of time can leave readers confused about “when” they are in the story.

But bogging down your narrative with every blessed minute of a character’s life is a freight train to Dullsville.

How do you help your readers follow the timing of your story?

First, create a timeline of events. You can do this before or after your first draft, depending on whether you’re a pantser or plotter.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough if you’re including flashback scenes or your novel plays with time in more complicated ways.

Think about ways to show the passage of time.

1. If your novel hops around to different time zones and there’s lots of action to track, or a race against the clock, consider a time marker at the beginning of the chapter.

Thursday, 2:27 p.m.

2. Use a simple phrase to cue the reader into the passage of time:

two weeks later

an hour ago

next month

3. Use setting to show the passage of time: day to day.

A sunrise cues the readers that it’s morning. Stars out show it’s night.

4. Use setting to show the passage of time: seasonally.

Snow falling in a scene is a different cue than sweating poolside. Set your scene with appropriate seasonal weather (or complementary character clothing) to show readers that time has passed.

Be sure to build in time-passage cues to make your reader’s experience enjoyable.

Story Elements (for Nonfiction Folks too)

I’m not saying that you have to make up stories, but where can you pull examples from  your life to illustrate your points? And how can you craft those examples to engage your reader? By telling the reader a story.

Story elements are the building blocks of a story. Specifically, characters, plot, and setting are the foundational pieces. No character? No story. No plot? No story. No setting? No story.

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash

Story Elements

Here’s a brief overview of each element with additional things to consider within each element:

Who: Character (and point of view, or whose viewpoint the story is being told from)

What: Plot (conflict)

When and Where: Setting

How: Plot (rising and falling action); Tone

Why: Plot and/or Character; Theme

The longer the story you’re telling, the more complexity you can layer into the elements. But don’t be afraid to aim for depth, even in shorter examples.

Nonfiction Writers

So, nonfiction folks, why do you need to know about story elements? The reason is this: stories are the bridge to connect with your readers. If you want them to follow your advice or learn from you, storytelling is a masterful way to hook them. Most likely, your stories will be true, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a character (probably you), a plot (the what happened to you), and a setting (the when and where of the what that happened).