Perils of the Writer: The Passage of Time

Some time ago, I read a work-in-progress for critique which had some interesting problems with passage of time.  It would spend a few chapters focusing on the minutiae of a couple days, and then skim a few years, and then drop in on a random day or two over the course of those skimmed years.  However, those drop-in days were not particularly revelatory or relevant.  The end result was making those passing years feel like a slog.

Now, sometimes years have to pass in the story.  You set some stuff up in a character’s youth, and then jump ahead to when those pay off.  But sometimes it’s best to just skip those years cleanly, and assume your reader is smart enough to catch up.

Personally, I tend to write relatively fast paced.  The Thorn of Dentonhill‘s story covers about four days’ worth of time. A Murder of Mages is three days.  The sequels to both, currently in draft stage, also cover about three or four days.  For me, this is a way to keep the springs coiled tight.  There’s little chance to breathe and regroup.

Now, with the draft of Banshee, I built into the worldbuilding a bit of a challenge, as far as this goes.  Specifically, the way the FTL travel works, going from one star to another may be blazing fast in interstellar terms, but still take a bit of time.  The two weeks of routine as the ship goes from Point A to Point B isn’t particularly dramatically interesting, but it needs to be addressed.

For me, moments like that are best done with the literary equivalent of a montage. Establish that routine with quick description, and move on to the ripe circumstances.  If it doesn’t drive forward, cut it out.

Of course, the question is if what I’m doing on Banshee works. Time will tell.


  1. For me, it’s super hard to keep time in check. If I’m not careful a whole slog of events could happen in a single day and the story could end within a few hours. I REALLY hate filler, hence why everything happens so quickly, but I don’t understand how people could write a story that lasts for years on end. Not unless it was epic fantasy, and even then that sounds weird. Guess it’s just my writing style.

    Oh! I’m glad to see I can comment on whatever I want now. Before I could only comment on certain blog posts.

    1. Having all the events be in a single day or a few hours is fine, of course, if that fits the pace of the book. If you have something where your protagonist has no chance to catch their breath and assess, they just have to keep moving… then that’s what you want.

      Posts that are older than two weeks are shut off for comments (I was getting crazy spam on old stuff until I activated the spam blockers). And once you’re “cleared”, then your posts are no longer screened. As is the case with you.

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