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  • jrblackburnsmith

Time Travel

Have you ever wished you could travel through time? Write a book. My next project, The Devil's Interval, is set in Reims, France in 1942. Inspector Marc Guyere is caught between Gruppenfuhrer Hans Mueller of the infamous SS and his former best friend Guilliam Standt who leads the local resistance, while he investigates the savage murder of a young woman. Complicating things, Guyere's wife Marnie is struggling to heal deep trauma and has just told Marc she wants a lover... How is that for a plot?

Now back to the concept of time travel. As I write, I always have a calendar at hand. It's important, for the authenticity of the narrative, that time unspools in a realistic way. It's important to be sure that when the reader moves from one seen to the next, they understand if the timeline is changed, whether it be by an hour, a day, a month or years. Short of adopting dates as chapter headings (which I've seen and rarely appreciate) it can be a difficult job for the writer to express time in a way that isn't a hammer, or so subtle that the reader misses it. I'm always trying to avoid writing something that looks like an episode if 24 where Keifer Sutherland gets, shot, has surgery (or does surgery on himself), wraps a band aid on everything and then gets up and races after whatever terrorist he is chasing. If your premise is the story unfolds in 24 hours, then, by God, write a realistic twenty-four-hour narrative.

So, what happens when you get to the end of your manuscript and realize your calendar is all wrong? (This is why I called it my next project, not my next book. It's not a novel until it is.) It's not just a simple matter of changing some dates on your notes. An author has to think about what touches they used in the book to convey the passage of time, find them all and make them work. If your story started in December but you need it to start in June it may not feel too difficult, the snow goes away, etc. What if your story starts in August but needs to begin in June? Those changes are more sublte but just as important. Readers will accept a sweltering August but might balk at a sweltering June if you don't lay the groundwork appropriately. That's the real difficulty in time travel, not the physics of it.

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