Thursday, February 18, 2010

Playdough and Mountains


Time to a writer is like playdough in the hands of a toddler.

~ Barry Lane



As writers, we have the power to manipulate time - to choose where and when to begin, what or how much to leave out, to skip as far forward or as far backward as we like. According to Barry Lane, "Time is a stretch of mountains and we can choose where to dwell."

If we want to write about something that happened that evening at dinner, we don't have to start at breakfast and work our way forward until we get to dinner - we can simply begin with dinner. Once there, Barry tells us, we can spend pages writing about something that may only have lasted minutes. Or if we choose, we can spend a sentence or two skipping large sections of time in order to get closer to the story.
Writing is different from living. In real life, we can't rearrange reality and expect to get away with it, but as writers we have more freedom. When we write we need not do it the same way that we live, one moment at a time. We can jump right to the time that interests us most.
Do you feel that? That's the power and the freedom to create. YOU are the artist.

Do you ever play with time, shaping and molding it to fit your manuscript?

31 comments:

Sara McClung ♥ said...

omg best quote EVER!! I haven't even read the post yet... Just had to share that first :)

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Okay, also, great post :) And yes... molding time to fit my MS happens frequently :)

Mary_not_Martha said...

Wow....before I got to the two lines I was already thinking, "Freedom"!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I agree and disagree. The quote touched on the fact that we can't control reality. But, it's like, the more we manipulate the time in our book's world, the more the time in our world feels the need to show who has the upper hand in the situation. I, at least, am never the winner.

Do have a way to stick it to Father Time?

AchingHope said...

I love that pic!!! I have a fascination with clocks, so...

And yes, I manipulate time in my books. In my current wip the main heroine can actually manipulate time, so there's a lot of that going around, I s'pose.

And I love your quotes. :D

Kristi Faith said...

wow! That is a great quote. :)

I love the fictional world and playing with time and setting...it's just part of the magic

Stephanie Thornton said...

Love the quote! I've had to tweak history a bit to fit my timeline, but just with minor stuff. I think modern readers would have a hard time stomaching a 14 year old marrying her brother.

Julie Dao said...

Beautiful quote, beautiful pic! I love the power that comes with being an author. You can bend the world according to your own rules (or even create a completely new one). I use a lot of flashbacks in one of my WIPs and it's interesting to switch back and forth between the past and the present.

Southern Princess said...

I love the quote. More than that I love the concept. Time is one of those things that on the page is in our control. Much like Jonathan, I fight with time & reality. No matter though there is nothing like being able start or end at any point.

Just yesterday I posted a short story/flash fiction I wrote on my blog. You don't have to know 'her' entire story (birth to present) nor do you have to know 'her' afterlife or even if she died; all you really need is the moment she is in & the reflections she makes.

It is empowering to freeze time with words.

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Marybeth Poppins said...

Absolutely! If not things would get kinda boring if we had to go through every meal and every trip to the bathroom! Heck, sometimes, I even skip whole days! *Gasp!*

Carolyn V. said...

I jump from scene to scene. I love that I can do that as a writer. There is something magical about it. Great post Shannon!

Cleverly Inked said...

Some days I wish I could write. Though I am not creative enough

Mary Aalgaard said...

We just talked about this in my writer's group on Mon. night. Turns out that in MY ms, I got a little boring on the details. We don't need to read every single move. Plus, I had lots of characters named, which got confusing and distracting, and as GG said, "It's not the bible and we don't need every A begat B who begat C, and so forth." Point taken.


I love manipulating time (in fiction and reality). That's why I don't disclose my actual age. Just keep'em guessing.

Shelley Sly said...

What a great post! Time in fiction is something I almost never think about, but it's certainly important. I only stick to what's relevant in the story, but it's interesting how it differs from book to book.

In my first book, the important events are more widespread; the novel spans about two months. My second is a bit more fast paced. Something happens every day, and the novel only spans two weeks.

Time is a toy for us, in some ways. How interesting that we can mold it however we need it to fit,

Susan Quinn said...

I'm still trying to figure out how to fast-forward in time using my DVR. I'm just SURE it's possible.

Great post! :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

Time is sometimes elusive for me. I wonder which scenes to include and which to skip over. I usually just go with my gut and then go back and add in if I feel like I need something more. :)

Hardygirl said...

I love this!!! Now, if I just had this power in my REAL life . . . .

sf

Jennie Englund said...

That's a really good question! I love questions.

Okay, about "time..." I was just speaking to my students today about this, how time can be manipulated. It's an organization device. The more we shift it, move it around, the deeper and more complex a piece seems to be.

But. Non-linear time is difficult: backstory, etc.

More and more, "good" movies appear to be becoming more creative with time.

I wonder what will be next? What could possibly top time manipulation?

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh yes...beautiful quote. Time is precious, but in fiction it can stand still or speed up or keep moving backwards. It's a beautiful thing. I love the control we have as writers.

Jen said...

Awesome quote!!!

I find myself changing quite often, more or less I get this amazing breakthrough that makes me want to skip ahead, capture the scene only to go back where I needed to be to fill in the blanks. Its fun having the control, especially since in real life that so seldom happens (at least for me!) Great post!

Wendy (aka quillfeather). said...

Great quotes. Gorgeous pic. Excellent post. As always :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post - it's so much time to manipulate time in the writing process. I keep trying it in real life, but no success yet :)

Terri Tiffany said...

Great post! I love to work with time in my stories--dragging out a moment or passing the time fast when I need to!

Terresa said...

Thought provoking post! I've never seen time treated this way in a writerly blog post. It is true, as a writer we are essentially 'Gods' -- pushing & pulling time around to fit our needs.

Susan Fields said...

Great post - yes, I love having that power over time, to skip over the boring parts and get right to the good stuff!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Sorry to be MIA today, guys. I'm out of town at a teacher's writing curriculum workshop and haven't had much time to comment. Thanks for being here. :-)

KM said...

I'm definitely guilty of manipulating sometimes...time, that is. ;) I'm not a huge fan of books that take place within a few days; I'd rather have one that spans a long time - cut all that boring stuff that fills everyday life. lol Good post and great quote!

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Oh, I love this quote!

Carla Gade said...

Oh, yes! What a wondeful topic. I am constantly manipulating time and trying to figure out my timelines in months, days, and moments. It sometimes drives me nuts, as time is not my area of expertise, but it is one thing that I can manage any way I want to. So that is a good thing!

kanishk said...

molding time to fit my MS happens frequently :)

Work from home India

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