What Time Is It?

I was working on a writing project recently and discovered that I had created a huge gap in time between some of my scenes. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that I could somehow increase tension by allowing a full year to transpire without event.

I quickly realized that my little gimmick was only bringing the immediacy, and therefore tension, down in my story.

I do my best to steer clear of flashbacks and flash forwards and large gaps in time mostly because of my own experience and skill-level. I tend to write along linear time lines whenever possible. I've tried to write backstory through flashbacks before but it turned out catastrophically wrong.

I haven't seen too many articles dealing with time in a story but I can draw from other authors for examples.

By my first example, I must refer to a story I am currently reading by David Morrell called "The Shimmer." Mr. Morrell deals with flashbacks or backstory by having his POV character remember something that was done or said in the past and then simple starting the next paragraph or scene with a date.

The simple use of a date brings the reader to that time. The reader knows they are about to read about something that happened long ago but affects the story in present time.

Many other authors (too many to list) use the prologue to deal with large gaps in time where a story might actually begin at a certain time although one must read some backstory to understand present events.

How about you? How do you write in changes in time in your stories? How do you deal with flashbacks and flash forwards and memories of your characters?


  1. Recently I edited some major flashback but what helped is that for the chapters where they flash back, I kept the present in the same place and time.


  2. I tried this and decided flashbacks and flashforwards did not work for my first book. However, my current WIP has a flashback. Since there's no dialogue I'm capping it at a couple pages max. Personally, I don't care for long flashbacks.

    Stephen Tremp


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