Saturday, July 31

Setting in Time

Todays fiction writing exercise is an excerpt from my book, Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises, which imparts lessons and techniques on the craft of storytelling and provides practical workouts for research study and practice. This exercise focuses on setting and more particularly, ensuring readers understand when every scene in a story happens. Delight in!

Fiction writing workout: setting your story in time.

Embeding in Time

These duplicated discusses of time can make readers feel like they should be keeping track of the timeline on a calendar. Developing the time is best done subtly, unless the story needs concrete declarations of time, as might be the case in an investigator story or spy thriller.

When a story takes location, an aspect of setting that is typically ignored is time–. This is a component of setting that historical authors pay very close attention to, typically performing deep research to get every information right– the clothes, the approaches of transportation, and the society and culture as it existed at a particular moment in history.

In addition to developing when a story takes location, we require to make certain readers always understand where they are in a storys timeline. If theres a scene dive, did an hour pass? A day? A month? How do readers know?

Even authors of contemporary fiction should remain cognizant of a storys timeline. When do the story occasions take place? What year? What season? What time of day?

All that matters is when the scene takes place in relation to a storys timeline. When the base timeline is developed (hopefully at the start of the story), we can utilize various cues to help the reader comprehend how time is passing.


Find a story that covers a lengthy timeline, such as a generational legend. Make a list of 10 considerable time leaps in the story, with the very first item on your list being when the story starts. For each time jump, discover the sentence, paragraph, or phrase that develops when the scene is set. Take down a few words about the technique the author used to keep readers notified about the storys place in its own timeline.


Invest a couple of minutes developing a rough timeline for a story of your own. Make certain it spans at least 3 years and jumps to at least 7 various moments. Each time marker will signify when a scene occurs. Example: June 1977, night; August 1977, afternoon; January 1978, morning. For each of these time markers, compose a couple of sentences that develop a scene within the timeline.


Have you ever become baffled about a storys timeline? This might be anticipated if youre reading a time travel story, but what about other kinds of stories? Have you ever read a story and grown tired of the narrative constantly telling you what day, hour, year, or month it remained in each scene?

In addition to establishing when a story takes place, we need to make sure readers always understand where they are in a storys timeline. Developing the time is best done discreetly, unless the story requires concrete statements of time, as may be the case in a detective story or spy thriller.

Once the base timeline is established (ideally at the beginning of the story), we can use numerous cues to assist the reader understand how time is passing. Make a list of ten substantial time jumps in the story, with the first item on your list being when the story begins. This might be expected if youre reading a time travel story, but what about other types of stories?

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