Thoughts on Writing – To Time Travel or not to Time Travel

In my current manuscript, The Wishing Blade, I’ve been streamlining the original story while striving to maintain the overall tone. I started the original draft in 2003, and I set it aside for several years before pulling it out again this year to revise it into a workable manuscript. While some plot points have been easy to keep or discard, there’s one point I’ve been going back and forth on… whether or not to keep the time travel incident in the novel or whether to remove it all together.

Now you get to have a first hand look at my thinking process regarding revisions… all while I try to work this out for myself.

First, let’s look at reasons to remove this incident:

1. Potential Confusion: I have a tendency to confuse people once I start talking about time and dimensional travel in my stories, and I’ve seen agents list ‘no time travel’ in what queries they accept. (However, the last point is negated since I intend to self-publish this particular story. And technically, while some agents might not want time travel, others might. So this bullet revolves entirely on whether or not the incident is confusing to readers and pulls them out of the story.)

2. Potential Loss of Tension: One of the main characters must ‘die’ if the time travel incident remains. The other character goes back in time with the aid of the gods, and they prevent the death of the other character. There are complications that arise once the character returns to the present, but those complications are minimal. Worse, by showing readers that there’s an object that does allow time travel in this particular universe, any future sequences threatening the main characters’ lives is moot, because readers may then wonder why the characters don’t just go back in time and fix it?

3. Unnecessary Plot Point: At this point, the time travel device only allows time travel once in the story. It does do other things, but I could pretty easily remove the time travel incident and chalk up its bizarre powers to other magic.

Possible solutions:

1. Streamline the sequence: Make sure what happens is clear to readers (or is as clear to the readers as it is to the main characters…).

2. Consequences: To avoid loss of tension, I could make sure there are consequences to going back in time. (In this case, I need to make sure those consequences are clear to both character and reader). Also, I could make the complications that arise from time travel a little more immediate. This was actually the case in the original draft, but was removed when I didn’t find a reasonable place to reinsert the point. (And this is a good example of where having fresh eyes to look at a manuscript can be useful, because you might remove an important tidbit without noticing the resulting effects).

3. Increase Relevance: Similar to the point about consequences, if I can better tie in the time travel incident to the main plot, along with making the incident crucial with what’s to follow (along with the irony of the incident regarding the antagonist), the incident shouldn’t feel out of place. Linking the antagonist further into this scene could also improve the overall story.

Besides the reasons I might remove the incident, I’m also considering reasons to keep the incident:

1. Character Development and Increased Tension: We get to see the antagonist step forward to protect one of the main characters– and get a hint as to why, and what she’s willing to do if that character dies (and remains dead). The goal? Tension rises as the character she’s trying to protect risks their life time and time again, because if the antagonist loses said character, all bets are off in regards to what she’s willing to do to achieve her larger goal, and what she isn’t.

2. Magical World Building: We have an explanation of why the ‘time travel device’ reacts a certain way to the bad guys later. Cause and effect comes into play, and the world gets a little more exploration. And we get to see more of the various character relationships.

3. Time Travel Is Cool: I like time travel and dimensional world travel. I know, that’s not a good excuse. But really… we’ll get to see the effects of time travel first-hand in the story. We don’t just hear about it from a side character.

4. Paradoxes! Or so the characters think…: The incident sets up tension between the antagonist and protagonist, because the protagonist knows who the antagonist is but doesn’t know how they got there…

This is a case where beta readers will come in handy. They’ll help decide if the time travel plot point should be removed altogether (requiring a light restructuring of the plot), or whether the plot point works. For now, (thanks in part to having a friend enthralled by the backstory of the antagonist), I’m going to keep the incident.

So… onward to editing, and I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think, and please let me know if there’s any topics you’d like me to cover. 🙂

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2 Comments

Filed under Personal Work, Writing

2 responses to “Thoughts on Writing – To Time Travel or not to Time Travel

  1. Since it’s about editing I might point out the tiny usage error. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mootness, things are rendered moot, not mute.

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