A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time "Travels", continued

I just CAN'T get a handle on this blogging stuff.  And I've really, really, tried, honest!  So I guess I'll just muddle through as best I can and hope my readership (what's left of it) will understand.  And FYI, this is one of the few areas of my life I'm so disorganized about.  Really.
So, continuing the thoughts from my last post (last MONTH!!!), we were talking about the subject of time and how it's handled in various stories.  Let's take a couple of examples at the two ends of the spectrum.
The lllooooooonnnnngggg story;
The absolute classic, The Lord of the Rings, is the basis (in my opinion) from which all modern fantasy stories spring.  I've never read it; but I've seen the movies (how many of your friends have said that to you?).  This story seems to take months from beginning to end, and illustrates my main point; when you're traveling by horseback or on foot, stuff takes a whole lot longer than you think.  Heck, even Gandalf rode a horse!
If I'm correct, in the book the story actually takes years; the gathering of the elves (when you live for several hundred or a thousand years, things don't move quite as fast, y'know?), the forming of the Fellowship, the trek through Moria, across the land, into the realm of the elves, yada, yada, yada.  Not to mention Frodo and Sam making way into Sauron's domain, and Gollum's devious "assistance".  And the sieges of Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith most certainly take days or weeks, as both are fortresses of the first magnitude.
The s'rt story;
OK, this one is a pet peeve of mine; the TV show "24".  I'm sorry, you just can't cram this much stuff into one day, especially with some of the distances the characters have to travel. I don't care HOW fast your jet is, it takes at least 8 hours to get halfway around the world unless Scotty and the Enterprise are in range.  Which may explain a lot of what happens in the show, unbeknownst to the viewer. 
So the rule of thumb is; whatever time it takes... that's what it takes. 
Now looking at various genres, SF and Fantasy in particular, there are ways around this; Scotty is one, and pretty typical for SF; every author has his favorite "instant elsewhere" method.  In Fantasy, it's magic or prayers, take your pick.  And I've used both, but sparingly, because my thought is, unless it's life or death, your best horse is fast enough.
For contemporary fiction... get real.  Move your locations for the action closer together than Washington DC and Beijing, China.  Or call Scotty.
The other item, of course, is the multiple concurrent scenarios; different groups doing different things, all at the same time.  This is typical in my books, especially Books Three and Four.  Sometimes, the party just doesn't move around in a little ball, you know?  So if Audrey Vincent is in the Kingdom of the Sun, and Sheynon Calidriil is in his fortress, and Thalion Lahai is preparing for a dark elf onslaught at the river crossing, and Ma'chen'der is trying to gain the trust of Re', the Mad Woman of Drakenmoore... it takes a bit of logistics to get everything moving in the same direction, to wind up at (mostly) the same time.  And sometimes, part of the plot is someone is late, or early, or doesn't make it at all... and the story takes a turn the reader (sometimes the author) really wasn't expecting. 
So next time you read a story about Max in trouble in LA, then having lunch in Hong Kong that afternoon, you might want to go back an reread a couple of pages.  Either you missed something or the author did.  Hope it's just pages sticking together, otherwise the timeline just took a major hit.


Dave Whitaker said...

Love your line, "Whatever time it takes...that's what it takes." Since you referenced it, I have to share my idea for a TV show - 'Seinfeld' meets '24'. Every week, the show airs a snapshot of an hour in the life of Seinfeld-type characters. In other words, nothing exciting really happens in these characters' lives. In the interest of honoring the real-time format, we'll get episodes on end where all we'll see of certain characters are cutaway shots of them sleeping. Other mundane activities could include getting ready for work, riding the subway, watching TV, etc.

Dennis Young said...

Hmmm... sounds more exciting and interesting than some of the Seinfeld episodes I caught glimpses of. :o)