I’ve Had the Time of My Life

01/11/11 6:00 AM

What Happened in Granite Creek (WHIGC) plays with time. Part one alternates between “present day” (the fall of 2008) and the past, which starts in March 1995 and goes through November 2007. Part two takes place six years into the future (from the “present day”), so 2014.

I was inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I found it to be an incredible story, but as a writer, I was awed by the craft aspect. I can’t even imagine what Niffenegger went through to keep that timeline straight. Now, I realize Niffenegger’s book is about time travel. So the going-back-in-time-in-certain-chapters structure actually makes sense, but still.

Anyhow, while I was reading her book, I’d just started to seriously draft WHIGC. My novel felt right in first person, present tense, but I also knew I needed to weave in a lot of back story since two of my main characters — Koty and Wayne — had been married for twelve years and the landscape of this marriage — all its hills and valleys and craters — were important to the story and to the characters. I didn’t want to get mired in flashbacks. Unsure of what to do, I just decided to write the scene when Koty and Wayne first meet. I wrote it in first person, present tense and realized it worked. Well, why not keep it? I thought. I can play with time. As long as I make it clear to my readers, it should work. (Jodi Picoult, one of my faves, also uses this structure in some of her books — My Sister’s Keeper comes to mind).

One of my beta readers asked if I thought this “looping timeline” would become a signature of my work. I don’t think so. My first novel, Forgotten April, went in chronological order (although there were plenty of flashbacks). My third novel, which I’m working on now, is moving forward (so far).

But I did have fun playing with time in WHIGC.

What books have you read that play with time? Do you like it, or does it feel like cheating to you (I won’t take offense — I know not everyone will like the style)? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Remember, if you tweet this post, use the hashtag #WHIGC.

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6 Comments on “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”

  1. Martin Dugas Says:

    Yes, I love stories that play with time. I find they challenge my mind as a reader. As long as it’s easy to pin point where the action/characters are within the time frame of the story. If the reader has to draw a detailed timeline to understand the flow of the story, or if the reader must go back and read previous chapters of a book again to understand what’s going on in the story, it’s not a good sign (unless of course the reader was not fully awake when he/she read those chapters!)
    The image you chose for this post made me smile!

  2. Robyn Says:

    Totally agree, Martin. I will admit that with Time Traveler’s Wife, I did page back from time to time (ha!) to double check where I was in time, but I was okay with that (it did take me a little while to get situated, but I enjoyed the writing and was intrigued enough with the story to soldier on). I wonder if I would have been so patient had I not been familiar with its success? I read it a few years after it had been released. Hmm.

  3. Steve T Says:

    One of my favorites is The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. The story alternates between present day and the past, going back to the 17th century. No time travel, but lots of jumping back to the past to tell the story of this family of witches.

  4. Robyn Says:

    Ooh, thanks for the recommendation, Steve — sounds good. 🙂

  5. Ghenet Says:

    I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and I’m also a big fan of Jodi Picoult. I think it’s fun with authors play with time. 🙂

  6. Robyn Says:

    Totally fun, Ghenet! (For both the readers and the writers!) Thanks for stopping by. 🙂