truncating time.

In fiction, to truncate time is to jump — or skip over — time in the story.

Authors truncate time because we readers don’t need to know every single minute in the character’s life.

Or every single hour. Or every single day. What the heck, we can skip whole months and years, if we want to, and the story goes on.

For example…

* The wet ropes kept slipping, so it took him about five minutes to wrap them around the ship’s metal bars…
* Within five hours, we’d broken down the sprawling camp and packed the two jeeps full…
* The next morning, even after the sun rose, it was still dark as the rain continued
* After five days of driving the reluctant horses across the dusty plains, we rested…
* It took five weeks for the party of twelve to cross the range…

(Okay, you might not get away with five weeks… but if you’re writing/reading a War-and-Peace-type-of-story-thingy, hey, it might happen.)

Truncating time is tricky.
You have to pick and choose the place of your time loss with thought. You have to choose your amount time loss with care.
(It has to make sense.)

In our personal lives, though, truncating time doesn’t make sense.

We have to go through things, good and bad.
We can’t skip the hard parts (even though we’d like to).

(Oh, how we’d like to.)

Pain happens.

And it never comes at a time that’s convenient.

Instead of truncating the time, we go through it.
Minute by minute.
Hour by hour.
Day by day.
Week by week.
Month by month.
Until the bad has passed, and we are okay again, in a new now.

We do get through.
The pain gets to be less.
We do find a new path, a new way.
(And it’s good.)

But in the middle, we wish for truncated time.

Think about those around you.
I bet you can be there for someone who wishes for truncated time.

And if you’re in the middle this,
of time you wish could be skipped,
reach upward and outward.
Find a way to give love. Because love, on any level, heals.
And healing takes time.

* Thup


    • Sharon, I believe trusting the reader’s intelligence is exactly right. When our characters meander, we’re all in trouble, eh? It’s especially hard for those of us who have “worlds” we deal in (SF, fantasy) to not overload the reader. Less is more, for sure. Thanks for the comment.

  1. It would be wonderful to fast forward or truncate those hard-to-deal with moments. I’m navigating a rough patch right now I’d much rather skip. It’s either helping me build character or slowly killing me. Time will tell which. In the meantime, I will channel the pain into my characters and make them suffer too! 🙂

  2. Another interesting post, Erin 🙂 Yes, it would be hell if we lived every minute of a story, I think, unless it’s something like the movie “Nick of Time” 😀 And since I know I didn’t mention it here, I will now:

    As an aside, I’m trying to make a conscious decision on cutting back for a while on how much time I spend on reading/commenting on blogs I love and follow, ’cause if I don’t, my own blogs will never be launched *sigh* I’m not disappearing…just fading for a bit with occasional apparitional appearances. I figure if I actually TELL everyone I’m doing this (that is, if you notice lol)—I actually WILL!

  3. We do actually truncate time, to an extent, in real life. When an event happens to us, we live through it as you say minute by minute hour by hour. Good and bad.
    But when we remember it, we generally forget details, lose track of time. So in a way it has been truncated.

    And I agree, when writing, unless the book is set within a specific time frame — 2 days, 2 weeks — you generally have to decide how to truncate longer periods. Great post.

    • Anne, and it’s a good thing that we truncate time in our minds, for the painful and tough stuff. Truncating memories is part of healing. Hmm, I hear a wise character talking that in a story… 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

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