Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Writing and time - Guardians or Lords?

'A book is a friend that does what no friend can do - stay quiet when you want to think!'

When writing the Steele stories I am often aware of the passage of time - on the page that is! It's interesting how it can be used to speed up or slow down the things happening in the tales. I understand the need for maintaining pace when there is action and providing the characters time for reflection so that the reader gets into the psyche of the lead people. However, as writers we have the POWER of time manipulation. Dr Who eat your heart out we are the true time lords.

 Seal of the Time Lords

This came to mind because I am writing an action scene at the moment and I can make it as long or as short as I wish. As a sports fan, and having attended lots of live sporting fixtures, I sometimes wish that I could see that again. Of course it would be easier to watch on TV and then we can have our senses assaulted by umpteen views in slow motion of the action. BUT in a story that is not necessary, we can slow the action to include detail to satisfy the most obsessive 'action anoraks'. I think it also links in with people's perceptions of real action they have seen in their lives. How often do they say things like - 'it all seemed to happen in slow motion'?
The secret I'm finding useful, if it's a secret, is research of the technical variety. For example the muzzle velocity of a Glock 17 is reportedly 375m/s. Weaving that fact into a description of action adds some verisimilitude and interest.
During action scenes sentences tend to be shorter and more punchy which drives the attention of the reader on but I feel that it is good to intersperse some factual description in their too.

"All that really belongs to us is time.  Even he who has nothing else has that."Baltasar Gracian (Spanish Jesuit – 17th century)

We think a great deal about time and there are many sayings and quotes but here are a couple more that my parents often quoted:-

Time and tide wait for know man

A stitch in time saves nine

The latter has formed a considerable part of the way my life is organised even down to my management style when I was in such positions. I often found if you 'caught' those small instances early before they hit the ground they don't burst into a major mess.

Perhaps as writers we would be better described as the 'guardians of time'!



Dreadfully scary
The dream of normality
Cold fingers to come
©David L Atkinson August 2012


There was a time before the wine
That I could walk a straighter line

Father time no friend of mine

Without the wine that straighter line
Is hard to walk at any time
©David L Atkinson September 2012

God Bless