Time and Transitions
The Writing Magazine had an interesting article in it this month called The Passage of Time. It reminded me of my early teens. There were two cinemas in the small town we lived in, one managed by my father and the other by my mother. So when I was told I had to be 'home' at night by 9.30 pm (and no later!), 'home' was whichever cinema I chose to report in at.
In those days, a cinema performance consisted of a main movie and a second feature and was shown for three days in one of the cinemas and the next three days in another. So I couldn't fail to see the same part of the main feature many times. It was pretty boring, but less so than sitting in my father's/mother's office, doodling or reading a book – yes, mea culpa, but you should have seen the books I was allowed to read.
I think it was watching those stories unfold in the cinema and trying to guess the endings that made me want to be a writer. In an age in which the heroine was fast-talking and would punch the hero on the shoulder and call him, 'You big jerk.' as a term of endearment, the plots were mostly very good.
But, getting to the point, I am told that it was these movies that educated audiences, and later readers, into smooth time transitions. Time was money in the studio. It couldn't be wasted on filming, say, a journey to the shops. It was enough to show the actor getting into the car, and then arriving at the supermarket. An actor could say that he was going to visit his mother, and then be seen having tea with her.
I've only written two short novels, but I now know that I could have saved myself a lot of angst, if only I had given my characters enough time to do the things I asked of them. I got thoroughly mixed up on the eighth or ninth draft, writing long scenes with dialogue about things that hadn't happened yet. Believe me, by that stage it's easy to do.
I wouldn't try to write another novel without first working out a time-line, but of course to do this I would have to have a fairly good idea of the plot. Another bonus, as I'm inclined to go off at a tangent with plots. Keeping on the straight and narrow might possibly mean perhaps writing two or three drafts instead of eight or nine. I can only dream.
Checking on time can also save the writer from those little blunders we can all make. Like having a character catching a train from a station that was closed down years before by Mr Beeching, or eating in a famous restaurant that is no more, or of people paying in francs in France instead of euros. But then, wasn't there a little girl who went out to buy some sweets in Coronation Street and was never heard of again?