3 Ways to Handle Time in a Novel

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30Days-THINK
Here’s another creative writing prompt for your 750 words, a challenge to write 750 words each day to better Think Like a Writer. Read more here.

Time in a story, a novel is important. How do you show time and the passage of time? This can be done in three ways:

3 Ways to Handle Time in a Novel | Fiction Notes by Darcy Pattison


  1. As an exercise in a character’s interior perception of time passing. A character has an internal sense of time. S/he is waiting for something to happen, is in the midst of hurry-scurry activity, or is lounging around doing nothing. Write a scene in which the character goes from resting quietly to frantic activity and pay attention to how you make the time sense speed up. Do you cram in lots more sensory details or skip over them? What happens to the length of your sentences?
  2. As an exercise in creating setting details which evoke time:Time could be a season of the year or a time of the day. Setting details are a great way to make these time periods clear: is the sun or the moon rising? Are there Christmas ornaments on the street lights or are the daffodils just peeking out of the soil?
  3. Transitions from scene to scene. A final way to indicate time is by use of time word in your scene transitions. It can be something as easy as, “The next day. . .” Or, perhaps you want to be specific: At exactly 8:11 am, John opened his front door. . . Time words at the beginning of scenes orient the reader to exactly WHEN the scene is taking place and it’s always good to keep the reader oriented. It means you are thinking like a writer.

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