Although we have objective ways of measuring time with
clocks, the human experience
is very subjective. We’ve all had days where the minutes drag on
endlessly, and we’ve had the experience of getting home on Friday and thinking
of the great weekend ahead of us and then suddenly realizing it’s somehow
gotten to be Sunday night and we have to go to work again.
I’ve been thinking that, in fiction, all
time is subjective. I’ve been thinking that the passage of time
in written work is indicated by the amount of prose assigned to an event. A
battle scene is not fought in “real” time; it’s fought in story time. And story
time is relative to the length of the tale. In a short story of 1000 words, a
200 word battle scene is a longgg time.
In a novel of a 100,000 words, a 2000 word battle is pretty short.
Writers dedicate story time to those things they find
interesting, or at least to those things they think readers will find
interesting. I personally enjoy reading battle and action scenes,
and I tend to lavish a pretty fair amount of prose on those in my tales.
On the other hand, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a character go shopping for
clothes. I’ve seen works where story time has been spent on that activity.
In thinking about books I’ve read recently, mostly noir/crime novels, I can tell you that most story time has
been dedicated to violence and sex. The violence often involved some kind of criminal
behavior, of course, but mostly
writers dwelt on violence in defense of self or of innocents. The sex time was
primarily spent in people trying to get it, and much less in actually having it.
Two other things that writers spent story time on were
eating/drinking, and driving. The eating and drinking generally involved rich,
delicious foods and fine wines or liquors. There was a clear sense of pleasure about
these acts of consumption, and some of the descriptions were tied into sexual aspects of the story. The driving was often associated with the violent
aspects, but there was at least some time spent on the aesthetic
qualities of automobiles. I found that interesting and I don’t believe I’ve
ever spent much time on this topic in my stories either, although somewhat more
than with shopping.
One thing that almost no story time was spent on was bathroom
activities, other than a character or two throwing up. No time was
spent urinating or defecating. I’d have to say that most of my stories follow
What about you? If you write, what do you spend most of your
story time on? And as a reader, what do
the authors you read spend their story time on?
Labels: story time versus real time