Selecting a Time or Date

I hope you came prepared for corny time puns…

Some people underestimate the value of a well-chosen place or time. It can really spruce up an already good story if you give the readers a sense of what’s going on, especially if you do it at the beginning. You can engineer the story’s quirks and details to match a given time period. Ah…time to get started (that was miserable).

That being said, a date or time is not necessary. It can be a cool addition, but if you think that it would hinder the flow of the story in any way, then leave it out. Don’t add it if you think you’re going to have second thoughts about your choice in the future (get it? Har har…).

Usually, the time frame of a story (which is usually CRF but can easily apply to other genres of storytelling) is identical to one past, present, or future in real life. The 1876 in your story is typically the 1876 of today’s (or yesterday’s) world. However, this mainly happens in historical fiction novels.

But there’s nothing wrong with having a bunch of completely fictional characters in a completely fictional setting in a very real time. If you so choose to do that (and even if you choose to add a few real-life characters) then you can create a legitimate novel. However, don’t expect my help there…writing novels about historical fiction is way past my time. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it)

Some people decide to go with something that is called alternate history, which is at a real date and time but with a twist: 1946, only the Germans won. You get the drift. However, historical fiction, as I said, is not my wheelhouse, so don’t expect me to help you with that. Nevertheless, this kind of fiction is another kind that is effected mightily by the date you select.

If you so choose to select a date from real life for your book, here is one sound piece of advice: do some research about the culture and people of the times. Look up a few Wikipedia articles about architecture in the 1780s. Become acquainted with the mannerisms of the time that you want to write about. Nothing is more embarrassing than an anachronism when you’re trying to be serious.

And this (that is, what I am currently on the subject of) doesn’t just apply to CRF and Historical Fiction. You can just as easily use this for fantasy as well: you could use the time 1194 for more medieval circumstances, and still have as many dragons and witches as you please. Remember, when the writer is in your story, he or she thinks by your terms. If you want to say that there was a great battle in so-and-so a place at this time when there very likely wasn’t, odds are you could get away with it (okay, last one) in time.

Then there’s the lovely topic of creating your own time. Master writer J.R.R. Tolkien did this. Pop quiz for seasoned Tolkien fans: In the Shire, what year was proverbially referred to in reference to good beer? 1420. This year was the year after the scouring of the shire in 1419, in which the ring of Sauron was destroyed.

Before you go accusing me of looking that up on the WWW, I swear on my novel (yes, writers do that. It’s a very powerful oath) that I didn’t. I pulled that out of my memory. The point is, Tolkien took the time to date the exploits of Frodo Baggins and Co., along with other important happenings. If you want a time frame, you could make your own.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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