When I write, I am literally obssessed with place. What it means to me, to my characters, to society, to Sally Tutu. To everybody. Whatever ‘scene’ I write, I’m obsessed with the setting. What it looks like, smells like, feels like, where everybody fits inside of it. I’m insane about how my characters might be feeling while they are there. What that place looks like in relation to the last place they were. What that place looks like in relation to a place they would rather be. I’m just crazy for place.
So crazy, in fact, that I have let something else fall right to the bottom of the figurative waste basket. A little thing called…time.
In a novel, people do things, they go places, things happen, and all the while, time is just ticking away. And if you want somebody to be in France one minute and Japan the next, all the sudden these tiny little logistics start creeping in to ruin the party. Sure, you can put a little chapter break, or a line of dialogue, and you’re allowed to jump into a new day or skip over a 14 hour flight. But it’s not just the narrative timeline writers have keep track of.
Every time a writer refers to something timely, your character is stuck in that year, that month, that day, sometimes that very minute… And if somebody slaps on a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt, suddenly it’s all ‘Toto, we’re not in the 1800’s anymore’ and there’s no ruby slippers to help anybody get back.
If you’re like me and you’re crazy for place, you start a novel thinking it’s timeless. Anytime from 1975-2009, you foolishly think. This is so money this could happen in 2049, you tell yourself. And then your character says ‘That’s so money’, and she’s pigeonholed into 1996 (I made up that date by the way, please enlighten me if you know when that phrase was coined).
Time is now. Time is then. But above all, time is necessary. And it’s hard. And lately, it is not my friend But we’re getting there. Because we have to.