Choosing a timeframe is as simple as deciding when the story begins and ends. As we’ve seen earlier, the narrative trajectory may or may not align with the chronology of the story, but the timeframe of the narrative will.
Some of the considerations you will need to know about in choosing a timeframe are as follows:
- Aligning with Relevant Real-life Events – There are two main considerations in how your story aligns with real-life events.
- If you want to include these events in the narrative, you will need to plan your narrative progression so that the coincidence occurs without seeming deliberate.
- Additionally, if you want to provide historical accuracy in your work, you’ll need to research the timing of significant events in your chosen time and place. For example, if the narrative has your characters arriving in Singapore in 1942, it will make a significant difference to the disposition of the location depending on whether they arrive before or after February of that year (the fall of Singapore).
- Aligning with the Seasons – The seasons can almost play the part of a character in some locations, because they have such an impact on the environment inhabited by the characters. For example, if you need your character to be romping with a love-interest in a field of waving wheat, it can’t be just outside Moscow in January.
- Aligning with Contemporary Society – The speech, dress, customs and cultural mores of the society in which characters find themselves will likewise exert influence on both the development of characters and the progression of the plot, and so need to be considered when choosing a timeframe.
- Compression – The length of the beginning-to-end interval of the timeframe influences the feeling of the narrative as it plays out through the work. A short timeframe can give the impression of haste or dramatic imperative, whereas a long timeframe can provide a feeling of extension or a relaxed unhurriedness.
Choosing your timeline will impact, and in turn be impacted by the location, the characters and the story. Accordingly, make the decision with these other influences in mind—it could save you days and weeks of editing down the track.