Friday, January 13, 2006

The Trouble with Time Travel

I was working on my YA time travel synopsis when one of my CP's came up with an interesting comment. She had an issue with one of my paragraphs when the girl realizes she is her own ancestor. She said, "this is why I don't like time travel books... there are little plot things that the author usually doesn't explain." Now, I wasn't offended, she is actually enjoying the story when she does crits, she just had issue with something in the synopsis.

So that brings me to my question... isn't it our job to make the unbelievable, well, believable? I once asked Gena Showalter that question because she writes paranormal/fantasy romances. She told me it is a process of seeing things through your characters eyes. As the character enters a world that isn't real, they are disbelieving as any sane person would be. As the details of the world come to light, they are forced to believe it because they are really there. She says if the reader is connected enough to the character they will come to believe as the character does.

My character, Ana, time travels back to the mid 1800's. When she first realizes what has happened she thinks she's been punked. But she has to believe what is in front of her own eyes. And like she says, "Until I wake up or find a pair of ruby slippers I am stuck here." So then she turns to survival, which is where the story really starts. It wouldn't be realistic if she sat down and screamed for several days because it wasn't believable. Not to mention make a really boring story.

So how do you authors who write paranormal make your story believable?


Rachel Vincent said...

Okay, all I can tell you is what I do, and I don't write time travel. I don't even really write Paranormal Romance. There isn't quite enough romance in it for that.

Anyway, what I do is capitalize on the realistic "feel" all five senses can add to a story. And I do a ton of research on the aspects of my stories that ARE normal.

My theory (not mine originally, of course) is that if you get your verifiable facts right, readers will be willing to suspend their disbelief about the made up stuff. But if you make up stuff that they know is wrong, they're less likely to believe in the fantastic elements.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I agree with Rachel. The thing about writing paranormals or fantasy or anything of that nature is that there's an even great onus on the writer to make everything else THAT much more believable. Your'e already asking them to suspend so much disbelief that you can't afford to skimp anywhere where they wouldn't be.

Personally, I find it harder to get immersed in fantasies where the unbelievable/believable split is different for the reader than it is for the characters. So you're reading Narnia, and everything there that isn't like something here is as big a surprise for you as it is for Lucy. You're on the same page as she is. And then you're reading His Dark Materials, where Lyra is all impressed by talking bears, but no one says boo about her mighty-morphing magical Daemon. It's taking some adjustment, is all I'm saying. ;-)

The important thing, I think, is to actually be considering these issues. The handling of them is individual to author. It's the consideration that's vital.

Amanda Ashby said...

I definitely agree with Rachel and Diana on this. The book I've just sold is about a dead girl who gets kicked out of heaven and sent back to earth in a boy's body to sort out her issues (hmmm, how many hooks in there?)

Anyway, I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't really pay much attention to if the whole thing was believable or not. The only thing I WAS aware of doing was making my heroine act in a very 'real' way to all the totally 'unreal' events that kept overtaking her.

Rachel Vincent said...

Amanda! You're book sounds like the kind of thing I read. When does it come out?

Amanda Ashby said...

Rachel. That's so cool you like the sound of my book! But argh. I don't actually have my publication date yet, but it probably won't be for about a year or so. Sigh. The waiting never gets easier!

Dana Pollard said...

I've written one time travel. It was hard to make it believable. I had to 'read' a lot of time travels, and made a list of 'how they got from point A to point B'. I also corresponded with Virginia Henley for a bit while in the beginning stages of my TT. She basically told me, take your idea and MAKE your readers believe it. It was better advice than that, believe me, but that's basically what she said.

I think at this point with TTs you can get away with some believability/unbelievability. You have books out there that range anywhere from the heroine masturbaiting into a different time, to putting on a Roman helmet and ending up in 41B.C.

Good luck!