October Round Robin – Time Periods and Why We Pick Them

Topic: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? 


For me, the time period is often dictated by the characters on the page. I see a character first, and discover when and where they are second. There is one notable exception to the rule here and that’s Deviation, my first science fiction novel.

Deviation was originally planned to be another medieval-era fantasy novel, but a friend challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and try it in the future instead. Since the novel was based around time-travel, it was easy to make this swap and I discovered that the story made a lot more sense as science fiction.

There were some challenges, of course.

Medieval-Fantasy could have explained the time-travel as magic (within limited rules, of course) whereas the science fiction required a deeper look into… well, science. This brought me through many hours of research, which I found an unexpected love for, and while the medieval-fantasy might have worked, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

But in reference to what time period I prefer to work with, I have to admit that I love the future. I love the warnings we can give in our writing and the hope that we can instill through it. I enjoy exploring worlds we haven’t set foot on yet, and highlighting those aspects of humanity that have stood the test of time.

Thousands of years from now, we may be living on Mars. That’s science.

Thousands of years from now, people will still be searching for the love of their lives while terraforming Mars. That’s humanity in science. And that’s the stuff I just can’t get enough of.

That being said, Trenna would not be Trenna if she was in space. She requires the sword and the grit of her surroundings, which would not feel right outside of the medieval time-frame. Likewise, Elsie Delgora from Witch-Born wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without the trains and dirigibles of her steampunk society.

I suppose Megan could have been dropped into any war zone and forced to lie, but her story was told best in the middle of WWII for many reasons. We all know the stakes from WWII, we’re intimately familiar with the atrocities that happened there, and we automatically know the danger to this American woman hiding inside Nazi borders. I didn’t have to spell it out, I could concentrate on Megan’s personal journey, which was what I wanted.

Advantages and Disadvantages?

Well, in science fiction you really do have to pay attention to science. You can only expect your reader to suspend disbelief so far, so you need to give plausible explanations for certain things. (Though if you ask me, that’s half the fun of it.)

In historical fiction, you have to adhere to the known timeline. People know when Hitler died. And people have their favored personalities from history, which you need to handle with care. For a great example of someone who handles history and historical persons with creativity and respect, I suggest looking into any of Diana Gabaldon’s work. She’s wonderful.

As to modern/present times… I do have one book I’ve written in the here and now, which is currently being edited/rewritten. This was difficult for me to write in spite of the paranormal aspects to it, but I will undoubtedly write in this time period again. The only way we get better at a thing is if we practice, right?

Check out what my fellow authors have to say about writing in select time periods…

Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-14G
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

10 thoughts on “October Round Robin – Time Periods and Why We Pick Them

  1. Interesting that both of us have hopped around past, present and future. I think it’s more fun than sticking to just one formula.
    I like the way you’ve put teasers for your books into the little essay. WW2 does have a fascination, so now I am wondering about Megan…

  2. Sadly, I’ve tried to read Gabaldon’s work. I find it intensely boring, but, then, I don’t like Hemingway either. All a matter of preference.

    Some people believe we were already on Mars and ruined it before coming to Earth. Now, that could be an interesting story to tell. (Be quiet, Muse. I don’t need another plot bunny. LOL)

    1. I loved Outlander, but every book since has gotten longer and filled with so much stuff I just don’t care about. Obviously it intrigued Gabaldon and just as obviously she can’t help but include every tidbit of research she does. But I don’t read her stuff any more. 1000 pages of trivia that has nothing to do with characters I care about is 700 pages too many.

  3. Laughing as I read Wildchild’s post. I love writing in the future, too. My perspective is the more humans change they more they stay the same and that precept works well in far future stories. Enjoyed your post.

  4. Very interesting post. I am not brave enough to attempt a story set in the future, but I can see how fascinating it could be both for the writer, and the reader. Good luck with all your writing projects!

  5. Hi, I loved your phrase: that’s humanity in science. It clearly explains to me why you write Sci-fi. Good luck with the present. I’m trying a contemporary magazine serial right now and finding it okay – tricky, but okay. Anne

  6. Good post and I found it interesting that you said You can only expect your reader to suspend disbelief so far, so you need to give plausible explanations for certain things. Good point.

  7. I admire Diana Gabaldon and read Books 1 and 2 in a week each, Book 3 took nearly a month and I gave up on Book 4 about halfway through and have never read her since. I do think the TV series is well done, as it chops out a lot of the unnecessary stuff and gets on with telling the story. I admire anyone who writes future fantasy or sci-fi. that is a genre I just cannot get my head around!.

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