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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Juggling Time

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

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Juggling Time

Time gets “juggled” in two ways in my novels. First, the action usually takes place on more than one continent, separated by the Atlantic Ocean and five – sometimes even more – time zones. And second, there is a disconnect between the time-settings of the Rebecca Series for adult readers, and the time settings for the young adult books (which feature Joanna and Samuel, Rebecca’s teenage twins).

Regarding the first: Rebecca is English. She and her family live in London or in cities nearby. But other major characters are American, including Matt Clark, Sidney Belton, and Eleanor Chapel. In each of the stories, the American characters and the British characters must at some point be physically together, at least for some of the time, to confront the threats they (and the Christian church worldwide) must face. So, there are times when the Americans go to England, or the British characters to the U.S. Given the five hour time difference, movement from one country to the other provides many chances to compress or expand the action.

For example, if I, as author, need Luke – Rebecca’s brother – to arrive in New York “immediately” in order to assist, let’s say, Detective Belton, Luke will have a five-hour head start on “immediately.” Luke can board a military aircraft at 4 AM London time (11 PM the night before, New York time), and arrive in New York at 7 AM. Very convenient for quick forward movement on the action.

And in Such Thy Mercies, the third book in the Rebecca Series, some scenes take place in San Francisco, some in New York, some in London, some in Rome, and others on the Amalfi coast of Italy. The time changes are so extreme that, in that book, the time-of-day in each locale is shown at the start of each section, so that readers can keep track of the movement of the action, as (fictional) time compresses or expands for each of the characters.

Now, regarding the second kind of time juggling: the Rebecca books are set in the mid-1970s and 1980s. That being the case, there is no internet, no cell phones, no laptops, or any of the other technology-based facts of life that we have come to think of as necessary for daily living.

However, in the two young adult novels, The Visioners and Visioners 2, the time settings are contemporary. Cell phones (“mobiles,” as the British characters say) and laptops are everywhere, posing both advantages and problems for the characters.

Since, in the young adult stories, Rebecca’s twins, Joanna and Samuel, are 14 years old, you can see that these widely separated time settings – the 1970s and 1980s versus the 2010s and 2020s – cannot be made to fit together. If the twins were born in (fictional) 1980 – as they were, according to the Rebecca books – then they cannot be 14 years old in the year 2020. But they are.

Juggling time is one of the challenges and one of the beauties of fiction writing. The fictional passage of time from one scene to the next may be a few minutes, but the author – me, in this case – may take several weeks to decide exactly what needs to happen in that next scene. And when the author – still me – decides, as I did, that the readers of young adult books would find it tremendously distracting to follow teenage characters who do not use electronic devices (try to imagine that), he can place the young adult stories in contemporary settings despite the disconnect between the Rebecca Series’ time settings and the young adult series time settings.

So far, no complaints from you readers!

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