In the five novels in my Rebecca Series , time gets “juggled” with regularity. The action usually takes place on more than one continent, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, and by five – sometimes more – time zones.
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, Eleanor Chapel, and, in the newest novel, A Fearful Thing, Marie Campbell and Jack McGriff. In each of the stories, the American characters and the British characters are brought physically together, at least for some of the time, in order to confront the threats that 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 between London and New York, movement from one country to the other provides many chances to compress or expand the story’s movement and 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 what “immediately” is going to mean. 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 of 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.
In Choose You This Day, the fourth in the series, some of the scenes are set in Israel, providing large time changes in the other direction: i.e., to the east. And in the current novel, the sixth in the Rebecca Series (as yet untitled), transatlantic communication and travel are clearly in the offing, though the story is still in early stages and I’m not sure how many time zones, other than the five between London and New York, may eventually come into play.
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 what’s next, and where that “next” should be, time-juggling is often a great help in moving the action plausibly to the next scene.
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