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The Art of Storytelling: Timing is Everything

Another key component of storytelling is providing your audience a clear understanding of TIME. What exactly is time and how does it relate to the development of your story? Well, let's take a look at its definition. According to, Time is defined as:

  1. the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

  2. a point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon.

  3. time as allotted, available, or used.

  4. an instance of something happening or being done; an occasion

Now remember, your story is an organized/structured account of a character or characters and events and this applies to both fiction and nonfiction. In every story there is a beginning, a middle, and an end (or some concluding period where the character's journey or path has come to an end. However, it does not necessarily mean the actual ending of the character or the story itself). So. what does this all mean? Well, establishing the time that the story begins and even when it will eventually end helps guide the audience into the journey of the character(s). Think about it, suppose you are reading a fictional piece that takes place during the ancient Byzantine Empire. Would it not sound odd to you as the story progresses into the opening scene, the elements shift between modern and archaic? Would you not feel a bit confused as to what exactly you are reading.

Now don't get me wrong, you can successfully shift between the past and the present, which I will discuss in a later blog. Moreover, what I am suggesting to you is to be mindful that the descriptive imagery you use to set the scene. Think about the elements of the time period that your story takes place in. If it is during the ancient world where cars, internet and modern sky scrappers would be replaced with maybe mud dwellings, temples pyramids, paved roads for travel (instead of highways). Or let's say your story is a futuristic tale set for a hundred years from now. How would you describe the technology? Or, the culture of the people?

Timing is everything.

As a storyteller, it is also key to be mindful of your tenses. Even the most seasoned of writers sometimes mix up their past and present tenses verbs. For instance, a storyline that takes place in the present from a first person perspective, the scenes and the dialogue would more than likely be written in the NOW (ex. My eyes open to the sound of the red macaw that loved to perch outside my window. The little fucker belonged to my neighbor; and rather than keeping the bastard tucked away in the privacy of his home, he just let the bird roam the neighborhood, taking roost where ever he chose.) Now if the character happened to be reflecting on the day that he woke up, he would have said, "My eyes opened..." (past tense).

Remember, your past tense verbs are actions that take place in the PAST; and your present tense verbs take place in the PRESENT. Remain mindful of your character's environment (scenery, wardrobe, language) and ask yourself if what you are describing aligns with the overall development of your story.

And one more thing:

Keep Writing :)

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