Writing a time-slip novel
My fascination for the time-slip novel began when I read The House on the Strand. In Daphne du Maurier’s novel, protagonist Dick trials a drug invented by a university friend and soon finds himself back in the 14th century. The story is time-slip rather than time travel as Dick’s physical body remains in contemporary time, leading to untold dangers…
Both time-slip and time travel require a suspension of disbelief, although there’s definitely some overlap between the two genres.
Time travel stories tend to use a mechanical device to transport the protagonist to the past (or the future). In H G Wells, The Time Machine, the time traveller invents an actual machine, Doctor Who has the TARDIS and, in Back to the Future, ‘Doc’ drives a DeLorian. In time travel the protagonist is more in control and journeys are generally planned by design.
In time-slip, there’s still a link between the present and the past – for example, Kate Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy, but often the characters do not fully leave their contemporary life. The time-slip protagonist has less control and little understanding of what’s going on. I personally find time-slip allows more creativity, with the inclusion of magical, fantastical and sometimes ghostly elements. The Time Traveller’s Wife has a genetic cause, in Outlander, the protagonist time travels while walking through standing stones and, in my novel, The Travelling Philanthropist, protagonist Anna is accidently transported back to 1752 while a second version of her remains in a parallel world.
Here are the things I’ve learnt about writing a time-slip novel:
Plot – To paraphrase Kate Mosse, you’re basically writing two stories before weaving them together. Both stories must have a carefully planned structure and arc.
Setting – Each time frame must be distinct and equally well-researched. Scenes in both time frames need to be equally believable.
Theme – The two time frames require a common theme. Underpinning the time-slip in The Travelling Philanthropist, is the theme of someone missing. Anna searches for her birth mother in the contemporary world and embarks on a quest for a lost foundling in the eighteenth century. This drives the tension, conflict and suspense in both time frames.
Dialogue – It’s important to make the dialogue realistic. Eighteenth century language sounds vastly different to contemporary speech.
Page turning – Each time frame must retain reader interest. You want the reader to engage with both to the point that they’re almost annoyed by the interruption of the time change. Create cliff hanging chapter endings to leave the reader impatient to find out what happens next.
The seed for The Travelling Philanthropist was sown several years ago. Training to become a teacher, I was planning an article drawing together my two teaching subjects – Religious Education and Mathematics. It was during this research that I stumbled across the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar…
The Travelling Philanthropist is available as Ebook or paperback from Amazon.
Great insight from Suzi Bamblett about writing a time-slip novel. The Travelling Philanthropist is a superb read and a fantastic introduction to Suzi’s novel writing. And what’s more, Suzi has a few more stories up her sleeve and hopes to release her next book later this year!
About Suzi Bamblett
Suzi Bamblett graduated from Brighton University with a distinction for her MA in Creative Writing. Her Imagined Dialogue is featured on the Daphne du Maurier website. Suzi write psychological thrillers and suspense for YA and adults. Her poems and short stories have been published in three Brighton University Anthologies – Small Worlds (2014), Reflections (2015) and Resistance is Fertile (2018), and her short story, The Girl on the Swing, was published by Shooter Literary Magazine – Issue 11 Winter 2020 Supernatural. Besides writing, walking and generally ‘being creative’, Suzi is a proud mum, ‘hands on’ granny and bereavement befriender for Twins Trust.
Support an Indie Author today
Purchase a copy of The Travelling Philanthropist from HERE