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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tricky Time Travel Writing by Sarah J. McNeal

Writing Time Travel

I love to read a good time travel story. I also love to write them, but writing time travel is not easy. As an author, I realize time travel writing is tricky. It’s not just about researching a time period where the character is going to go or, even more difficult, taking them into the future and creating a believable world from pure imagination. But I believe above all other things in a time travel story there has to be a meaningful reason to take a character into another time. Something has to happen in that other time that is significant to the story plot and outcome—something of great importance to the characters.
And then there is the way to get to the other time period. It can’t be just any old thing. It has to be thought out and believable. If your readers find the transition to another time incredible, the whole story will seem contrived and lose the meaning you intended for it. If it’s done too easily without affecting the character in some way it will be unbelievable. Confusion, worry, the subtle dawning on what has transpired has to leave the character feeling something. It may require physical distress or mental anguish, but it can’t just happen without some consequence to the character.

I read a time travel once where the heroine could go and come through a specific portal with ease, whenever she wanted. This ease and control of the heroine to do this took away the worry and the consequences for the heroine and, in my opinion, ruined the story’s intensity.

By Sarah J. McNeal
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In my paranormal trilogy, Legends of Winatuke, my characters travel from the world we know in present day to another dimension in which the time has stopped in the medieval period. They must have the magical sphere, the Rock of Ages, in order to travel to that other world to help their friends fight against the witch-queen. Without the sphere, they’re stuck wherever they might be. There are consequences. None of the technology they possess can pass through the barrier between dimensions. They must fight with medieval weapons only. Physical consequences occur they must contend with as well. For a time the travelers feel drained of energy and experience physical discomfort from their journey.

Do you read time travel stories? What story was your favorite? Do you write time travel? What entices you to write about traveling in time? Do you find it complicated to write?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Sarah,

    Time travel is a personal favorite of mine. I love the idea of 'what if?' I have a few time travel romances I've written. One the hero and heroine traveled through a magical mist. Another a spirit guide, which happened to be a dog, knew where the veil between the timelines were thin, allowing the heroine to travel back in time, and forward again. Another an artifact, and still another the time travelers used storms they created with a device to time travel back in time.

    Some of my favorite time travel stories is Outlander series. Of course I loved your Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride.

    Movies: Loved Kate and Leopold, and Somewhere in Time, too.

    1. I really enjoy your stories, Karen, like Lost in the Mist of Time and A Twist of Fate. I have Twilight's Eternal Embrace and Destiny's Prerogative and look forward to reading them. What is the title of the story with the storms as a gateway to time?
      I read the Outlander series and fell in love with the characters. Dragonfly in Amber was my favorite. Gabaldon's idea for the circle of stones as the gateway between time was excellent. I have watched Kate and Leopold over and over. Wouldn't it be nice to go back in time to a more peaceful world?
      Thank you for coming to visit my blog--and for posting it on my FB page. That was so sweet of you to do.

    2. You're so welcome. :)

      And the story where they use the storms is Storm Riders. The short western/steampunk tale. :)
      So glad you enjoyed A Twist of Fate and Lost in the Mist of Time. Those were my first books I wrote and were published. A Ireland vacation and a tour of the vaults and mummies below St. Michans Church in Dublin, inspired the story Lost in the Mist of Time.

      I agree, it would be nice to travel back in time when things weren't too violent. lol And I want a sure way back to my time too.

    3. Me too, Karen. I would not want to be stuck in another time with no way out.

  2. Sarah, as a person who doesn't write time travel (not enough imagination) it was interesting to learn of the difficulties authors of this genre face. It gave me a greater appreciation of time travel books. Thank you.

    1. You certainly don't lack imagination, Linda. I loved your historical romance, Clarissa's War. You certainly captured the hardships of the Civil War, especially for women--and you had a film made on that story. I'm looking forward to reading Give It All You've Got and Winner Take All, too. You are such a fantastic author.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to come and read my article. I truly appreciate it.
      The hardest part of time travel writing is to make the story convincing to the reader.

  3. I've mostly read Gwyn Cready's time travel romances.


    1. Denise, what are the things that attract you to Gwyn Cready's time travel romances? What would be your favorite time to go to?
      Thank you for coming and commenting today.

  4. I enjoyed your blog, Sarah. Time travel is the ultimate mystery, isn't it? The possibility of time travel has fascinated man, almost from the beginning of time. I also loved Kate and Leopold--and in a sillier way, I've always loved the Back to the Future movies! I've never written a time travel, but it would be the ultimate adventure!

    1. Loved all of the Back to the Future movies. Einstein said to move in time you would have go faster than the speed of light and that doing so would create more mass to the extent that it would be impossible. I wonder, does that mean you would get too fat and light couldn't drag you back? Anyway, I want to believe that the universe could find a wrinkle in the time continuum and we really could visit other times. Hey, maybe it could be like a business. Today we'll be having a special on time travel back to Christmas 1861. LOL
      Okay, babbling now...
      Thank you so much for coming by and commenting, Vicki.

  5. Sarah--since I don't write time travel, I don't read many. As I've said, the characters will make me read their story...like yours..or the characters will make me turn away. So, the hero and heroine in the story are the most important. In past years I read a few time travels and almost always the main character waked through a mirror. That somewhat makes sense, but probably has been overdone. I read one of Caroline's and her heroine fell off a cliff. I thought that was pretty clever.
    It's when they go back and cope but want to return that makes me a little tense...how will they do this?
    Time Travel Romance seems to be very popular right now. I do love your Wildings, whether they are in the present or they go back in time. See? It's always about the characters. Good post, so well done!

    1. Celia, thank you for those nice words about my characters in my time travel stories. The Violin and Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride had to be time travel stories because, for these two stories, resolution for the characters required an engagement with the past.
      I read a time travel story by a famous author in which the traveler just appeared in a past time. There was no mist, trunk, magic portal...nothing. Because I didn't know what caused the transition and it was so sudden, it made me uneasy that the heroine's return to the present time might happen at any moment. It was difficult to invest my wish for the hero and heroine to form a relationship with the possibility of the heroine being wisked away into the future at any time. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. The ending was bitter sweet because she never saw her lost love again. In the end she met a decendant of her lost love on a plane and their bnd was immediate. It just wasn't the happy ending I had hope for. I mention it only to demonstrate the difficulties of writing a time travel that leads to a happy and satisfying ending. The plot line for a time travel has to be well thought out to make the story feel solid to the reader.
      Celia, you write amazing stories. For you to compliment anything I write makes me feel like a million bucks. Thank you!


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