When your story takes place is as crucial as where your story takes place. The first blog in this series, Building Your Story World, talked about the where of our story.

This week, let’s focus on the when of our story because when our story takes place will have serious ramifications on how our characters pursue their goals. If we set our story in the 1840s, our hero can’t pull out an Uzi or use her cell phone to call for help. The repeating rifle was not all that common. Trains were running in some places but not everywhere. So how does the hero travel thousands or hundred of miles? Slowly. Very slowly.

If we set our story in 2017, we have an advantage because almost everything is familiar to us. But what if our story isn’t published until 2020. We all know technology is rapidly changing. We have a couple of options. One is to try to predict what things will look like in a few years. The other, more practical, is to make sure our readers are anchored in 2015 by being consistently clear with our time frame. One way we can do this is to incorporate current events into the narrative.

Whenever we set our stories, we have to do research. Even if we’re writing SciFi or Fantasy. Both genres give us a freedom that’s not as available to contemporary or historic writers. But we still owe it to the reader to get it right as we let our imagination run wild.

I’m working on an epic fantasy series and I’ve really enjoyed building a story world with strange animals, with people who have unique gifts and powers, with elements of evil and good and bad magic. I also have things common to our world. Like horses and swordfights and crossbows and longbows. I’ve had to research material such as the different kinds of swords and the art and techniques of sword fighting.

When I read for fun, I usually pick up a detective or crime novel. Recently, I read the latest installment from one of my favorite authors and discovered a phenomenon I’ll call the Time Traveling Detectives. The first novel in the series was published in 1993. The most recent was released in 2016. When I traced the narrative timeline, about eight years have passed in the heroine’s life. This would put us in 2001. Yet, in the latest novel, the heroine is using technology from 2016, tech that wasn’t around in 2001.

As a fan, I’m willing to accept this because I enjoy the characters so much but it still jumped out at me.

Something to think about if we’re planning a series of novels.

In the next blog in this series, we’ll look at how the story world can bring your characters to life.

What has helped you establish the when of your story?


  1. The Who of Your Story World - Official Website of Author Henry McLaughlin - February 8, 2017

    […] the previous two blogs on story world (The Where of Your Story and The When of Your Story) we discussed the where and when of our story world. The where and when of our story is information […]

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