12 thoughts on “HWSWA: Time

  1. Speaking of another kind of time (i.e. the “time” that flies by) I ran across this Texas Monthly article today while traveling down the time sink rabbit hole of the University of Pittsburgh’s writers program’s “Longform” website: https://longform.org/

    “Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out: Now, as the Romance Writers of America reckons with its history of racism, will she finally get her due?”
    Texas Monthly, September 2020, by Mimi Swartz.

    Romance writers may already know about the article (and the RWA history), but it’s a great read for us romance readers, too.

    It also reminded me of the funny story Jenny told us (if I remember it correctly) of a reader’s comment about a Crusie novel, “well, it’s not Shakespeare,” which is the equivalent of “well, it’s not Austen.” I can only reply, but I bet good old Will and Jane would have loved reading Cruisie, et al.!

  2. “Criticism and writing are essentially “You know, she wobbled on that triple axel” and going down on the ice and hitting the triple axel. You think this is easy. Get on your skates and try it.”

    *sigh* so much love.

  3. This made me laugh and laugh, thank you so much!

    I was looking for where you talked about info dumps and why they are bad. Could find passing references but not the essay version. Anybody got a clue?

  4. I posted this on the HWSWA blog, but realized not a lot of the community posts there and I am really really interested if I was the only one so very confused by the “time” in Harrow. Anyone else read it? Thoughts on the use of time in it especially as it relates to Jenny and Bob’s essay? <>

    1. well it ate my original response which was: OOOOO This is exactly what I was talking about to my sister last night. So what in the world is Harrow the Ninth as far as time?? Have either of you read it? You have to read Gideon the Ninth first or Harrow makes even less sense than it already does, love that book and then there was Harrow’s book which screwed with time in so many ways that I am still unsure exactly what the heck…. Gideon was linear with some flashbacks, Harrow just rewrote time and then went back and sideways and I was so confused. I read three or four books a week and have for over 40 years. I love your blog, both the original and this one, as it helps me understand WHY books work for me and why they don’t. Harrow is a book I will use for an example of time issues forever. I’m suspecting it wasn’t just flashbacks but some kind of different use of time. That being said, Gideon was so good I will be reading the last in the series when it comes out to find out what happens.

      1. Nope. Just another blog reader here. Haven’t read either one. Could you explain the time issues in a sentence or two and what was confusing?

        1. I’ll try, I tend to be wordy sorry. In the first book time was linear with the main character having flashbacks that helped explain the present. The book is kind of a coming of age, enemies to friends, mystery thing. Hard to describe. Mystery is a huge part of it though, the flashbacks help to move the mystery along and explain things. In the second, the book’s main character is the secondary character from the first book. The beginning starts with the secondary character’s memories being completely different from the first book, as in the first book’s character is not there anymore, and the secondary character is still having flashbacks to the things that happened in the first book but the first book’s main character isn’t there anymore so you can’t be sure these are true memories and then all the secondary characters start having flashbacks but theirs are to a different time further back. So you have all these timelines, with mysteries in each timeline that I think are supposed to all come together and be solved in the current timeline. But because you know the main character’s memories are compromised, you aren’t sure of anything. That’s as short as I can get it, LOL

  5. First, sorry for no answers, my laptop has been down since Sunday. Yes, it has be hell, thank you.

    Why info dump is bad:

    Reading is difficult. Seriously, you’re translating words into thoughts, imagining the film in your head, trying to figure out what sentences mean and how they relate. If you’ve been reading a long time, it gets a lot easier, but you can still get thrown out of a thought string pretty easily. (Think how many times you’ve read some of your textbook paragraphs trying to figure out what the hell they meant.). So now you’re reading a story, and it’s about this character who does this action because of this motivation which leads to this action which leads to . . . this big stretch of explanation of back story that has nothing to do with the plot you were following. Depending up on the point of view, the style of the story, the kind of reading you like, that can be a real narrative killer. If you’re reading omniscient PoV because you love the voice and sensibility of the author, say Terry Pratchett, you can do as much wandering around as you want, although for the most part he kept a solid grip on his plot. If you’re reading a mystery in third limited, you probably don’t give a damn about how the detective felt growing up, so a digression there may throw you out of the story because you’re trying to fit it into the linear timeline of the thoughts of the detective. The real determiner is if it fits the story, and if it’s a linear/limited story, chances are good that it doesn’t.

    I’m reading Skinny Dip right now, which has a strong authorial voice because its Hiassen. He starts with a woman named Joey being thrown off a cruise ship by her husband. She’s a champion swimmer (or was) so she starts swimming for shore, and to keep herself distracted tries to figure out why the hell he’d try to kill her since she didn’t have a clue he wanted to. Then as first her legs and then her arms give out, she thinks about her life. Then she gets rescued. It’s back story, all of it, but you read it because first it’s Hiassen and he could make the phone book sound laid back and amused, and second BECAUSE THIS WOMAN IS ABOUT TO DROWN AND WE LIKE HER. We stay for the back story because Hiassen puts it (mostly) in the now of the story, but we also stay because we want her out of the damn ocean, so when Our Hero pulls her out into his fishing boat, she stops remembering and passes out and the back story stops because her memories and her frantic thinking stop. A little later on, there’s a scene where the husband is talking to a suspicious detective, and you get both the conversation and the husband’s thoughts as he tries to think fast (not a specialty of his) and thinks crabby thoughts about his wife, dropping back story there as he thinks of it in the now. Hiassen is writing third omniscient; he’s Pratchett a little high on margaritas and a little less likely to make sweeping omniscient statements about life in general, but he has the same gift, a voice you want to read no matter what he’s writing.

    Most writers do not have that voice, and their info dump lands like a sack of wet cement in the middle of a bike path, especially if they’re writing third limited (because info dump is an omniscient move). Therefore, info dump is to be avoided because it’s bad and difficult to do, even when done well. Just tell the story.

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