Today I am so pleased to welcome Ariel Tachna to Joyfully Jay for Time Travel Week. Ariel has come to talk to us writing time travel. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Back to the Future
Time travel stories come in pretty much two varieties: forward or backward in time. Characters can come from the past to the present or future, from the present to the future, from the future to the present, or from the present or future to the past. Each of those options presents a different—and interesting—set of challenges. I’ve only written one time-travel novel, which involves a modern-day character going to various places in the past before settling on Roman Gaul in the second century A.D, but I’ve always thought of my historical and futuristic stories as my own little piece of time travel.
The challenge of writing a historical time travel novel is, of course, historical accuracy. Yes, as authors, we’re messing with the timeline by sending a character back to a time that isn’t his or her own, but readers have some expectation of finding a reasonable facsimile of the past seen through the eyes of a modern character. When I was writing Château d’Eternité, I left references for everything I looked up, from the shape and layout of a typical Roman house to where the temple of Diana was in the ancient city of Nîmes. The 200-page novel had 157 notes in it when I submitted it. (Obsessive much?) For comparison purposes, The Matelot, which is a historical but not time travel, had 380 notes for about 300 pages. That one in particular had a lot of notes concerning etymology. After all, if a word didn’t exist in 1642, the characters shouldn’t be using it.
The challenge of writing a futuristic novel is one of innovation. What has changed and what hasn’t? And of course, if it has changed, how has it changed? We can’t use hyperdrive or warp speed. So if a spaceship has to cross long distances in a short period of time, how do they do it? How do they communicate over long distances? Or even over short distances? Video chat? Hand-held communicators? Neural implants? Futuristic novels are a writer’s playground, but it’s a challenge too. We have to create an internally consistent world and then play by those rules. Nothing irks readers more than an author shattering the world-building out of laziness.
In that aspect, historical and futuristic stories mirror each other. Whatever the world the author takes us to, and whether we travel as readers or alongside a character from our own time period, the author’s job is to create a world (fictional or not) that we can step into and believe in. The choice of words, the modes of transportation, the style of dress, and the norms of the culture transport us to a time and a place not our own, and if the author has done his/her job, the magic of the story keeps us there, visitors in the landscape of someone else’s world for a few hours.
Where are you traveling to today?
Ariel Tachna lives outside of Houston with her husband, her daughter and son, and their two dogs. Before moving there, she traveled all over the world, having fallen in love with France, where she met her husband, and India, where she hopes to retire some day. She’s bilingual with snippets of four other languages to her credit and is as in love with languages as she is with writing.