When writing a story, novel, or memoir, the passage of time is probably not one of the initial issues you’ll set about unwinding. Most writers first focus on other elements: who, what, where, when, and why. But the experts know that once you begin writing, this question will become relevant as you put words to the page — how do you write the passing of time?
Of course, you shouldn’t show every minute of every hour of every day (unless it’s done with specific intent). Yet you still want your readers to know that time has gone by. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to effectively show the passage of time in your story.
7 Ways To Show The Passage Of Time In Your Writing
The first few methods for communicating the passage of time in your writing have to do with the physical structure of the page. These include:
Scene Breaks: Use an extra return (aka a blank line) or three centered asterisks to show a scene break. The amount of time that passes between scenes is up to you, and you’ll want to make it fairly easy for the reader to figure out where we are in time in the next scene. But once readers see a scene break, they’ll know some amount of time will have passed before the next sentence.
Chapter Breaks: Chapter breaks can function just like scene breaks — just on a larger scale. They can also indicate changes of characters or points of view. Either way, when a new chapter is started, the reader will know that we are almost certainly moving somewhere else in time in the story.
Book Sections: Starting a new section in your book works much like scene and chapter breaks, but again, on an even bigger scale! If there is a large amount of time passing between parts of your story, a section break will help physically imply this to the reader. If your book spans many years or decades, you can also use sections to split that time into a few smaller chunks. Once readers finish one section and move to the next, they will immediately understand the story is moving forward in time to the next “chunk” of years.
Within The Text
The passage of time can also be shown in multiple ways within the writing itself. Here are a…