Time Travel discussion

General Time Travel Discussion > How little time travel is too little time travel?

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message 1: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Davies (addavies) | 5 comments I know there are no "rules" as such, but do readers find the amount of actual time travel affects the enjoyment, or even the sub-categories within the time travel sub-genre?

What I'm referring to is the difference between a story that uses time travel as a mere catalyst to propel characters into a situation vs stories where characters move around a lot.

The Last Roman appears to have a setup that sends them back in time, where the characters explore that time, while Departure is a more all-round science fiction with threads that concern the temporal movement.

In films, the first Back the Future saw Marty go back in time and engage in a rom-com/action-adventure, with some concern for the future thrown in, while the second film went back and forth. Similarly, Hot Tub Time Machine, the titular device was the catalyst that sent them on the trip, while Project Almanac sent them all over the place, and Timecrimes goes around in a loop and comes together in the end.

I guess what I'm saying is, do people look for the amount of timey-wimey plot twists in their enjoyment of the genre? Is there a requirement in literature to explore the implications more deeply than in film?

message 2: by Nefeli (new)

Nefeli (galacticon) | 5 comments Personally I haven't read any time travel books (yet...) but as far as I know from films, I prefer the plot to focus quite a lot on time travel rather than use it as a premise for an action / adventure or romance / comedy to take place. Even though I admit that using time travel in historical fiction to highlight differences between two certain eras of history sounds very interesting.

message 3: by Tej (last edited Aug 17, 2015 04:57PM) (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) | 1725 comments Mod
While I love the time travel genre, I welcome books with little or a great deal of time travel as long as the narrative is either engaging, entertaining, compelling or thought provoking.

Your Back to the Future is an excellent example because the first film was indeed a comedy adventure set mostly in one time period while the second one was a pretty hardcore time travel feast...and I absolutely loved them both because they engaged me in different ways with great storylines and dialogue. Film-wise I loved the complexity of TimeCrimes and Triangle but felt cold with the even more complex Primer despite its legendary cleverness. Project Almanac on the other hand was engaging in character and narrative but awful in logic.

So its not about the amount of actual time travel but how good is the execution of its narrative, characters and dialogue to support the time travel plot with reasonable plausibility and logic. That's the key for me :)

Nice question.

message 4: by Nathan, First Tiger (new)

Nathan Coops (icoops) | 544 comments Mod
The thing about Back to the Future that made it still feel like time travel the whole time, even though the story was set mostly in one place, was we were still seeing it all from a perspective of 1985 Marty. The jokes were time travel (His uncle still loving being behind bars), the scenery and environment was time travel (not knowing how to use a coke bottle opener. Ordering a Pespsi-Free) even the politics, (A black man running for mayor) were all a contrast for the viewer. We never lose the feeling that we are time traveling.

What I get irritated by is stories that have protagonists who seemingly forget the astounding fact that they have time traveled. If the character just dives into life whenever he or she has arrived and the drama has nothing to do with the traveling, I have a hard time giving it any credit as a time travel book.

message 5: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 870 comments I have felt cheated, when a book purports to be a time travel adventure and the TT is just, as you say, a catalyst.

If it's a good enough book but the focus is, say, romance, then the blurb should somehow let me know that it's romance w/ an element of TT, and not mislead me by claiming to be a TT romance.

message 6: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new)

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
I propose a Temporal Investigation and Management Exploration!

A group of individuals that read lots of Time Travel books and rate them...not on overall greatness, but distinguish a Time Travel Romance from a Romantic Time Travel novel.

However personally I agree with Tej, an engrossing story that has very little time travel is still a good story. I also feel that a small amount of time travel at a critical point can be the zinger for the whole story....A la twilight zone with some crazy reveal....He accidentally killed his own grandfather....

message 7: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 89 comments My personal feeling as an author who writes mostly time travel stories is that the time traveling itself or how it is done is not the main thing that interests readers. Rather, it is the situation/conflict/opportunity that such time travel creates that would in my opinion captivate the readers. Time travel is interesting because it allows the action to take place in often vastly different settings and societies, according to the period and location of the time travel destination. To make the reader picture and feel the difference and subtleties of, say, 17th Century France or of 1st Century B.C. Rome while following the time traveler's adventures is I believe what a good author of time travel novels should strive for.

message 8: by Steve (last edited Aug 18, 2015 07:40PM) (new)

Steve Harrison (stormingtime) | 19 comments I agree with Michel. What fascinated me while writing my time slip novel was how characters from the past would experience the present day, and to give readers the opportunity to see our world through their eyes. My version, anyway :)

The time travel element, though crucial, is not the focus of the story.

message 9: by A.D. (last edited Aug 19, 2015 01:58AM) (new)

A.D. Davies (addavies) | 5 comments Thank you to everyone for your comments. I was just getting a little concerned about how hard to hit the "time travel" aspects of my forthcoming (co-written) novel. It's modern day special forces investigating an anomaly that transports them to 1945 where a squad of elite Nazis are trying to use time travel to alter the war in Germany's favour. I guess it's closer to the Back to the Future model.

Imagine pitching that to a publisher/movie producer: "It's 'Back to the Future'. With NAZIS!"

Originally, we realised it was nothing but a boys-own-style action-adventure merely bookended by time-travel. Now it's similar, but we have re-written it almost entirely, incorporating things like "future memories" flashing to them when they dither about making decisions, and the Nazis at some point get hold of modern weaponry. And there's social attitudes at work too (black men and a woman in a white-man's team?), though that isn't necessarily the prime focus.

So I think -- think -- we have a decent story on our hands.

Thanks for your comments. It's put our minds at rest. Just need to make sure it reads okay now. Back to the editing grindstone!

message 10: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 870 comments Sounds like a good book. Just make your blurb accurate, instead of using hype words that imply the focus is different than what it really is.

Gad. Trendy hype words in blurbs. That's a whole 'nother rant.

message 11: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new)

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
So years ago...This new book was making waves...it was a girl teeny bopper book but everyone was reading it....Maybe you have heard of it... Twilight (Twilight, #1) by Stephenie Meyer Twilight

I admit I pulled it off the shelf in a public bookstore and opened and read the inside cover flap....This Vampire Love Saga is as far as I made it. Put it right back on the shelf. Don't regret my decision never to read anymore.

Sorry to be off Topic A.D. Just backing up what Cheryl said about blurbs regarding your books.

message 12: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Davies (addavies) | 5 comments We are working hard on the blurb. It's always one of the toughest parts, and the part I always adjust over and over. I doubt we'll get it right first time, but that would be boring, wouldn't it?

(no mention of Back to the Future in the description, BTW. It's nothing like it really, other than the time travel aspect of course)

message 13: by Paul (new)

Paul Wandason (tadpaul353) | 142 comments I think for a novel to be classed as "time travel" the time travel element needs to take on a fairly dominant role (in some way), certainly more than a catalyst.

If a time machine is used to take a character back to 1800 (for example) and the story continues as normal with no comparison to modern times (or more travels in time), then the author may as well have started the novel with "once upon a time in 1800..." It can still be a good novel, but classing it as time travel would be unfair to time travel fans - it would like a car enthusiast being told he'd absolutely love a knitting convention based on the fact that he'd have to drive there for 10 minutes.

Blurbs...must admit I usually only read them after I've read a novel to see how accurate it is. How can a novel be summed up in a few lines?! Best of luck doing that tough job!!!

message 14: by Randy (new)

Randy Harmelink | 1059 comments Paul wrote: "If a time machine is used to take a character back to 1800 (for example) and the story continues as normal with no comparison to modern times (or more travels in time), then the author may as well have started the novel with "once upon a time in 1800..." It can still be a good novel, but classing it as time travel would be unfair to time travel fans"

I have the reverse perspective. Ever since my mom "stole" my Kindle, I keep her Kindle loaded up with free "Historical Romance" books.

But she does NOT want books involving time travel to get there.

So "once upon a time in 1800..." doesn't work.


Just ran into a blurb yesterday for an apocalypse novel that had "...cities reduced to rumble...".

I did NOT get the book. :)

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