Determining the Impact Character of my time-travel novel.

by Cym
(Seattle, Wa USA)

Question: - I was wondering; is it ever possible to consider a specific circumstance, environment or event as the "Impact Character" in a story, rather than a person?


I've written two novels in what I hope will be a time-travel series, where the first story culminates at the end of the second book. That overall story-arc is intricately woven together between two different cultures, continents and time periods. Within that context there are two complete sets of characters and historic circumstances, that all come crashing into conflict with one another as the result of an eddy in the current of Time, created by a Time-meddling experiment gone wrong.

Even though I suppose I could consider the research consortium that instigates the experiment as the Impact Character, they are very much in the background, and the rest of the characters are really 'impacted' much more directly by how Time has reacted and continues to react throughout the two books, in terms of first developing a modern-day time divergence for my _Main_ 'main-character' to deal with, while also creating an eddy cycling between when and where the divergence was instigated (12th century Ireland) and the point in the timeline where it has actually erupted into my Main character's life in modern-day Vancouver, BC.

This may seem like odd 'timing' (no pun intended ;) to bring-up this question after having already completed multiple drafts of two complete novels, however, it came to me as I was reading your extremely helpful article on how to write a novel synopsis. I've been asked to submit my mss to a major publisher, and all I have is my dry as a salt-flat chapter by chapter analysis, which I simply used to keep track of the back and forth of characters between the different timelines, etc. It is not in any way a smooth narrative that's going to engage and intrigue my (hopefully) future Publisher. The Impact Character's arc seems key to composing a complete narrative for the synopsis, and so here I am asking, "Can the Time Divergence in my story be considered as the Impact Character?"

Thanks so much for your consideration and time! :)

- Cym E-S

Answer: The time accident sounds to me like the inciting incident or first driver of the overall throughline. This accident creates the imbalance in time, so the Story Goal would (I presume) be to correct this imbalance before it causes some catastrophic effect (the Consequence).

In some stories, correcting the imbalance would mean taking action externally to bring the timeline back to normal. In other stories, the correction would mean having the characters adjust to cope with the new conditions of their lives. (Depending on whether your main character is a do-er or a be-er.)

The function of the impact character is to create inner conflict for the main character by providing an example of a different approach to handling a problem, so that when the crisis nears, the main character has to make a big decision of whether to stick with his usual approach or take a leap of faith and do things the way the impact character would.

The impact character's throughline is there so that, the main character can see the impact character in action. Seeing the impact character's story causes the main character to doubt himself and consider whether it would be better to change.

Developing your impact character adds emotional depth to the story because the main character (assuming he is also the protagonist) must wrestle not just with the external problems but with his internal dilemma.

So, given these definitions, the Time Divergence sounds to me like the Story Problem (Goal+Consequence) rather than the impact character. The impact character should be someone in the main character's life who can show by example or argue for a way of approaching the problem that may or may not be right but is opposite to the main character's usual approach.

Some common candiates for the impact character are...

* the main character's mentor, parent, or teacher
* the main character's love interest
* the villain
* a new friend

But any character who wanders into the main character's life will do if, through their relationship, the main character is pressured to grow or change.

Hope that helps.

Comments for Determining the Impact Character of my time-travel novel.

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Nov 21, 2014
Clarifying the role of the Impact Character
by: Cym

- Thank you for such a detailed clarification - and for responding so quickly!
- In further exploring this wonderful website, I found more information that dovetails with what you've offered here. That's no surprise, I suppose ;) but it did help to begin steering me towards re-examining the 'cast' of my story for the Impact Character. That, combined with the details you've offered in your response, led me to determine that my Main Character's romantic interest, a Detective Sergeant with the RCMP by the name of "Glen Roderick" would likely be the best fit for that role.
- My initial rejection of him as the IC was based on the fact that he doesn't remain my Main Character, Alyse's, romantic interest. They're torn apart by the Time divergence, a quarter of the way through the story. A case could actually be made that 'her Glen' - her best friend and lover - _dies_ at that point. He's replaced by a guy who looks and sounds just like him. The huge exception being that the soul-bond they shared, which was such an intrinsic part of who they were, both as individuals and as partners to each other, is virtually non-existent once that happens. Alyse can't even think of him as 'Glen'; he's just 'Sergeant Roderick' in her mind. Of course, once she realizes her reality has changed, the way they relate to each other changes completely as well.
- In short, all of this led me to question whether Glen/Sgt. Roderick could really be considered the impact character(s?). However, with the further clarification you provided about the role that the IC plays, I've realized that in both incarnations, Sgt. R best fits that bill.
btw: One interesting little side note coincidence here: In my story, after the Time divergence, Sgt. Roderick is put in charge of a security detail protecting Alyse during her participation in the Vancouver Olympics - a role that in Canadian Law Enforcement is referred to as... wait for it... "i/c" lol! I guess I should have taken my cue from that, huh?

- Just in closing, I want you to know that I am thoroughly impressed by how helpful I've found this website to be in providing straightforward and practical advice on the nitty-gritty details of getting things written - in a form and format that gives one a better chance of actually seeing them published. I'm on a number of other author's forums and I will definitely pass along what a great resource I've found this site to be. For what it's worth, I'll be mentioning it on my own website as well.
Thanks again. Cheers!

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