Using time travel in my book

by Marissa

Question: In my book I want to do some time traveling. The book isn't about time travel and it's not the main thing it's just something the characters do a few times. I know that some thing's that do time travel they don't pull it off well enough and it's not very good. So do you have any tips on how to pull off time travel well?

My book already has to do with someone going to another dimension and there's a bunch of other dimensions as well. Do you think time travel and different dimensions go well together or they should be separate? The time travel would only take place in our dimension or in the other dimension that's the main other dimension but mostly our world. So do you think it could work?

Answer: Honestly, it's not what you use (time travel, parallel universes, etc.). It's how you use them. What rules will you put in place to make the story believable and address some of the common issues with time travel?

For instance, the biggest problem with time travel is that, if someone can travel too easily to any point in the past and alter the future, there would be no story.

Let's say the hero wants to travel back in time and murder Hitler in 1941 (an obvious cliche). Let's say he fails. No problem. Just go back to when Hitler was a little boy and kill him then. Or go back further and kill his mother, or his grandmother. If you get it wrong, go back and try again. In other words, you can't fail because you can just keep trying until you succeed. With no chance of failure, there's no dramatic tension.

So you have to have some rules that don't make time travel too easy.

Another problem is temporal paradoxes. For instance, if you traveled back in time and killed Hitler, that would mean you would grow up in a world that had no Hitler, so there would be no reason for you to travel back in time and kill Hitler, so Hitler would live, etc.

You may be able to ignore such an issue. Some readers will suspend their disbelief, depending on the age group and genre, but other readers are less forgiving.

Then there's the Butterfly Effect, which says that any little thing you do in the past could have a ripple affect on history that changes your own future in unpredictable ways--perhaps creating a future in which you don't get a time machine (another paradox).

Other issues...

Languages change a lot over time. Will your characters understand people in the past?

What happens if your character meets himself in the past?

Another common paradox: what if the hero accidentally kills his own grandfather? Will he simply vanish from the timeline?

Can you really change fate? Isn't your journey to the past already part of the past, so it will all work out the same anyway?

Of course, you are free to create the rules for your story world. These are just things to think about.

The other issue is that, like with all historical fiction, you will have to learn about life in the period your characters journey to, so you can get the details right.

Best of luck.

Comments for Using time travel in my book

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Apr 22, 2014
by: Marissa

Thank you that helps. These are some of the reasons I don't want to focus the story on time travel and only do it a few times because it's so confusing there's so many different forms of time travel. Some make total sense the others are just total to confusing. But I think I have an idea that works, makes sense (well as much as it can when dealing with time travel), and that's not insanely confusing. I'm going to go with when they travel back in time they need to be careful about what they do and who they interact with because it could change everything and who ever is traveling through time isn't affected like if something happens that would make them never be born they'd still exist because they were time traveling but back in the present no one would know who they were because technically they don't exist but whoever was with then would know them because they were traveling through time also. Does that make sense? Is that too confusing?

Apr 23, 2014
by: Glen

Write it first so that it makes sense to you. That should eliminate most problems. Then show it to some people, and see if it makes sense to them or if they get confused. As I said, it's all in how you do it, and that will only show up when you have a draft finished.

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