Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Day is It? By Morgan Mandel

Now that I'm unemployed, I lose track of the days. Often I have to ask myself, What day is it? Then, something I did the day before or plan on doing today clues me in and I know where time is.

When writing a book, it's good to keep in mind that your readers also need to know what day of the week it is, also what season, what year. The place in time is just as important as setting, goal and conflict.

So, throw in some clues every now and then to ground your readers in what day it is.

Can you think of any books where you know right away what day it is? Or day of the week?

I'm wondering if Ground Hog Day was a book before a movie.

Morgan Mandel

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Terry Odell said...

I tend to make notes at chapter and scene breaks, although I usually start with tracking "Day 1, Day 2," etc. Then, if I need it to be a weekend, or a Monday, I'll go in and adjust.

Unless the day of the week is essential to the plot, I don't pay attention when I'm reading. (Which is probably why I have to force myself to make notes when I'm writing).

I've worked from home for ages--days were tracked by Hubster's schedule. Now that he's retired, our landmarks are "It's Garbage Day" or the like.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Connie Arnold said...

I know what you mean. If I don't have something special going on for a couple of days, I sometimes forget what day it is. Some days sort of feel like Groundhog Day too! I never heard if it was a book before the movie.

Mona Risk said...


For each book, I keep track of the day on a calendar. It helps me avoid messing up my time in the story. Now in real life, it's a different story. Since I stopped working, I often can't remember what day it is. Going to church on Sunday is practically the only thing that helps me differenciate between weekend and weekday.

Tricia Schneider said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has days that blur together. Now that I take my son to preschool, when I pull into the parking lot, I check out the other parents and kids to be sure I recognize them. I just know one day, I'll take him to school on the wrong day!

Bob Sanchez said...

The day of the week may not matter, depending on the story. But the writer should know, and make clear, when time has passed. Terry's idea of making notes for chapters and scenes is good--too bad I usually do it after the fact, when trying to untangle time lines.

Marian Allen said...

From Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Marian Allen

Cheryl said...

In the opening paragraphs of my WIP, I mention what season it is. The readers don't know what exact day until a bit later in the chapter.

Liana Laverentz said...

I rarely know what day it is either, but I make sure my readers know what month and time of year the story takes place, and early on. After that, I sometimes keep it vague. But for myself, I have it all plotted on a calendar.

Robert W. Walker said...

keeping track of time throughout the novel and in your head simultaenously HARD for many of us right-brained people. I suspect Time as a concept, even a linear idea, is easier for some to keep track of than others both in life and especially in our fiction. I am always struggling with what time is it in the story -- even an historical tale that relies on being exact about a given time period. As in the launching of Titanic. Even though there are certain moments in time we know this happened, and that happened, we are still filling the the spaces between the known moments, fleshing them out.

As to first paragraph, first page time is an element as important as letting us know WHO we are following, whose story is it anyway? WHERE in time and space we are (unless there be a very good reason to conceal same). These opening moments set the reader's feet on terra firma. These establishing shots (film script term for it) ground the reader in a scene that helps greatly to suspend disbeleaf.

Dead On Writing

Kate Dolan said...

This is something I need to keep track of better while I'm writing. As it is now, I usually have to go back sometime during the editing process and recreate my timeline and that's a pain. Also, then I can't always tell whether the amount of time passing is realistic or not. So good reminder!

Sharon - Grandma is a Writer said...

My daughter's schedule seems to be my best way of keeping track of days. Since I haven't written any fiction, I can't say anything about timelines in writing. In our non-fiction story, the timing and days were absolutely crucial. Fortunately we had kept a diary and also had emails which we had sent to help us reconstruct the exact dates.

Deb Larson said...

In my writing, I keep track of the seasons better than the actual days.
DL Larson

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Morgan,

I have to know what day it is on my outline. In my golfing story, for instance, my lead character plays in a Ladies Nine Hole Golf League on Wednesday, so I better not forget to put her on the golf course on Wednesdays!

Great post!

On the Nickel coming March 16