The Path to Time Travel – How Much Info Does it Take?
World-building is my favorite part of writing, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genre. I personally find it exciting to be able to take the reins of a story and decide how things can or cannot happen. “You can do whatever you want,” a friend once told me when trying to explain the concept to me.
Not too long ago I decided to write a story where my heroine traveled to a parallel universe. And because of my love for a show called Stargate: Atlantis, it had to be a portal that took her there.
It seemed like a great story that would be fun to write until my characters took their first ride through the portal. I had to decide just how much detail I wanted to use when describing the portal and travel through said portal. I read a few books about parallel universes, portals and even some physics. But, after reading, I realized it wasn’t within my own capabilities to describe the physics behind travel to a parallel universe.
In a nutshell, I’m no Rodney McKay or Doctor Who. Even talking to a few physicists didn’t help.
I have to say that I have a tendency to do things the hard way. If you want the most round about way to get something done, I’m the girl to talk to. Because of this tendency, I thought it would be better to see how others described the journey to another world.
In Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, the authors describe the characters’ travel to another world using the character’s emotions and point of view. Nicholas hears Douglass’ cries as he trying to pen a letter to his mother. It’s almost like a siren’s call to him. And Douglass hears Nicholas’ laughter before she blacks out and wakes up in the past.
Stephen King treats the protagonist’s first steps back to 1963 in 11/22/63 as a matter of fact incident. The character walks through a door, down a hall and – boom – he’s travelled back into time.
I’m currently reading Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone and it appears the hero’s time travel is preceded by migraines. I haven’t reached any other explanation for the time travel so far in the book. I believe Henry in The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger had neurological signals of impending time travel before it happened as well.
One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton used the ‘let’s explain almost everything’ approach to time travel in his book, Timeline. Crichton compares the character’s travel to how a fax machine sends information across phone lines. Even though the description spanned several pages, all the information was relevant to the story.
I wanted to take the Crichton approach with my story but knew it probably wasn’t possible. So, I did the one thing I knew I could do: I made it up. I took what I knew about medicine, what I’d learned from physics and created a plausible scenario, description and setting for my portal in a hospital that takes the travellers to a parallel universe.
A decided leap of faith for my first long-length story.
The point I’m trying to make is how you choose to make your characters travel can really be your own choice. How deep you go in explanation is your decision as well. Maybe explaining time travel is a lot like worldbuilding. “You can do whatever you want.”
So, does anyone have other time travel paths to share? Do you like a detailed explanation?
Abbi Wilder writes contemporary romances with a medical or sci-fi twist. Her first full-length fantasy set in a contemporary world with be published this spring. www.abbiwilder