Time Dribble

Has your story experienced time-warping?

Do your characters have the unexpected talent of time hopping?

Did Doctor Who show up and take you to task for ripping a hole in the time/space continuum?

If any of the above mentioned thing have happened, you have been afflicted with the, oh so terrible, condition of Time Dribble.

What pray tell is Time Dribble?  It is an unfortunate affliction of your characters and plot not being grounded.  They flip to the future and flop to the past, seldom landing in the present.

Is there a cure?  Yes there is.  But it’ll take discipline and time to tether them into the appropriate time line.  Here are some ways to fix the dreaded Time Dribble:

  1. Know when to incorporate Backstory.  A little goes a long way.  Jon Sprunk wrote on Tor.com    “Backstory is one of those things that, when done right, is almost seamless. You don’t even notice it. But when it’s done with a clumsy hand… Well, it can become obnoxious.”
  2. Make sure you pick a voice and stick to it.  The coulda, woulda and shoulda’s can take your into the future or back into the past with improper usage.  Your character should know where and when they are at all times.  Only a ‘voice of God’ narrative can bounce around, if done correctly.
  3. Outline your story.  Give yourself a road map of the story.  This gives you flexibility while keeping the end goal insight.

Time Dribble can be cured by paying attention to your characters POV and allowing your setting to be consistent.

Friends don’t let friends experience Time Dribble .



  • Good post, Leila– One trick I use is to create a calendar, where the events of each day are mapped out, along with an overarching timeline of history and future events relevant to the main characters, both political (when the Good King passed and the Bad King took the throne, when the Bad King will give way to a Good King, etc) and personal (when the character was born, when they fell in love for the first time, when they have their first child, etc) –This sounds more complete than it is, really, because in reality the process produces a jumbled mass of contradictory notes more often than not, but it helps me to keep timeline and flashback sequences straight. And the day to day calendar mapping *really* helps. I’ve had to restructure many a story because it simply wasn’t possible, as the sequencing stood, for Character A and B to be in the same place at the same time, and they had to be…. that always drives me crazy. 🙂

    • Thanks! I think the calendar is a fabulous idea.

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