Can you offer any tips on how to show passage of time when the narration is in first person present tense?
Thanks for your help.
My House Is Singing
It's Not Worth Making a Tzimmes Over!
The sound of the rooster nudged at the edge of my consciousness, I reached across the bed-he had still not returned.
The scent of the cooking fires drifted through the golden light of the sun falling under the western horizon and I knew I’d not find Refilwe today.
Ding-ding-ding. That was it then, she said 2:00, I guess it means she isn’t interested.
There are numerous ways to show passage of time in your writing. In most cases, time passing is a transition from this time to that one, so the most important thing is to give the reader clues as to what time of day it is.
One way is with sounds. Depending on where your characters are, the sounds around them can reveal a lot about the time of day. For example, in a rural setting, or even an urban setting if you live in Botswana as I do, a rooster crowing is an indication of morning. In cities, morning or evening rush hour traffic can be another way to show passage of time. Church bells and cuckoo clocks can be used without the writer having to say-“it is now 2:00”.
Smells can also help writers move the time along. Bacon, coffee, evening cooking fires- all of these can help your reader figure out what time of day it is.
Other clues for your readers would be the happenings around your characters. Are mosquitoes starting to bite? Then it’s likely a summer evening. Are the flashing lights on the house across the street blinding your character? Must be Christmas.
If you’re dealing with larger bits of time, weather is very useful. Depending on the setting snow crunching underfoot, fallen leaves, dry harmattan winds, or torrential rains can show passage of time from one season to another. Other seasonal events can also clue the reader to time. For example, a flock of geese heading south, a dog shedding hair, the first crocus, the sound of a tractor ploughing, or the drip of melting ice.
Interesting writing is achieved when the writer pulls the reader by the hand and says, “look!” Then the reader gets the fun of discovering. Laying down clues about time is better writing than telling the reader “three months passed”.
These are just a few ideas of how to do that. What ideas do you have?
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time, award-winning writer living in Botswana. Most recently she won first place in the inaugural Baobab Prize for African children’s literature for her story ‘Lorato and her Wire Car’. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana.