Controlling Narrative Time in a Short Story (an example)

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My latest short story has just been published in Guernica, and it was a doozy to write and revise.

Much of the challenge came from the length and complexity of the timeline that the story covers, and the fact that the narrator has a brain injury, which means he’s a bit hazy about details.

Usually, I counsel writers to avoid narratives that take place over a long period of time, but as you can see from this one, it really just “alights” in several spots, spending most of the story in the first period near his brain event. The challenge with a long timeline is often that the character’s problem or the animating conflict of the story can’t be sustained over a long period of time or else the reader feels like the character is not doing anything about their problem. In this case, my character was, in fact, struggling mightily against his problem (which is himself), and the struggle changed over time, but remained active. So the story was able to sustain jumps in time in a way that most of my other stories haven’t been able to do.

If you’d be interested, please have a look. The story is here: