View Full Version : What time is it, Mister Wolf?

09-22-2004, 11:33 PM
I've been thinking about time this morning (seeing as how I don't have any) and how stories are situated in time.

One of my favourite sentences is from Richard Adams' Watership Down:

The primroses were over.

Four words situate the novel in time, without ever telling us an exact date.

Other authors do use dates, for example Tolkien in Lord of the Rings:

That very month was September, and as fine as you could ask.

(Did you know that today is Frodo's birthday? (Bilbo's, too.))

In The Hobbit, he's a little more vague at the beginning:

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there ws less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast...


Enough of the prologue. Here's the challenge:

Write a sentence or a paragraph that situates your story or novel in time. Be as precise or as picturesque as you like. For extra credit, try a style that's different than your usual one.

09-24-2004, 12:06 AM
The tears were still trying to wash away the ashes on the streets of New York

09-24-2004, 02:08 AM
The potato crop failed that year, not just in our field but in the next field, and the next, and all the rest of the land. Yet, what could a man grow but potatoes?

(Does the challenge mean placing a story in time and not in space?)

09-24-2004, 08:19 AM

It doesn't matter whether you place your story in space or not in this short excerpt...

I'd just like to challenge folks to try for time in this exercise. (We'll do place next...)

09-24-2004, 11:11 AM
Junius wasn't too drunk to know he was done for as soon as he spilled half a cup of wine down the front of the emperor's toga.

09-24-2004, 06:09 PM
This shortest day was covered by silence, followed by the longest night filled with screams.

09-24-2004, 11:41 PM
"Mom, are we having eggs and hash browns?"

09-25-2004, 12:07 AM
It took us less than ten minutes to fill our bushel basket with tart McIntosh apples.

09-25-2004, 05:30 AM
The first backaching day of blueberry harvest always seems like the hottest day of the year, and sometimes it really is.

09-25-2004, 05:31 AM
It was the first of November.

09-25-2004, 07:04 AM
On May 23, 2004, I died.

09-25-2004, 07:45 AM
Little Johnny carefully placed the basket of flowers on the front step before ringing the bell and running away to stand next to the ribboned pole on the green.

09-25-2004, 08:36 AM
The little baby was born in a manger.

09-25-2004, 01:39 PM
It was my kind of bar. The drinks were cheap, the lights were low, and nobody wore an "I Like Ike" button.

09-25-2004, 05:31 PM
BTW, Yesh, what a great idea.

09-25-2004, 07:43 PM
The women were naked, dancing around us in an ecstatic trance when Jimmy's "Star Spangled Banner" startled us. We screamed.

09-26-2004, 12:26 AM
"Stop with that heroic ancestor stuff, Jim! I'm sick of it! You think you married down, just because your great-great-grandfather fought in the Vee-et Something War! Let me tell you, that doesn't make your family any better than mine!"

"Well, he did, Sheila. And they didn't have robotic infantry then."

10-06-2004, 11:01 PM
It was just after all the leaves fell. That curious time in Ohio, when it is not quite bitter cold, not quite time for snow, but everything is already dead. It is a time that looks bleaker than the worst imagined armageddon.

Flawed Creation
10-17-2004, 07:35 AM
he looked down at the blossoming fields. there should be more flowers. where was spring?

10-22-2004, 03:40 AM
The last leaf fell.

11-06-2004, 12:08 PM
As we watched that great shining ball drop in Times Square....

11-14-2004, 04:34 AM
It was the only night of the year when real zombies, like Rick, could walk down the street without eliciting screams.

Betty W01
01-16-2005, 11:16 AM
As Sarah followed the marked path to the outhouse, a gust of wind made the ice-coated branches of nearby trees chime like tiny glass bells in a fairy tale.

01-16-2005, 04:36 PM
When my elephant began running to higher ground, I hung on and wondered why he was acting so strangely.

01-17-2005, 07:25 AM
The last cherry blossom had just withered when Mrs. Kawasaki passed away.

01-17-2005, 09:56 AM
The birds had already started their morning chorus as Joe dragged himself home to bed. He hated those damn birds.

01-17-2005, 11:30 AM
Detante, you said "morning." You're not supposed to tell the time. :-)

01-17-2005, 01:58 PM
Maestro, did you make up that rule just now?

01-17-2005, 09:09 PM
It's been a while so I thought that was the rule. I guess because I remembered this from Ruth's original post:

Four words situate the novel in time, without ever telling us an exact date.

I guess what I meant was that Detante could have dropped the word 'morning' and the sentence would work better (for this exercise).

But I forgot, for example, HConn's insightful entry that made the exercise moot:

It was the first of September.


01-18-2005, 02:55 AM
This opening sentence does it both ways:

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" [George Orwell].

01-18-2005, 09:39 AM
The children were finally asleep and I headed to the kitchen for a late-night sugar fix.

Betty W01
01-19-2005, 01:20 AM
Nate took a deep breath and then began to cough, as the hairs in his nose froze into a solid mass.

(Hint: It's Ohio. It's January... http://pages.prodigy.net/indianahawkeye/newpage26/3.gif)

01-19-2005, 08:00 AM
Could be here and now, too, Betty. (Here being a very frigid Southern Ontario.)

The frosty wind blew down the street, snatching the remnants of wrapping paper from the blue boxes lining the curb and festooning the bare branches of bushes with the glittering bounty.

01-20-2005, 12:31 PM
It was still light outside and too hot to sleep. The kids were climbing the walls, or maybe it just sounded like it. When was school going to start this year? It couldn't be soon enough for me.

For the tenth time I yelled, "GO TO SLEEP!", then headed for the Gin.

01-20-2005, 10:48 PM
The grapes taste fine, baby. We're going to have some good wine this year.

01-21-2005, 04:30 PM
I did not find the ancient city my forefathers wrote about. All I could see were grey mountains of different sizes and peaks.

All was not lost however. I was pleased to discover an ancient sign of some sort with a peculiar writing on it. Part of it had crumbled to dust at my fingetips.


01-04-2010, 12:43 AM
Snow was still on the ground, but it was late enough for lambs to be born.

01-04-2010, 12:54 AM
Emma plucked the cardboard tubes from the grass and threw them at the dying fire, her ears still ringing from last night's colourful display.

Matera the Mad
01-04-2010, 06:08 AM
The sun might be ready to return from its long journey to the south, but tonight the cold fell hard and fast as stone; their fire danced to the crack and boom of ice drums.

(Hmm...I should keep that one...)

01-04-2010, 06:48 AM
It was too hot to play ball and the back-to-school advertisements were a sober reminder we'd be soon confined indoors.

01-04-2010, 08:38 AM
As dawn came, workers arrived, ready to put the finishing touches on the stage where the man who would soon be President of the United States would stand and take his oath.

01-04-2010, 10:59 AM
Millie wondered if something was wrong. The Cardiff to Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham always came through just as the water boiled, blowing its old whistle as if to chime in with the kettle's little one. But her tea had grown cold, and she had not touched her cake, for she had not heard the familiar sound.

01-04-2010, 10:06 PM
The dog was barking frantically but at what, I couldn't see. The moon had already set and the sun had yet to rise.

Matera the Mad
01-05-2010, 06:25 AM
One bright star stood watch over the paling eastern horizon.