I really love these books from the “Art of” series published by Graywolf Press. In Joan Silber‘s The Art of Time in Fiction she explores how writers use and manipulate time in numerous novels and short stories.
The chapters are: Classic Time, Long Time, Switchback Time, Slowed Time, Fabulous Time, and Time as Subject. Silber explains what each term means and illustrates how the writer created the desired effect through their approach of time.
How does a novel that takes place over a school year (Harry Potter) differ from a novel that takes place over a lifetime (Love in the Time of Cholera)? How does Alice Munro convey decades in the span of a few pages? What happens in surreal stories where time seems to exist outside of normal experience? Silber addresses these questions and many more. As actions and consequences exist (in most cases) as a temporal experience, it’s important for writers to consider time. While new writers may focus on basic mechanics, these questions and discussions are wonderful for people who have been writing for years and thinking about fiction. Moreover, if the reader is familiar with many of the works Silber references, it makes the book even more enjoyable. The Art of Time in Fiction is a quick read, but worth reading for writers interested in the subject.