Scenic Time



I’ll often go through whole periods of my day in narrative time. I could describe to you what happened, but I wasn’t really there. My novel’s first draft was mostly in narrative time, like I was just telling you about the story rather than telling it.


I learned the concept of scenic vs. narrative time in the writing workshop I took this past summer on Denman Island. It provided me with words for the distinction I had felt but never been able to fix because of my lack of words to understand it. Scenic time or narrative time: we either see something happen or we don’t.


I recently looked at the beginning of my friend’s novel about his grandfather. I sensed that he had written the way I had initially: he had skipped over the description of important moments because he wanted to get to the next important moments. I shared with him the terms I had learned and he sent me a second draft. I couldn’t believe how clear and effectively narrative time turned to scenic. It was as though each moment had exploded into a story. I could see so much more.


When I miss a moment in my day because I wasn’t paying attention, I think that’s a missed opportunity at a story. I’m narrating my life instead of living it. Writers like to do that, forget about life because there’s so many stories to tell about it.





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