I’m time travel romance author Angela Quarles and I’m excited to be here on Writerspace today. The first book in my new time travel series is out this week from Entangled Publishing, and I thought it would be fun to talk about the genre itself. Some love it; some hate it. Where do you fall?
Me—I love them. I love reading them and I love writing them. Fish-out-of-water tales have been among my favorite kinds of stories for as long as I can remember. From childhood reads like A Wrinkle in Time and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to TV shows and movies like Voyagers!, Somewhere in Time, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure—which, wow, is totally giving away my age, LOL.
The Top Five Charms of time travel stories
As a writer, I needed to unpack why I was drawn to them to ensure I hit those notes in my own time travel stories. Here are some common elements:
- The sense of wonder—seeing a character experience a new situation, and not just any new situation, but something truly extraordinary—being in a different time period!
- The potential for humor—oh, how ripe this can be for a writer! So many chances for a character to misinterpret a situation due to cultural and/or linguistic differences.
- The vulnerability—being transported to another time period, planned or not, is definitely a high stakes situation, emotionally and physically.
- The what-ifs—as a history lover, this is a huge appeal for me. How might history change if my character is a part of it?
- The contrast—seeing the past (or the future) through our current time period’s lens. Unlike a character in a regular historical who’s already familiar with certain aspects of their world, a modern character can say, ‘What the hay? That’s whacked!’ And to me, that’s fun. And I’m all about the fun.
The Top Five Challenges in writing time travels
Different genre conventions pose different challenges, and time travel stories are no exception. For me, here are my top five challenges:
- The contrast—while this made my list of top five things that make them charming, this can be the biggest challenge. Writing that contrast is a fine line between fun and silly.
- The realization moment—for stories where the time-traveling is not planned, it can be difficult to craft a believable “realization moment.” The first explanation a character is going to have would not be, “oh, I must have traveled back in time!” The unfolding moments of realization must be tailored not only to that character and the time they find themselves in, but also must ring true. Every reader has their own idea of how they’d react if it happened to them, and some will inevitably feel like the character took too long to get clued in, while others will feel like they came to it too easily.
- The reveal—this doesn’t happen in every time travel, but it is common enough. I’ve had to write them several times, though in this current one I didn’t have to. This is the scene where the time traveler, for reasons, has to convince someone that they’re from another time period. Yeah, not easy to craft this believably. In my current release, Some Like It Plaid, I was able to avoid this challenge because the hero and his community already knew she came from the future.
- The timeline—will your story be in a closed loop? Will it spawn an alternate timeline? Will your characters affect the timeline or not?
- The language barrier—some writers opt to not address this and that’s fine. Or the character is lucky enough to travel to a time where the language is still the same and hasn’t shifted significantly. However, language differences are a challenge I always try to embrace in my time travel stories, whether it’s an integral part of the story’s development and the relationship between the hero and heroine, like in my RITA-winning romance Must Love Chainmail, or it’s explained via druidic magic, like in my newest release, Some Like It Plaid.
How about you? Do you love time travel romances? Why are you drawn to them? What are your faves? Do you write time travel stories? If so, do have a different take?