Rules of Time Travel Writing- A Fresh Start

Oh, time travel. Thou art cruel and frustrating. I don’t know why time travel annoys me as much as it does. Maybe it’s the complication in every action. Maybe it’s the way writers think that everyone enjoys being confused and having no idea what happened. Time travel is a staple of science fiction, spawning untold monstrosities of time travel stories. The two most common types of time travel can be summarized as –

  • The Paradox – The character changes something, everything goes to crap, a cat blows up, eldritch monsters rain down from the sky, the world collapses.
  • The Timeline – The character changes something, and everything is changed. Save a cat from dying? The apocalypse happens. Save mother from dying? People who never had superpowers get superpowers even though they never met the person (I’m looking at you, Flash).

So many shows have episodes that are about time travel, even though their story is not about time travel. The writers have never had experience writing time travel, which causes them to fall into one of the two time travel tropes. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do an episode about time travel, but they need to be more prepared for the genre they’re about to dip their pens into.

Taking Saturday as the day where all I do is go for a walk, stay in the house, and watch Disney movies and YouTube videos while eating Rice Krispie Bars, I watched Alice Through The Looking Glass on Netflix. When Alice in Wonderland came out, I was still living in my home in North Dakota. I don’t know why I didn’t remember it was the Jabberwock and not a dragon (though the two look very similar). So you can be sure I was looking forward to watching the new movie. I think I screamed when I saw Alice as the ship captain. You go, girl! When I learned that Alice would be traveling back in time, I groaned. I thought it would be just like the world of Wonderland to add all these confusing time travel rules, but surprisingly, it didn’t!

When Alice tried to stop Iracebeth, a.k.a the Red Queen, from hitting her head and enlarging it, the event still happened, even after Alice pushed away the clock that was supposed to hit Iracebeth. She realized what Time said was right, and spurts out an excellent theme; you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. The event allows her to figure out what happened to the Hightopps, and save the Hatter.


You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it

This shows that there are multiple ways to use time travel- all it takes is a bit of imagination, and maybe a touch of madness. So, here are a few time travel methods, rules, and other aspects of fiction that can help refresh a time travel story

  • Invisibility – The time traveler cannot be seen by anyone in the past. They cannot interact with anyone. They simply see. Good for historians. (The Intangible Time Travel trope).
  • Memories – Time travel is activated through objects, like photos and journals, related to past memories. Only for use of traveling to the past, can cause the ‘bloody nose effect’ with brain damage due to multiple timelines (The Butterfly Effect, 2004).
  • Time Holes- Holes scattered across the world that can pop you to different times. Must be aware of opening and closing periods, and which portals take you where.
  • Dreams- Okay here me out. You fall asleep- and you wake up as a past ancestor/reincarnation. The ancestor you pop into could be controlled by a higher power, like in my example, or from a focus point of the person/time period you want to go to. (Warrior Cats, 2003-Present)

Those are just a few unique ideas I’ve found that could help make your time travel story unique and interesting. If you want timelines, that’s fine! Just make sure the effects make sense. I mean, if one person who was supposed to die got saved, it’s not like people who never had superpowers are going to get superpowers, right? (glares as Flash again). Instead, make people who know the saved person be affected. Do a chain effect with that, and understand what they and their descendants do that could change the timeline.

Writing Relationships- When to Ship and When to Friendzone

Oh, how us fans love our relationships. Calling them ‘ships’ for short, we pair up two lovebirds who are meant for each other and imagine them in every romantic setting, no matter how cheesy it seems. But when should relationships in your writing be platonic or romantic?

Romance has become the cliche to end all cliches that everyone still loves. Writers pair up two people and everyone goes nuts. This annoys me to no end. Somethings, two people should just be friends. They don’t always have to fall in love. More often than not, writers create a female character that only fills the role of ‘love interest’ for their hot male lead. That’s it. That is the starting point of their character development. Everything is centered around their imminent relationship. It makes me want to break something. Maybe the writer’s hand for thinking that was actually a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong, romance can be wonderful, but only when it’s written right. You need to decide if the two characters you want to marry are really a good fit for each other. According to the fans of Marvel, the writers made that mistake with Hawkeye and Black Widow by giving Hawkeye a wife.

Since the ‘Clintasha’ (Clint and Natasha) topic is the trigger button of many a shipper, I should probably address it. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers spend a few nights at the farm of Clint, and his wife and kids. This sent the fandom insane, especially those who shipped the witty Clint and the skilled Natasha. They were meant for each other, but Clint’s already married? Why?

There are both pros and cons for the writers to make this choice. I’ll start with the cons, since everyone is so mad about it.

Image result for clint and natasha

Look at them, how can you NOT ship them?!

The two were SHIELD agents, fighting against evil with an extremely well-developed relationship. Natasha beat the mind controlled Clint to a groaning pulp, but was still there to talk to him about the experience and work through it. Clint had her back on every mission and was able to match her comments with witty answers. Platonic or romantic, this relationship was real, strong, and wonderful. But then came Laura Barton.

I don’t like hating on characters that aren’t written to be hated, but this woman has never been brought up in any other part of the story before Ultron. Yes, the relationship between Clint and Natasha is unchanged, but the writers have missed a major opportunity by not letting the two get together. Instead they crammed in an awkward, underdeveloped relationship. It was even the reason they made Clint ‘retire’ in Captain America- Civil War, which honestly everyone knew was temporary. Making Clintasha platonic has hit a serious blow in the fanbase, making more than a few people mad.

Letting the relationship of Hawkeye and Black Widow grow more romantic gives the audience a relationship they love, that they want to see more of, that they truly want to succeed. Instead they threw in a rush job that if they truly wanted, should have had more time to develop. Let us meet his wife without a bigger threat looming overhead. Tell us why we should care about Clint and Laura.

There was also another way they could have gone with this idea, discussed in the Tumblr thread below.

either way, gimme more screen time for Clint and Nat:

For those who have difficulty reading the text, it shows an alternate scene in which Laura is not Clint’s wife, but his sister. Tumblr user aroskywalker discusses how this would be better than a wife. Clint’s still developed, a sister is still important, parallels to the Maximoffs, and more characterization with only five minutes really changed. Plus, it still gives the Avengers a place to go with the threat of Ultron.

Now here comes the part that would make the shippers mad. The benefits of another love interest for Clint.

Clintasha has become platonic in full canon, but that doesn’t mean the writers have backed themselves into a corner. There are many interesting ways they can take a platonic relationship. There are many interesting angles (which could still be explored in the sister idea) of a platonic relationship. All the writers have to do is take advantage of this.

So this is an example of a ‘sunken ship’ (a ship that can never be real in canon) that did not fair well with the fans. So how do you prevent that mistake, and still make the right call about your characters?

Take a step back from the two characters and figure out their personalities. How well do they mix together? What makes them like each other? Could it develop into something more? Also, look at their backstories. Characters with similar backstories could have a more likely chance to connect and fall in love due to shared experiences.

The extent of their relationship in the end depends on what you feel would work with your story. Maybe there’s another character they could fall for, or maybe they could simply be best friends. They could even be enemies, coming out of their past with different, conflicting views. Go with what you feel is right. If you truly want two characters to be together, maybe tweak a few points of their personalities and backstories to help them fall deeper in love. Don’t base your entire character on their relationship, however. Make sure both characters can stand on their feet before one sweeps the other off and carries them away.