Time

by Jill Amadio

Having celebrated the New Year a few days ago I am still curious about one of its major symbols, Father Time.

Appearing in books, paintings, music, film, television, and even as industry logos, Father Time is often depicted as a character with his murderous scythe and/or an hourglass. Such images have been used to remind a reader that Time is a potential murder weapon with the hours running out for a victim, or signifying an imminent arrest.

Time.

It rolls along inexorably despite any means we employ to stop it. But wait! Writers sometimes change Time not only in their fiction but even in non-fiction that one expects to be factual and pure.

How often have you read, “Within three short weeks the memoir was finished.” or “It was the longest hour she had ever spent in his company.” What do these Time phrases mean? What is a short hour, 44 minutes? Or a long year, 15 months? How about this recently published mystery wherein the author blithely bent the passage of Time with: “She knew the hours would pass more quickly if she went to a movie…” How could this be? Obviously, it was her perception in play but seconds, minutes, weeks, months, years, and decades pass at their own pace despite anything we can do to speed it up or slow it down.

In his Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam wrote one of the most dire warnings about Time: “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on. Nor all the piety nor wit can lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all they tears wash out a word of it.”   However, a clever writer can give the reader an impression of a faster or slower passage of Time through tension, the building of a scene, or a change in writing style with short sentences, even a single word.

In my favorite, faithful much-thumbed 1,350-page Roget’s International Thesaurus, of which I receive the latest edition every five years as a Christmas gift, there are pages and pages devoted to definitions for Time including Duration, Instantaneousness, Perpetuity, Interim, Anachronism, Infinity, Transience, and, rather oddly, Regularity of Recurrences, and a section devoted to for Previousness (Roget’s heading, not mine, which my Spellcheck rejects), plus many more. In fact, a cornucopia of ways to express how Time moves along at its prescribed pace in any situation and circumstance.

How do we live in borrowed Time – what does that mean? We cannot borrow, stretch, shorten, nor cut Time in its literal sense yet we bandy about this commodity as if it were taffy.

Shakespeare took liberties with Time in dozens of plays and called it a “common arbitrator” and, “a bald cheater’ which I prefer to read in its literal sense although he didn’t intend it that way. The Bard was also the first, I believe, to coin the phrase that Britain’s prime minister, Neville Chamberlain borrowed centuries later when he intoned in 1938 there would be “peace for our time.”

How about this one: ‘Time is of the essence.’ Taken verbatim causes one to wonder, which essence? Frankincense, rose water, or perhaps orange peel?  Or do we wish to convey that Time is urgent? If so, why not say so with description to match the action.

Metaphors are wonderful but sometimes they can convey a meaning that the author did not intend, or missed an opportunity to raise the stakes. How often have you read, “Time and again she pulled on the chain/rope/handcuffs.…”  Would the reader enter into a precise Time frame more personally and feel the victim’s agony and persistence more clearly if the sentence read “after six desperate attempts pulling on the chain, she…

All of which reminds us to remain disciplined because – Time is honestly and truly running out! Do you have a secret method for trying to cheat Time?

Happy New Year, everyone! Do not waste a minute of this brand new year. Write!

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Jill Amadio is a mystery writer, novelist, journalist, and ghostwriter. She writes a column for the UK-based Mystery People magazine. Her standalone thriller, “In Terror’s Deadly Clasp,” is based on a true 9/11 story, and her memoir of Virginia Bader chronicles the pioneering of the aviation art movement in America. Amadio co-authored a posthumous biography of the singer Rudy Vallee, and ghostwrote a crime novel. She was a reporter for the Bangkok Post, Gannett Newspapers in New York, and the L.A. Daily News, and has written for Conde Nast, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Motor Trend, Air Classics, and other publications. Her award-winning mystery series features an amateur sleuth from Cornwall, UK, Amadio’s former residence before relocating to California and Connecticut. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. Visit Jill’s Website 

15 thoughts on “Time”

  1. A very “timely” post today (no pun intended) as I start my year as always, faced with the usual blank page and May deadline. And, as always, I am panicked about not having enough time to make it – and yet I always do. I have a screenwriter friend who subconsciously knows exactly how long he needs to make his deadline and starts writing just three weeks before the project is due. Months before those magical three weeks he is miserable but he can’t start writing sooner – somehow he needs that pressure of thinking he doesn’t have time. And again, like me, he always makes it! Are both of us able to manipulate time? Is it an attitude? Meanwhile, there is another aspect of time that is posing a problem in my series. Aging in “time.” Realistically, my dowager countess started the series in her mid-eighties 10 years ago so she should be mid-nineties now. But she isn’t. Ditto the young son who was 7 at the beginning of the series and has just turned 10 a decade later. Argh. The thing is, I don’t think my readers have really noticed … so perhaps I can manipulate time after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Hannah. Re deadlines, I think some of us need the pressure as the date approaches to set our brains in motion to get moving into high gear. It seems to be a curious phenomenon that afflicts some and not others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was in high school I wrote a poem called “Life.” There is a passage that says: Time waits for no one, Yet everyone waits for time, As if were to come on wheels and take them away. But does it? No. It ticks on like the wind in the trees, No place to go but everywhere. It never looks back. What is there to look back on? A book unread, a page unturned, A life unlived. There is more, but you get the gist. I must have been inspired back then. Wonder whatever happened to that kid…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post, Jill! I think about time often. It’s always on my shoulders, telling me what to do, both in life and in my writing. Definitely fun to look at it from your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post, Jill! have been thinking about time a lot lately from a personal perspective in terms of aging. When I was younger, time was endless hardly not worth really thinking about. Now a different matter.
    Again, what an excellent and thought provoking post…right at this moment thinking about infinity, and endless time? Time must end to be a concept? Ah the questions…thanks for a brain shaker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, thank you.
      Of all the authors I know you are able to stretch time better than anyone else, considering your immense and successful book output!

      Like

    2. Thanks, remember that song about saving time in a bottle – that should be given our utmost effort, not that it would work, of course. But imagine removing the cork occasionally and allowing a bit of time to escape and providing us with more time to spend writing?

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  5. Oh Jill – what a very timely post!! I think we all wonder where ‘the time’ went as we end one year and start another. And more colorful ways writers can explain the passage of time. I love your many observations about ‘Time waits for no man.’ And I’ve decided that this year, I will not waste any more time. It’s too precious! Thanks, Jill, for that gentle reminder!

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    1. Rosemary, sometimes it is lovely to deliberately waste time, especially when we are aware we are doing it. Keep that resolution of yours!

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  6. Great post, Jill. Thanks for launching 2023 with a personal and insightful musing on this subject. What better time to contemplate the concept of time, although I would take issue with the quote, “She knew the hours would pass more quickly if she went to a movie…,” having been to a few that were so bad they made time stand still.

    Great post, Jill. Thanks for launching 2023 with a personal and insightful musing on this subject. What better time to contemplate the concept of time, although I would take issue with the quote, “She knew the hours would pass more quickly if she went to a movie…,” having been to a few that were so bad they made time stand still.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tank you, Miko, for taking the time to reply, I hope that moments you spent typing them will rebound ten-fold in your writing time!
    jill

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  8. I can relate to Hannah’s friend about needing to feel pressure to get something done. Right now I need to be working on a presentation I’m giving in two weeks. Instead I’m paying bills, cleaning up my email, and taking a walk, all while worrying about this presentation that I KNOW I’ll finish in TIME. There are precedents, after all. Good post, Jill

    Liked by 1 person

  9. EXCELLENT post, Jill. I loved all those sayings and metaphors you wrote about. I know “I” say many of them without even thinking. Yes, we all have equal time in a day to get our goals accomplished. But we don’t have equal time in our lives. I’m reading a 725 page book (almost done) on Christian History. So many men and women in the 1600’s – 1800’s died (or were killed) when only 26 or 29. Wow. It’s a good think we don’t know how much time we have left for ourselves… hopefully it encourages us to get “cracking.” Speaking of which….. 😉

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