Time Travel Tropes

Ever wondered how a time travel author writes a trope satisfying novel and deals with those pesky time travel paradoxes? Author Roy Huff explains!

I hope it’s clear that time2timetravel is all about time and time travel, but what’s not so clear is whether time travel is possible. There’s a lot of research into it, and an immense amount of discussion, but one thing is for sure: time travel is real enough in the sense that it exists in the imagination – and therefore work – of many authors who use time travel in one form or another across many disciplines.

Whether someone travels across time to find the love of their life, or they find themselves in another era with another culture or viewpoint, or that we enter into the realm of the nuts and bolts of just how characters can time travel anyway, authors have found a multitude of ways and settings to bring time travel to us and bring it, in a sense, closer to reality.

And this is why I’m always very happy to read time travel novels, and especially to be in contact with authors who charge themselves with this delivery of time travel technology. In the few author interviews I’ve done here and on Time Travel Nexus I’ve been been very lucky to have had behind the scenes glimpses of what it’s like to craft a time travel novel.

Author Roy Huff
Author Roy Huff

Personally, one feature which sets time travel apart from many other interesting areas in science fiction are the time travel paradoxes, and indeed, these can pose many problems for time travel authors.

So I’m really excited to present this article by author Roy Huff (pictured left) who shares his views on just how to deal with those pesky time travel paradoxes when using time travel in a fiction novel.

Time Travel Tropes

(by Roy Huff)

How to handle the paradox? A great question. A trope satisfying yet unique perspective on time travel doesn’t have to vex science fiction writers (or readers). I love all aspects of time travel, and I do enjoy a good paradox now and again, but I’ve come up with a way to work completely around it.

How to handle the paradox?

Most people might think time travel is impossible because of the paradox. And while I’ve seen certain books, like Split Second, allow for limited paradoxes, I don’t think they exist. I think it’s the trope itself that keeps authors including them in stories.

My two time travel projects are a book and a time travel blog. The book avoids the paradox by co-opting M-theory and the concept of the branching universe. I won’t go too in-depth with my plot other than to say it’s a unique perspective, which I haven’t seen done before. I combine several tropes I know readers are dying to read in a way that loosely follows science.

My Time Travel Diaries project is completely different. I write a daily journal from the perspective of Bobbie Raiser, a researcher from the near future who meets himself and has to journey back to the past.

It’s an interesting pantser style project that hasn’t been fully fleshed out, and I’m writing as I go. I’ll most likely introduce the possibility of a paradox but may co-opt the branching universe theory as well. I’ll have to see where the story takes me.

I don’t think it’s necessary to always explicitly state the mechanism for time travel or even address the idea of the paradox, but there are certain theories that could be conducive to one, such as retrocausality. While I’ll employ M-theory and exotic wormholes to allow for splitting timelines, fiction allows me to play God. And I have to admit, I have fun doing it.

As for the business of writing, I’ve struggled with transforming my method from marathon writer to daily writer. That’s born out of necessity as a teacher. It’s easy to pound out fourteen-hour forty-page days during my long vacations, but life gets in the way if you’re not inspired or have other pressing concerns. For that reason, I’ve added forty-minute writing sprints in the morning before work that let’s me put down around 1,000 words.

I am more of a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) than a plotter, but I’m trying to be more deliberate in my plotting. The reason is I want to write faster. I currently pen around six pages an hour on average, but that’s when I have somewhere to go. I don’t need too much detail, but a basic outline is helpful. The other reason is that I want to give the reader what they want and work on character development.

I’ve recently taken up several personal habits to force myself to write daily and do other tasks earlier in the day. I’ve built a routine and anchored my habits around those routines so the writing, marketing, and other necessary tasks are completed instinctively.

I recommend Mini Habits by Stephen Guise and the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I’ve also given up radio during my commute in favor of podcasts (I love EOFire by John Lee Dumas) and audiobooks. I’ve developed a daily fiction reading habit, and I read articles and books on improving my writing every single day.

Next, I plan on increasing my involvement in science fiction and writer forums to interact more with readers and fellow lovers of science fiction and fantasy.

To aspiring writers, I recommend any of Chris Fox’s books like 5,000 Words Per Hour and Write to Market. I would also suggest reaching out to other authors in your niche with specific questions and advice on how to become a better writer, marketer, and for basic mentoring.

Thank you for having me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Time Travel Diaries. I’m most active on Twitter (@evervillefans) but you can also find me on Goodreads and Facebook. For those interested, I’m offering an exclusive gift, the first five journal entries to the Time Travel Diaries as well as a $250 Amazon Gift card promotion on my website.

Roy Huff, MS, MAEd

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Is time travel really impossible?

Maybe some don’t dare to believe that time travel is possible, but this view is changing! The understanding of the science behind time travel is improving

Is it or isn’t it…who really knows?

Most of us probably don’t dare to believe that time travel is possible, but I think this is changing! The understanding of the science behind time travel is getting better understood, and an increasing number of scientists are now finding ways which one day might unlock the mystery of the time machine blueprint. The hard study and the calculations continue.

But even if we don’t know how to travel in time now…that doesn’t mean it’s impossible…does it?

Why isn’t time travel impossible?

There are so many paradoxes associated with time travel that you could well be forgiven for thinking that time travel is not possible. The “grandfather paradox” – where you go back in time and kill your grandfather (why would you do that?!) thus preventing your own existence to go back and kill him in the first place is perhaps the most famous of these paradoxes.

Or if time travel was possible, surely we would have met time travelers who have come to our time from another time by now?

Grandfather paradox? It’s all relative!

So on the face of it, it would seem that the idea of time travel is just that…an idea. It has certainly captured the attention of many science fiction authors, and even poets. And recently…scientists. Yes, there have already been many eminent scientists who have gained funding for looking into the possibility of time travel – and to find a way to make it happen. They do this by turning to Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is used to describe our understanding of time and space. Actually, time and space are so heavily intertwined that they are referred to collectively as “timespace” as one affects the other. By studying the theory of relativity, scientists hope to discover a solution to its equations which permit time travel. So has there been any success?

Interestingly, success has been found in the opposite sense…that is to say that nothing has been found which forbids time travel. So that is good news for those of us who would like to travel in time – though we are still no closer in finding out how we can do this. Or are we?

Time dilation

The theory of relativity describes “time dilation”. Time dilation refers to how a second of time can take longer in some situations than in others. This is slightly different to the perception of time which Einstein himself has been quoted as saying “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

Here’s an example of time dilation. There are 2 identical clocks. Let’s call then clock A and clock B. Clock A is put on a jet plane, whilst clock B stays on the ground at the airport. The jet plane takes off, travels at high velocity around the world and lands back at the airport. The times on the two clocks are compared…clock A (the clock which was on the plane) shows that less time has elapsed than shown by clock B at the airport. Why? Because travelling at speed causes time to slow down. That is time dilation.

Another example of time dilation is seen in the satellites used in GPS navigation. In this case, there are two causes of time dilation. The first is the high speed relative to the Earth at which the satellites travel, and the second is the decrease in gravitational potential the satellites experience in orbit. The clocks on board the GPS satellites actually need to be corrected for the effect of time dilation!

The existence and reproducibility of time dilation is a good step towards realising the possibility of time travel. But are we any closer to making our time machine?

Faster than light

Perhaps. Experiments have been conducted which have shown that faster than light speed travel might be possible with some sub atomic particles and arguably this is a step in the right direction for moving on towards building a time machine. However, the energy input required is astronomical, and to reiterate…this was only a sub atomic particle! Perhaps the understanding of an alternative theory of timespace would show a solution to time travel where the energy requirement is not a practical limitation.

Conclusion: the answer is…

Having said that the subject of time travel is now receiving more attention from scientists, that is not to say that all scientists are in support of the existence of time travel. Many scientists have discredited the idea entirely, and it is clear that the question of whether time travel exists or not is still a topic of hot discussion.

So is time travel possible?

I think that presently, it is not possible in the way that we would like it to be – the days of the fabled time machine are far away. I do hope that one day in the future we will be able to travel back to the past, or into the future and experience other times just as we can experience and enjoy the present, though at the same time I am cautious about the possible dangers. Many of us are still not able to navigate safely through space (just think of all of those road accidents…) and I’m sure that navigating through time is a much more complex issue.

And we still don’t know about those time travel paradoxes…

Thankfully, even if real life time travel doesn’t exist, we can still read about it in science fiction!

For a more detailed look on the possibility of time travel (and how), take a look at my time travel 101 main page. If you have time! 😉