AWP2015: Time and Structure in the Novel

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 5.17.02 PMEditor’s Note: this was a fiction session, but we’re posting it because it does have overlap with some of the book-length nonfiction panels we saw.

“Time and Structure in the Novel” was both a popular and useful session. The foundational text for the session was Joan Silber’s The Art of Time in Fiction. It was mentioned in moderator Sarah Strickley’s opening statement, referenced repeatedly by all members of the panel, and strongly recommended as a book for writers to consult. As described by panel member Leah Stewart, Silber’s book identifies different ways that novelists can arrange time flow in their stories. The notion of “classic time”—in which time moves forward in discreet, linear steps—and “switchback time”—in which the narrative moves regularly back and forth between past and present—were cited most often by the panelists.

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