Writing Time Travel

The “10 page”* time travel story often seems scary at first, but it is actually quite fun.  You may submit several short stories, one longer story, or even a “factual” treatise on time travel.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:


Set the “present” scene before going time travelling.  Readers like to meet the characters and watch them make the time travel discovery.  Take time to set up your story, plant key plot elements (relationships, emotional background, plot mysteries), introduce your main ideas before you send your character(s) through time.

On Purpose/By Accident:

Does your protagonist “stumble” into time travel, or do they travel intentionally?  Did they build a time machine?  Were they trying to build something else, but ended up w/ a time machine?  Did they step into a mysterious fog, cave, or doorway?  Did they just wake up in a different time?


Portal? Machine? Genetic anomaly? Wormhole? Eclipse? Hot tub? Magic chair?  How does your protagonist travel through time?  What device makes it happen?  Describe it in detail.  What is the “science” behind it?  How does it work?  What powers it?  Is it always available, or only under certain circumstances?


Frequently an important component of your time travel RULES.  Can you only travel one direction?  Can you go back and forth?  Are there multiple timelines/dimensions?

Multiple travelers:

Is your protagonist the only time traveler? Are they part of a group of travelers?  Might there be other travelers that your protagonist is unaware of (at least at first)?  How many people know about the ability to time travel?  How many are capable of time travel?  Are there future/past versions of the time travelling protagonist that might show up in the story?

Were you in class on 9/13?

On 9/13 we test drove different writing ideas for the time travel stories.  We wrote for 5 minutes on each of the following ideas, then spend the rest of the class developing the ideas that worked the best.

  • Accidental Time Travel: protagonist is transported unknowingly and “discovers” they are in a new time.
  • Purposeful Time Travel: protagonist is aware of the time travel and “meant to do it”.
  • Forward: describe the protagonist’s experience in the future.
  • Backward: describe the protagonist’s experience in the past.
  • Loop: yup. In a loop.
  • 2nd Traveler: protagonist discovers the presence and influence of another time traveler: someone they know, themselves, someone who is monitoring them, etc.

Have fun:

Time travel stories are fun to invent.  You can explore new future landscapes, alternate realities, historical events, other dimensions… the possibilities are expansive.  Enjoy the ride!

*The 10-page length is a suggested stretch for the “average” writer.  The challenge is to write a much longer story than you have before.  For some, this might mean 15-20 pages, for others 4-7 pages… If you haven’t discussed this with me yet, please check in!


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