Writing Time Travel: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O'Callaghan

Time travel stories are immensely popular and the varieties of stories are vast. Writing a time travel story gives you the opportunity to explore if something had happened differently or hadn’t happened at all. Readers love being immersed in these stories that completely contradict our world where we can’t change the past or see into the future. However, time travel stories can be complex, and outlining can be important to keep check of the rules of your time travel story. I have put together some articles and YouTube videos that share advice and tips on incorporating time travel into your stories.

  1. Writing time travel – nothing in the rulebook

This article from Nothing in the Rulebook tells us that time travel offers relief from the unrelenting pace of life and it’s fun. It never gets boring because the storytelling possibilities are as infinite as time itself. However, there are plenty of things to consider to make sure your story works. These include knowing how your mode of time travel works, establishing the rules of time travel, not worrying too much about paradoxes, meticulously researching any historical periods your characters travel to, and be careful if you are a panster – time travel novels often require a lot of planning and outlining.

  1. The 4 Do’s and Don’ts of Time Travel – Writer’s Digest (writersdigest.com)

Time travel can pull readers into extraordinary new worlds and fantastic conflicts. Best-selling author, Orson Scott Card shares 4 do’s and don’ts of time travel. He explains that if you go back in time, you can make any changes you want in the past and you’ll continue to exist. You can also make changes that destroy your own society. Orson also says that if you go back in time far enough, any changes you make won’t have major effects in your own time, because history has a kind of inertia and tends to get itself back on track. Finally, remember that if you go back in time, you are only able to make changes that have no long-term effects.

  1. 9 Rules for Writing Time Travel – Kimberly Van Ginkel

In this article, Kimberly Van Ginkel shares some story-building tips for writing time travel. These include introducing the reader to the characters before they learn that time manipulation is possible – this way we get to experience it with them. Think about what method your character will use to time travel. Will it be a device, portal, or catalyst? Create your own rules around the time travel in your story. Since time travel doesn’t exist, your logic can never be wrong. If you are choosing a global background, make sure to make it personal. It’s important to show the story through the eyes of the people living there. Each tip is accompanied by examples from literature and film.

  1. 5 Unique Tips To Write A Time Travel Story – BookAvatar

There are three main types of time travel stories. The first is preserving the status quo. The second is changing the status quo, and the third type is time travel tourism. BookAvatar says you need to ask yourself questions before you begin your story. It’s essential to establish time travel rules and make sure your characters are setting out to achieve goals and that they learn lessons along the way. There are hundreds of time travel tropes, and this article discusses four, telling the writer that it’s important to consider setting limits on time travel and consider what it costs the hero. The types of time travel stories discussed are travel to the past, travel to the future, the present is invaded, and time travel gimmicks.

  1. How to Use Different Methods of Time Travel in Fiction – A Writer’s Path (ryanlanz.com)

Stephanie O’Brien explores three different modes of time travel, how to use these to improve or complicate your story, things to watch out for, and ways to avoid common problems associated with time travel. The three models discussed are physically traversing a single timeline: sending their soul, but not their body, back in time, and thirdly, moving from one timeline to another.


In this video, Brandon McNulty discusses how to send your characters to the past, future, present, and more.

Time travel has been a part of fiction for hundreds of years. Some of the reasons why we keep coming back to time travel in stories, and why you might want to tell a different kind of story instead are the themes of this video.

Trope Talk talks about how time travel works or doesn’t and why its stories can be a little weird sometimes.

Writing a good time travel story not only transports your reader to another place but also to another time with rules and opportunities so different from reality. Planning and outlining your story is probably more important in this genre than any other.  I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always, please get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel, The Lies Beneath – to be published by Poolbeg in 2023.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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