1. T.R.P.
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    T.R.P. New Member

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    Is a Time Travel plot worth it?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by T.R.P., Jul 3, 2014.

    As i'm sure quite a few of us do, I'm fascinated with the idea of time travel, and I have elements of time distortion / fluctuation / time-stream repair, etc. to varying degrees in a lot of my stories. I kind of see these mainly as cameo appearances by my resident time-traveling character and his predecessors, but when I finally get around to writing HIS story, I worry that I might get lost in all the altered timelines and whatnot. I'm also curious to know everyone's opinion of things like cyclical time and self-fulfilling prophecies?
    If I ever get to this particular story, I'll definitely start with some kind of map or diagram to keep track of where he goes and what he changes (however intentional) - I'm just a little apprehensive about just how capable he should be of traveling through time, and whether or not I'll me able to maintain a concise plot that doesn't stray too far from the origin or split off into too many sub-plots, as I've noticed tends to happen with plenty of other time-travel stories.
    Anyways, what are your thoughts on the ethics and science of fictional time-travel? How would YOU allow a character or group of characters to go forward or backward in time, OR jump between timelines? If you were able to go back and change time, or go forward to acquire some piece of technology that would affect the present, would you?
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    The most interesting (and original) take on time travel I've read was in Stephen King's 11/22/63. You might take a look at what he did there for some ideas.
     
  3. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got a self fulfilling prophecy story planned. It's hinted at in the first two books in the series, before the actual time travel plot kicks in during the third. But I'll try not to completely spoil the surprise.

    In a nutshell, there's a type of person called a "Stormbringer" in my story. An individual can control various aspects of the universe, such as space, gravity, energy or time. Usually, a time Stormbringer can slow down or speed up time, without many other capabilities. If I think of any, I'll add them. A space & time Stormbringer can open a portal to the future. Only if they come into contact with their future self AND they hold an object called a Paradox Pearl can they open a portal into the past.

    A map of where your characters go and in which order they experience things will be very useful for avoiding plot holes and other time travel related errors.
     
  4. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I'll answer this four days ago, ten years from now.
     
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  5. thearchitect
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    thearchitect Member

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    The Yellow/Green/Red (do I have them right?) Card Men were very eerie and interesting/original there, has anyone else had indifferent guardians like them as opposed to the full on Star Trek stopping time travelling evil? (I've never watched it but from what I gather, that happens?)
     
  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer the mechanics of time travel to be simple in the same way that I prefer to know the exact rules of a game before I start playing it. I generally do not have much taste for stories that mess with time for the sake of messing with time. I like stories that use time travel to develop characters, like Back to the Future. That movie is proof that time travel, when executed well, can make a story fascinating and entertaining.

    I do have a very cut-and-dry preference regarding time travel mechanics, and Back to the Future actually contradicts it.

    I made a diagram that uses a contrived example to illustrate how I prefer time travel to work. In fact, I recommend that an author uses a diagram just like this one in order to keep the story on track. The key point is that a non-time-traveling observer who sees everything in the world should see time flowing normally, but should see people disappearing at some points in time, and appearing out of thin air at other points in time. There is no opportunity to go back to the past to rewrite history to change the present.

    I also recommend that any author who wants to write about time travel plays Temporal first (download). It forces the player to think about many logical nuances of time travel that might otherwise never have been considered.
     
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  7. Annalise_Azevedo
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    Annalise_Azevedo Member

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    While I haven't read many time travel stories, I've played a fair bit of games that involved time travel.

    Like this game I recently played, a bunch of teens suffer this dark future of destruction and go back to save their parents. Each if their personalities are different but it's just masking the trauma they went through

    But my point is, I like time travel plots
     
  8. T.R.P.
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    T.R.P. New Member

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    Well, the idea I have (or one of them anyways) takes a more unorthodox approach to time travel.
    In the novel i'm writing at the moment, I have my time-traveler visit very briefly with his infant father, and through his own mistakes as an adult, has the burden of guarding a cosmic structure responsible for maintaining timelines and chronologic energy (or whatever it is i'll call it eventually). One consequence renders him back to his own infancy, where his aging process is dramatically stunted (after a thousand or so years, he is still just a teenager). With help from a wizard familiar with the cosmic structure (which I'll call the Nexus - sorry if that's been done a million times before), the time-traveler discovers his duty and the archaic device which allows him to travel across the ages. The wizard mentors him as well as he can and directs him to make sure certain events throughout his planet's history come true.
    Anyways, I'm still mapping out and developing the whole story, but if I can keep on top of everything that's going on, it should turn out pretty great.

    As sort of a teaser to his story in a different story, I wrote this a while back. (I don't think I have 20 posts yet, but I'm not putting this in the workshop or anything - is that a legal move?)
    “Darian… what… what is this place…?”

    Raiech’s eyes hardly had time to take in all the incredible sights which had suddenly appeared before them. Simultaneous with the door’s opening, both men were instantaneously transported into a realm set apart from the rest of the world they had come to know in their combined forty years of life. All around them stood the great expanse of space, dotted with stars of varying size, color, and brightness; whole planets, nebulae, and black holes appeared close enough to touch, and it was tempting enough to just take a leap toward one of them. At their feet was a bridge of marble and limestone, extending out in front of them for an indistinguishably far distance. The low-walled passageway ended at an imposing and impossibly large pyramid, from the top of which shone a beam of white light that endlessly ascended in a gradual spiral.

    “It’s not right… none of it…”

    All the joy and fascination Darian had while the door was opening drained from his face and was replaced with genuine disgust and concern. The whispering echoes of a million unseen voices washed over them, sending chills through Raiech’s spine; Darian remained unaffected by the awesomely strange dimension they had entered. The pair of men noticed their point of entry had disappeared and decided to carefully follow the bridge toward the colossal pointed structure.

    “We shouldn’t be here… there’s— there was supposed to be a way back to the surface behind that door. This is… we shouldn’t—“ Darian started to hyperventilate and took a deep breath to quell the overwhelming anxiety which stacked onto him the closer they came to the ominous pyramid.

    “Do you know where we are, Darian?” By now, Raiech had already come to accept that he had been thrust into a world foreign to his own, his reasoning being that there was nothing he could do about their situation other than to wait or inspect his surrounding to try and find a way home.

    This is the Nexus… and it isn’t supposed to exist.” Darian’s stomach churned as the word left his mouth. Nexus. It was a place he had only read about in the most ancient of texts, but now, contrary to everything he had been told, here the forbidden complex stood, in clear defiance of his beliefs and assurances. Raiech continued to be fascinated by the vastness and beauty of the realm, pointing to constellations he recognized as the same ones he would stare and dream at in the night sky in his much earlier youth.

    “This was the first fail-safe put in place by Terraxan to counteract the growing strength and independence of Spirra’s own dimension. Once activated, the Nexus would negate the combined energies of both realities and effectively reboot the entire universe our Supreme Beings had toiled over and put their heart and soul into building. If that light coming from its tip means that it’s functional, then this is the safest place to be if it’s going to go off – although everyone back on Venteran certainly won’t be there when we return. Hell, Venteran won’t even exist if the Nexus does exactly what it was meant to… and if it’s still here, that must mean… oh, Gods…”

    “… then the Void must also have survived – is that your conclusion?” The cracked and hollow echo of someone’s voice permeated the great emptiness between it and the Nexus’ guests. Suddenly, Raiech and Darian were standing in the shadow of the immense pyramid, joined by a significantly older man draped in an indigo uniform held together with several metallic decorative pins and draped by a black cloak that reflected the vast star-cluttered space around them. His short white hair rose slightly in response to a wide smile which made even more lines appear on his withered face.

    “You would not be wrong, my friend… but you have no cause for worry: I’m sure you of all people have kept an open mind when hearing tales depicting your world’s twin as a savage and impossible place where wandering souls tear each other apart and intentionally cause rips in the fabric of the universe – and again, this would not be untrue – save for the role Spirra’s realm plays in the grand scheme of our great and wonderful universe.”

    Still bewildered by the arrival of the knowledgeable old man, Darian prepared a rebuttal.

    “… so, what purpose does the Void play for all of us?”

    The old fellow stopped pacing back and forth to look at Darian with another smile.

    “Someday, when you find out, I hope you’ll tell me.” As if he had just told an inside joke, the old man chuckled lightly to himself and continued walking further toward the pyramid. His enthralled visitors followed at what they determined was a safe distance.

    “As for this Nexus, you may be surprised to know that it is in fact not the first – nor will it be the last – to be constructed by the Divines. Indeed, one much similar to this has been built and used before, once when Arennia came upon such peril that not even the combined power of the Supreme Beings could save it. Thus, all of reality as they knew it came to a screeching halt, and from the ashes of the old world was the current one formed, only with much better contingencies set in place. These were the events which lost Spirra his seat at Olympus, exiling him from his omnipotent siblings and inadvertently spawning a threat even more severe than that which unmade their old universe.”

    He finally stopped before reaching the exact center of the pyramid’s interior, where the source of the incredible light shot forth. Basking in the light’s terrific glow, the old man let out a weary sigh through which Darian and Raiech began to realize that he had been alive for a very, very long time.

    “You’re so much younger, my old friend… I suppose your being here means that the end has finally come… I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time. There is so much I wish I could tell you, Darian, but for the sake of Venteran and all of Arennia, you must discover these things for yourself. You will thank me when it’s over – and if you’re lucky, there may be a chance to make changes for the better, some you lacked the foresight to carry out your first time around. I know I’m not making much sense, but I just…”

    The old man stopped speaking to prop himself up against one of the arches that made up the light source’s outer sandstone casing. It was obvious he was in pain and that it took a lot of strength just to keep himself on his feet. Unable to stay standing, he got down on a knee, prompting Darian and Raiech to hold him up. At his request, they laid him flat and gave him Raiech’s coat for a pillow.

    “Can we at least know your name?”, Darian asked, his head pounding from all the information trying to process in his mind.

    “I’m… *cough* just one in a long line of men whose… duty it is *cough* to… preserve the wishes of the Supreme Beings. If you need a title, you can call me… Rift.” The old man’s coughing fits grew in frequency and intensity, signaling the last few moments of his apparently tumultuous and exhausting life.

    “We will meet again, Darian… although I may not recognize you.” Rift chuckled to himself again. “Just… remember to be patient with me. It’ll… all pay off… in the… end…”

    With that, the sole lasting inhabitant of the Nexus drew his last breath and closed his eyes to enter a sleep he would never awake from again.
     
  9. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think they're OK with you posting information about the story as long as you don't quote too much of it.

    I've only heard of the "Nexus" with regards to time travel once before, and that was in Star Trek Generations, so relatively few people will recognise the name from there these days.
     
  10. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    The problem with Back to the Future is that it's not consistent with itself. When the plot demands it uses multiple timelines, but when it is more suitable it says there is only one timeline and if the past is changed it affects the present (in a really weird way, like people fading on a photograph). To it's defense : it was about something which is very hard to present correctly.
    Anyway I enjoyed it, as it had an interesting theme and plot.

    What is your "cut-and-dry" preference? As I understand from the image linked it's one unchangeable timeline (eg. : history already contains the time traveler's actions) which is very close to my preference, which includes quantum uncertainty -> you can change the past as long you do not change things you were aware of when you started your journey.
     
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  11. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Vandor76 you keenly identified the problem I had in the back of my mind with Back to the Future but I could not quite put into words. Likewise, I forgive it for its inconsistency because there is so much else to focus on in the movie.

    "history already contains the time traveler's actions" is exactly right, and that is an important point that I think distinguishes my preferred mechanism from most other mechanisms depicted in fiction.

    Another way to think of it is that the time traveler merely experiences history out of order. If you "travel" to the past, then that is merely the story of two people:
    • A grown person appears out of nowhere with memories of events that will happen in the future.
    • A person is born, then grows up to be identical to the aforementioned person, while forming all the aforementioned memories, then disappears (which is actually death).
     
  12. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @daemon : the problem with this kind of mechanism is that you can always organize an experiment in which you try to cheat and change the past. Think about this one :

    You build a time machine and a special device that turns it off if a small weight is dropped onto it's tray. This takes only 1 seconds. You set up the time machine so that after 15 seconds of delay it sends a small metallic piece back in time just 10 seconds. When it arrives it drops out from the time machine, directly to the tray of the "turnoff" device.
    What will happen?

    1) Nothing arrives -> time machine is still operational so after 15 secs delay the weight is sent back in time -> where is it after the experiment? Vanished?
    2) The weight arrives after 5 secs, turning off the time machine (in 1 sec), before it could do anything -> it is never sent back -> now we have two identical weights (next time we try this out with a gold bar).
    3) It arrives but some unpredictable event prevents it from turning the time machine off -> whatever you do to fix the problem in many subsequent experiments something always happens and the weight is sent back but not able to turn the device off. This sounds crazy but a slightly bit less than the other two options.
     
  13. CapnNogrow
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    CapnNogrow Member

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    The problem with time travel stories are the constant paradoxes you will come upon. I've experimented with time travel stories before but quit it before reaching page 100. If you say that time is a fixed line with cause --> effect. You will mess everything up. Because your MC will duplicate himself whatever he does, or create an unbreakable paradox. But make time into a series of alternative universes with everything existing at the same time but in an infinite number of universes. So every nano second has it's own universe and this will happen to you as you try to make sense of it:

    http://clatl.com/images/blogimages/2011/03/21/1300730497-head_explode.jpg

    Remember the famous paradox quote? If you go back and kill your own mother before you were born, you won't be born, therefor you won't go back and kill your own mother. Instant mind explosion, right there.

    But if you manage to pull this off, kudos to you. Really, big cookie for you. I think, your choice should be, think Doctor Who. Don't try and make it realistic and logical, just make the story so amazing that the readers won't give a damn about the inconsistencies.
     
  14. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    It worked for Julian May, Saga Of The Exiles.
     
  15. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Thief of time. .terry pratchett. Introduces time monks and gusrdian of time. ...inversely effects secong book night watch...dealing with past, time lines alternate universes and chstacter replacement
     

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