1. CMastah
    Offline

    CMastah Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2014
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43

    Use of fictional calendars?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by CMastah, Jul 31, 2014.

    Here's the thing, my novel will be happening over the span of several years, at first it'll take place over a few days and then it'll take place over the course of a few years. The truth is that I thought to create my own months and days but honestly I've read several novels that make use of their own (notably Eberron novels) but I can't personally be bothered to keep track (you've got weird month and day names and such, can't be bothered to flip to the back of the book for reference every single chapter). How often are fictional calendars used in novels? I know Discworld has its own (I never read the series, just looked it up for reference) but the days of the week are mostly the same, which ought to simplify things greatly.

    Is it a good idea to make my own calendar or would I be able to get away with using real life months and days? What other fantasy novels can I check out to see how the passage of time was handled?
     
  2. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,821
    Likes Received:
    7,347
    Location:
    Scotland
    I can't quote any fictional calendars, but I do think it's important for you, as a writer, to establish a timeline for your story. I write historical fiction, and I certainly use a 'real' timeline, based on the calendar for the time period I'm writing about.

    I don't know how complicated your story will be, but without a time frame you can meet yourself coming, so to speak. If one character, Fred, starts the story in Grunchburg on 5 June 2025 at age 15, then three years later he'll be 18. However, if Mary starts the story in Whateverville on 5 June 2025 at the age of 14, but three years later when she finally meets Fred she's only 16, then you have a continuity problem. If you were working within a timeline you would have entered their relative dates of birth as soon as you created them. You can end up in real bother if you don't keep track of stuff like this.

    I'd say you don't need to plan out a detailed timeline before you start writing, unless you're one of those writers who enjoys that kind of thing. But do establish one. As you write, record events on your timeline for the correct dates as they occur. This helps you to keep track and to make sure events don't clash with each other, or with other elements of your story.

    Mark off the seasons of the year at the locations you've chosen as well. For example, if a scene has to happen in deepest winter, make sure it's not happening three months after the first rains of spring, etc—unless your year is VERY short. If something takes a week, make sure that somewhere else in the story the same thing isn't taking two months, etc. Be careful about pregnancies—of both people and animals. Fit your story around holidays, where everyday events may be disrupted by celebrations, etc. And if the scope of your story is large, you need to take into account political events as well, who rules the country and stuff like that.

    These kinds of details can plague a story if the writer pays no attention to when they occur until it's too late,. By then, the events are woven into the fabric of the tale and it's difficult to change them.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  3. CMastah
    Offline

    CMastah Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2014
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43
    Thanks, the truth is after I'd brainstormed the story (and ended up with two MCs who each have their own storylines happening within the same eight year period) I realized 'oh crap, while MC1 is trying to get in contact with MC2, certain conditions haven't been met that would allow that' and many other such instances. I'm currently working out the timeline and realized I had to scrap several things and add others to make them possible. The problem is that both MCs aren't going to meet each other at all during the story and each have their own events happening, one linking factor (a person) would need to be present in another part of the world in the span of about a week whereas it would actually take about three months to get there.

    I have a lot of complications with my story but I'm going to stick through it and finish it regardless but I decided if I ever write another story (I'm not looking to become a full-time author) I am -NOT- making two MCs nor would they be seperated for such a massive amount of time.

    I am tempted to make my own calendar but I'm worried that readers would be turned off of having to flip back and forth between the calendar page and the chapter start to keep track of what month and day of the week is when. Even though it takes place in a fictional world, I'm considering using real life month and days of the week names.
     
  4. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    If it is a fictional world, and not just a variation of the real world, then the "real" calendar wouldn't make sense, since the months and days are based in "real" historical gods and characters.
     
    Vandor76 likes this.
  5. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,434
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Location:
    England
    Excellent advice. A family tree diagram (one for each family) is a fab way of keeping track of who's who and dates of birth (and making sure your character's mother is more than twelve years older than her :) ) and a printed calendar of a month per page (regardless of what calendar you use, standard or made up) is great for making notes on both major and minor plot points so as not to overlap events, miscalculate things with set timescales (like pregnancies) and also acts as a weather reminder/harvest reminder for the seasons of the year.
     
    jannert likes this.
  6. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,821
    Likes Received:
    7,347
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes, exactly that. It's not an 'outline' created ahead of time, so much as a record of what you've already written ...to help you keep events and people straight. I haven't used a family tree for mine, because my story doesn't go back in time and concerns only one generation of parents and children. But if I was writing a saga ...either fantasy or historical ...I would certainly do the trees too.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  7. Vandor76
    Offline

    Vandor76 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    189
    Location:
    Hungary
    I prefer fantasy books that are set in a different world and I think that having a different calendar than ours is a good thing. If you don't like that idea you can simply omit referencing to dates or time periods (you can still use expressions like "two winters has passed").

    Creating a calendar is not hard :
    - as the simplest unit you have days, marked by your world's Sun. If you want things to be more interesting there can be more than one suns (I plan two for my fantasy world) and the length of a day can vary according to their relative position on the sky.
    - this variation is periodic and can mark a longer time unit (month-like or year-like), but sticking with only one sun will make your life easier.
    - alternatively or in addition you can use moon(s) to create "months"
    - if your world is mainly ruled by humans then 5 or 10 days or months being equal to a longer unit is a good choice. You can name these weeks or years, but also "a ten" or a "halfhand" or "fullhand".
    - you can add some twists and say it is because of "historical reasons". A good example is the christian calendar. Originally in the roman calendar there were 10 months (October's name comes from "octo" which means "eight", November from novem (9) and December from decem (10)). Later two months were added to the beginning of the year so December became the twelfth month.
    - do not make too big differences. A day can be about the same as in the real world, a year can last for 341 days, etc. This way your readers will be able to follow the timeline without flipping back and forth but they still have that "different world" feeling.
     
  8. CMastah
    Offline

    CMastah Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2014
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    43
    Thanks guys, I'll go ahead and make a calendar. Upon making a timeline of events, with two characters who never meet and events that take place on extreme ends of a month or sometimes several months I realized I will DESPERATELY need a calendar.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  9. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,685
    Likes Received:
    1,080
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    But you can pull off on that. In the real world the seven-day week is the norm, and across Western cultures, at least, the naming conventions have stayed pretty much the same, regardless of the language or the pantheon of the culture. I.e., the 1st day honors the Sun, the 2nd day the Moon, the 3rd day the god of War, and so on. You have variations, as in the German "Mittwoch"-- Week's Middle-- and the Spanish "Domingo"-- Lord's Day (for Sunday), but there's a lot of consistency.

    So you could research how that goes and if you have gods and goddesses in your fantasy world, give the days of the week the corresponding names.

    But if it's a whole different world with a different sun and so on, you might play with a six day week. Or one that lasts 9 days. Have fun with it, but make sure your reader knows what day is first, second, third, and so on.

    Same with your months. I assume your world has one or more moons? Its phases will determine your months. We're out of sync with our moon, but you could have yours fit exactly. Give them interesting names if you want, or make the names functional. As in "Planting Month," "Flower Month," "Grape Harvest Month," etc. That'll be different, but give the reader plenty of clues to remind them when they occur.
     
  10. Count Otto Black
    Offline

    Count Otto Black Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    6
    I would think that the simplest solution is to use seasons. If your world is basically the same as ours, you'll have the same four seasons which are only 3 months long, so if you say that something took place in the winter of the year 861, your readers will know the timetable pretty well without having to remember the names of made-up months. If it's absolutely necessary to keep track of the exact day, you could always do what many authors do and just say: "Year 861, Day 36". It's a bit mechanical, but it saves your readers from having to keep track of whether the month Boondoggle comes before or after the month Crinnops, which is so unnecessary that it's just plain irritating.

    These things never catch on. After the French Revolution they renamed all the months, but the French pretty soon went back to using the old names they were used to. The only bit of politically correct French Revolution rearranging of things that has survived was the illogical promotion of the Ace from lowest to highest card, representing the triumph of the proletariat over royalty. Their renaming of the King, Queen and Jack as Liberty, Equality and Fraternity was less successful.
     
  11. Christopher Snape.
    Offline

    Christopher Snape. Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2012
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    South Australia.
    I tried creating my own calendar a while back, but I figured the reader would be far too confused, what with crazy names like 'Tryanjul' and 'Sultrie' - the latter having 35 days.

    By all means go ahead if you think you can pull it off. Personally, I'm using real-world months in my alternative universe and brushing it off as being translated for us Earthlings.
     
  12. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    I thought of this myself and it does get confusing. I have several different races of men in my current WIP and all of them have separate measuring systems. It's baffling. I like the whole "winter of the year 171" kind of thing. Keeps it simple for the reader. However, if for example, you have two allied armies planning a war together one army can have a different calendar than the others (Like western Gregorian calendar vs. Chinese calendar, Islamic calendar, Julian Calendar, etc). If this small fact (an army with a different calendar) has large repercussions, such as one army arriving at a meeting point a day late, then it becomes important. Otherwise, it's setting.
     
  13. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,913
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    How I feel about this is this:

    Obviously in works of science fiction or fantasy taking place on a different world (or worlds) the idea of making use of the names we call our months and the days of the week in the real world wouldn't really play out, now would it? But at the same time, the characters wouldn't be speaking English either, as one writes their dialogue in perfectly Modern English. As a reader, I'm fine if you give me fanciful names for divisions of time and day and week and month and year, but don't make me have to use that table of words to actually keep track of anything in my mind, especially if the divisions have little equivalency to our real world systems. In one of my WIPs, a ship AI makes reference to events that took place in the past making use of the terms that are correct to the ship AI's culture, but the reader isn't asked to keep track of this time. One term is used and the subsequent narrative makes it clear that it's a long span of time ago. The next term is used and again, narrative makes it clear that this is a short span of time. The reader is not asked to draw tables to keep track of things because it's just not that important. It's just set decoration.
     
    Christopher Snape. likes this.

Share This Page