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Example from my own writing:

One time, I sent letters, pretending to be a god.

I spent last week sending letters, pretending to be a god.

The recipient of these letters was Aiko Kobayashi, the girl who sat six rows behind me ...

I just wrote last week because I felt that writing: I sent letters, pretending to be a god was a bit, dunno, just didn't sound right.

It this a bad writing practice? If the time frame is irrelevant, should I use One time, I wrote ... instead?

  • Why do you think including "last week" is bad? – Ken Mohnkern Jun 26 '17 at 13:09
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Your story generally happens at some particular moment, whether you're telling it in the present tense or past tense. There's nothing wrong with describing actions which happened a precise amount of time before your book opens.

Separately, adding a time stamp "just to add rhythm to the sentence" is poor writing. Don't add detail unless it's necessary to the plot.

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  • To be clear, are you suggesting all detail must be necessary for the plot? – Weckar E. Jun 26 '17 at 9:57
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    @WeckarE. All detail must serve a purpose. It can be to further the plot, illustrate a character, or define a setting. Last week is a timestamp, and part of the setting. If it doesn't matter whether the action took place last week, last month, or a year ago, then it's irrelevant and shouldn't be cluttering up your sentence. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jun 26 '17 at 14:50
  • @LaurenIpsum Are you suggesting that the rhythm of a sentence doesn't serve a purpose? It can be very important for setting mood, directing intention to or away from certain details, revealing character (especially if the narrator is the character), etc., so I'd say there at least could be times when detail that's irrelevant in itself might reasonably be added for the sake of flow or rhythm. – TheTermiteSociety Jul 26 '17 at 15:46
  • @TheTermiteSociety But "setting mood, directing intention to or away from certain details, revealing character" are all relevant to the story. "Adding words for rhythm" is Steve Perry singing the word "charms" as seven syllables in Journey's song "Lights" to fill out the line. (listen here: youtu.be/iP8_Dbvpi-A?t=1m13s) The words last week have meaning. I'm saying that if it's not relevant that the action happened last week, don't add the words "last week" to be decorative. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jul 26 '17 at 16:15
  • My point was that it's never only decorative. Decoration always adds something (because it always changes something), so the key question I think is whether it adds enough to justify being there, rather than "does it add anything?". – TheTermiteSociety Jul 26 '17 at 17:39
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Your question cannot be answered without reading the entire novel. One sentence does not only link with next sentence but many sentences beyond. It's not about 'good writing practice' it's about voice, rhythm, etc.

You cannot judge a snippet in isolation.

e.g.

Opening of CHAPTER ONE - "I spent last week sending letters, pretending to be a god."

Opening of CHAPTER TWO - "I spent this week destroying evidence and avoiding the wrath of Aiko Kobayashi."

Opening of CHAPTER THREE - "I will spent next week in penance, showing Aiko that I am a mere mortal, and extremely sorry for my behaviour.

Narrative must be written in the words of the narrator. The words must be consistent. There must be a pattern.

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  • There's no pattern in this story. I wrote "last week" just to add rhythm to the sentence. – alex Jun 25 '17 at 7:40
  • @alex Well... there should be a pattern, and anything irrelevant to the story should not be in it. If you like your "last week" you should make it relevant. There are many ways to do so, (see the answer above, for instance). – Lew Jun 27 '17 at 21:30

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