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Stuff happens

-blackout-

More stuff happens

This is both how the character is supposed to experience time, and how it's written so far. But it has a number of problems. The biggest ones are:

  1. It looks bad, I just know my readers will get annoyed with it
  2. It makes it extremely obvious that the time was lost. The character isn't supposed to remember that she forgot.

The idea of the story is psychological horror played for laughs. A powerful and irresponsible wizard places a spell on a girl that temporarily causes her to periodically forget periods of time. Combined with not remembering that she forgot, this results in lost time, and eventually changes/ruins her life.

But if you write things like

Annie called the next customer forward, it was going to be a long day

Annie put her keys down as she entered her apartment

Then it just doesn't feel right. And not in a disturbing, mysterious way, but in a boring "this writer is incompetent" way.

By the end of the first act, the main character will realize that she's losing time and start to try and figure out what's going on. But in the first act, she doesn't realize anything is wrong at all. She just goes about her daily life. This of course only makes the problem worse, and by the time she catches on, it's already been 2 weeks.

I think I have a really strong premise and good structure, but I'm struggling with how to get an idea like this down on paper.

Are there any authors that would be good to read? How do I even begin to approach this problem?

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  • Watching Memento might help you come up with ideas...
    – m.a.a.
    Nov 15, 2022 at 15:53

1 Answer 1

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There are some variants I can think of:

Expand the spell to also make the character forget she's lost time and write the lost scenes as non-important scenes you'd usually skip anyway.

Make the character really bored with life and when she loses time, like a bus ride or time at work she just shrugs and moves on. Maybe even congratulating herself for having perfected zoning out at work.

Mess with the character's mind using drugs, sleep deprivation, medication, psychological disabilities, etc to make her not question that time is lost.

Make the character reconstruct the lost time, using (incorrect) guesses and assumptions until she convinces herself that she was probably just going on autopilot.

Make the character go, whoa! What just happened? WTF? I need help! 911!! Wait! Shit, they'll lock me up for sure... just like uncle Bob! No way! Hey! Maybe I teleported? No, I lost 2 hours! Whaaaat?

I think you'd get the best effect if you cut scenes like you'd cut out unimportant scenes. Let's say, your character leaves her job, rides the bus, and then arrives home. But she forgets the bus ride. If, in a normal novel, nothing happened on the bus, we'd just not write that scene. It's perfectly ok for a character to leave work and arrive home in the next scene.

Then, depending on how you've decided your character should react to the lost time she will either have some reaction or not.

Once you've figured out how your character should deal with the lost time "jump" you'd let the effects of what the character did during that lost time start trickling back into her life and things moving around in her apartment, people coming to meetings she hasn't arranged, waking up in bed with strange people, the police wanting to interrogate her as a witness or suspect, a lone shark wanting his lone repaid, etc, will, if not before, give her an idea she's lost time... or it's just that usual payday weekend Saturday morning wake up call...

The closest example of your story I can think of is Fight Club. It uses sleep deprivation to explain why the character doesn't figure out what's happening until far into the story. It exists as a novel or movie. I've read the novel, but I've forgotten any differences between it and the movie...

Another story that is similar, is Shining Girls, where the main character jumps between realities and has to figure out the changes. (I only saw the TV show, in the novel things are apparently done differently...)

When I first read your question it got me thinking of Memento, but I don't think the solution they used would work for this... or perhaps it could... perhaps you could do a hybrid solution.

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  • "Let the effects of what the character did during that lost time start trickling back into her life" I really like this analogy. Thanks! Nov 13, 2022 at 23:29

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