“Life is temptation. It’s all about yielding, resisting, yes, no, now, later, impulsive, reflective, present focus and future focus. Promised virtues fall prey to the passions of the moment.” ~ Philip Zimbardo

photo of clockAre your fictional characters stuck, perhaps all on a single plane, moving at the same pace? Is your memoir missing something that you can’t put your finger on, but that you know would give your life’s stories more depth and meaning, a richer perspective?

Try giving some thought to your characters’ perspectives on time. The quotation above by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, author of The Time Paradox, could easily apply to good fiction and narrative nonfiction: “It’s all about yielding, resisting, yes, no, now, later…”

Zimbardo describes six basic time perspectives:

“There are two ways to be present oriented. There is two ways to be past oriented, two ways to be future. You can focus on past-positive, or past-negative. You can be present-hedonistic, namely you focus on the joys of life, or present-fatalist. It doesn’t matter. Your life is controlled. You can be future oriented, setting goals. Or you can be transcendental future: namely, life begins after death. Developing the mental flexibility to shift time perspectives fluidly depending on the demands of the situation, that’s what you’ve got to learn to do.” ~ TED Talk by Philip Zimbardo (emphases added)

Today I’m going to spend some time thinking about not only whether my characters have a clear time perspective, but how my own take on time might be influencing what and how I write. You can get a quick overview of Zimbardo’s theories from this entertaining RSA Animate video of one of his lectures:

How do you experience time?

Do you consciously think about how your characters view their passage through time?