Some images don’t make any sense, or have very little meaning, unless you know when they were taken. Imagine a woman dressed in rags, her face unsmiling, her hands empty. The caption reads, “The Great Depression: 1931” or “WWII Refugee: 1943” or “One woman’s salvation through the work of the ‘End It’ Movement: 2017”. Now imagine, instead, a picture of a pair of shoes. Maybe the caption reads, “Shoes worn by Babe Ruth in record-setting home run” or “First pair of shoes designed for polio patient” or “Young boy’s first pair of brand new shoes, given to him by donation at local homeless shelter”. Each of these captions evoke different images in our minds, don’t they? And you don’t even have the pictures to look at for reference!
Our words have so much power for evoking others’ imagination. In the cases above, these are true events that have real-life implications. However, we can do the same thing with fictional times by the words we use to describe the “when”. One of my favorite passages of time, by J.K. Rowling, is the following:
‘”There were once three bothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight -“‘
‘Midnight, our mum always told us,’ said Ron, who had stretched out, arms behind his head, to listen. Hermione shot him a look of annoyance.
‘Sorry, I just think it’s a bit spookier if it’s midnight!’ said Ron.
‘Yeah, because we really need a bit more fear in our lives,’ said Harry, before he could stop himself.“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, Great Britain First Edition, 2007
Though both renderings of the tale occur at the same place – “a lonely, winding road” – each time determines a different feeling for us. Unlike Ron, I find greater spookiness at twilight. Twilight is that moment when all things have lost color, but time hasn’t lost all light; life seems to have come to a stand-still. Midnight is fully dark, but the night has life because animals woke up hours previously and are in full motion. At either time, however, we all have our own imaginings of what is going on, just because of the specific time of the night.
“Time” can be described in so many different ways that the possibilities are endless. It is the way we choose to use time that brings life – or death – to our stories.
How have you used time to evoke a certain idea or feeling in others?
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