I am a sucker for time travel stories. Every time I’ve sworn off writing them, I write another. It’s almost to the point where stating I won’t write any is the actual trigger for writing one.
I’m definitely not writing any more time travel stories.
With that out of the way, why am I such a sucker for them? A list!
- I am always intrigued by “What if?” scenarios and time travel is the perfect fit for this kind of speculative approach
- Time travel is bonkers, so you can make up your own rules, then have fun playing around within those rules (bad time travel stories don’t set rules, or break them randomly, which is even worse)
- It never gets old imagining how screwed-up things will get with time travel, because time travel always screws things up. Think about it–when did you last read a time travel story in which everything went exactly as hoped?
- I like the Groundhog Day potential to keep repeating a scenario in hope of avoiding a big screw-up. What do you change? What changes will have an effect?
- Many time travel stories are framed around a very fundamental question: Are you happy with your life? Quite often when the protagonist gets thrust into time travel they make decisions both affecting the world (“Do I try to stop the Kennedy assassination?) and decisions affecting themselves, usually in an attempt to right a wrong, or to otherwise change things they are not satisfied with, be it a failed relationship, a bad career move or something else.
The last point leads me to the time travel story I’ve been mulling over. I have the skeleton, but no real details yet. The skeleton is:
- Person aged 40-50 (ie, with substantial life experience) gets the opportunity to go back in time, likely to just after they graduated from high school or shortly after, so age 18-20.
- When they go back, they retain all of their current memories.
- Once they go back, they cannot come forward again. (Or can they?)
I’m not sure what the rules of this particular universe would be, but I wanted to explore the chance to have a re-do on life decisions, while also examining how your life would feel when you already have knowledge of what’s ahead that spans entire decades. It’s fun to imagine you’d buy up Apple stock in the 80s when it was cheap and be a millionaire in 2015, but would you really do that when you had to live through those 30 years the same as anyone else? Would you grow tired of trying to take advantage of your “insider” knowledge? Would it backfire? How bendable is time?
Actually, I fibbed when I said I only had a skeleton, because one of the unused ideas for this year’s NaNo was based on this exact concept, but the hook was the person being able to travel through time has terminal cancer and tries to use the time travel to rid themselves of it. I never got further than that, idea-wise, and I’m unsure on whether having such a specific hook is a bad or good thing.
But I do want to tackle this particular flavor of time travel sometime. Then future me can read over the story and say, “Why’d you write that?” and I would wittily respond, “It was time.”