Constructing Movement through the Relationship of Space and Time

Writers need the spaces they create. The rooms, the fields, the closets that are familiar, that are unfamiliar, the spaces that act as simple symbols to tie our reveries to our memories, to the realities we wish not to disappear so suddenly. In The Sense of Beauty, Santayana writes, “In all expression we may thus distinguish two terms: the first is the object actually presented, the word, the image, the expressive thing; the second is the object suggested, the further thought, emotion, or image evoked, the thing expressed” (147). Our space reinforces our meaning and our psyche. Space coalesces our slight forms to the world around us and allows us to enlarge our heart to the proportion of mountains, or drown that weary thing at the bottom of the sea.

The speaking subject exists in his entirety in a poetic image, because unless he abandons himself to it without reservations, he does not enter into the poetic space of the image. Very clearly, the poetic image furnishes one of the simplest experiences of language that has ever been lived. (Bachelard xxviii)

A room stuffed with words, with movement, with too much furniture and too little air can create a background that becomes more than a background. It can become a space that evokes more than unease, which evokes a steady, pounding room, a room that vibrates with crisis. The space of such a room, the objects in a space— the concrete room— is where the speaker, the reader and the memory or vision becomes interchangeable.

When a writer considers the space of a story, the setting, and the objects within the setting, the writer begins to attach symbols to the surroundings. The enormous fan that has no function within the smallest, most temperate room, is even more stifling than if it were not there at all. In The Poetics of Space Bachelard says, “The purpose of space is to contain compressed time” (8) and “For a knowledge of intimacy, localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates” (9). The urgency that is developed through the progression of a short story has limited room to shine through and provoke the reader. A writer must use every attainable weapon, even if those weapons are unattainable for the speaker.

The urgency of time is convincing enough to make us feel linear. Our natural life is diminutive; reacting against doom by filing our hours into a chronology creates a cyclical pattern of history and refutes the urgency of progression. Best Word, Best Order Stephen Dobyns writes, “Our medium is time. Not only do we constantly measure that time, but everything around us contributes to that measurement” (158). Spatial time is only an instrument to chart our chronologies; it is not concrete. For instance, imagine two astronauts that happen upon a black hole. One astronaut falls in. Though the world may never speak to him again, the world will always see him suspended in the space of the black hole. Within a black hole, time collapses and one is simultaneously falling into oblivion and frozen in time—time, in either circumstance, which occurs simultaneously, is not necessity. The body is stuck within oblivion.

Time becomes a terrible, more immediate weight when one observes another character in his relation to the universe. Bachelard notes, “Only through the accounts of others have we come to know of our unity. On the thread of our history as told by the others, year by year, we end up resembling ourselves” (99).

Keeping the role of space and time in mind, reread what you have previously written in this workshop. Give mind to each space you created—each setting in your story—and question yourself:

  1. Did you give too much time to this part?
  2. Too little time?
  3. Did you rush through a scene that will bear great significance later in the story?
  4. Did you give great significance to an object, a person, a space, that bears little weight to your story?
  5. Are there any points in your narrative that pull the reader out of the story and force him/her to evaluate exactly what is actually happening?

Look around the space of your story through the eyes of your speaker. Development movement through your characters’ interactions with the spaces you create. Give attention and detail to the moments of time and interactions of space that are greatly significant to your story’s plot. This attention may create symbols or points of foreshadowing that did not exist before.

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Labeling, Mapping and Coding

Welcome back! This week, we are going to analyze the entire narrative, to date, and critically consider how the multiple settings work together in the overall “setting arc.” This week, our work will be organizational and critical, almost mathematic. Previous to this point, we have been in a generative state, the happy and messy process of creating the draft. Now, we are going to put on our analyst hats, and we’re going to use digital tools in order to “trick” our minds into viewing the narrative from an analytical and logical point of view.

We will be using Google Maps and MS Word to track, label and code the settings to date so that we can critically consider the characters’ movements, the seasons and landscapes, how the setting supports the characterization and how the setting might complete a cyclical course throughout the narrative. Each step in this process can take as little or as much organizational time as you are willing to give it. For writers who thirst for left brain processes within the primarily right brain craft of writing, this week’s activities might very well give you the moment of “aha” you’ve been waiting for. For writers who avoid left brain activities, do not fret. This process is a step by step set of tools that will guide you through the nasty business of analysis and make it comfortable for even the most devoutly right-brained. Give it a chance, you might find this to be your editorial best friend.


Labeling the Settings: MS Word

Open your narrative in MS Word and complete the following:

  • Locate the Styles feature in MS Word to create custom headings for your settings.Styles
  • Give each chapter heading in your narrative, a “Heading 1” style. Here is a quick help tutorial on Style Basics in Word.
  • Find the first “place” in the narrative where a setting is described in detail. Create an extra space before this paragraph and give the setting a short title. Make sure to give each setting title a month and a year as well.
  • Give this setting title a “heading 2” style format.
  • Now, continue through the narrative and title each new setting. When the setting cycles back to a previous setting, title this too. You are going to “track” the setting as it moves through the manuscript.
  • When all your narrative settings have been titled/labeled and given a “heading 2” style, open the MS Word doc in “outline form.” Click VIEW/OUTLINE. Tutorial: Use Outline View to Manage Headings and Arrange Text.
  • Open the “sidebar” in the “document map pane” view. Set the “outline tools” to Level 2. You should see a list of chapter titles and setting titles in both the sidebar and the main view screens. You are going to use this lit to not only create your Narrative Setting Map, but also to critically consider your settings and who they flow through the narrative.


Mapping the Settings: Google Maps

Use the above link to access Google Maps and complete the following:

  • Create a custom Google map and label it as your narrative title. Set the Google map to show “terrain.”
  • Create pins for each of your setting locations in the narrative.
  • Create travel directions for any trips and travel the characters take.
  • Save this custom Google map to your Google account and copy the map’s site url. Paste this url into the cover page of your narrative or in the header below the page number for quick and easy access to your setting map. Use this map to not only quickly scout areas and local businesses, use it to view the landscape, study the movements of the characters, get a feel for how the setting flows through the narrative.  You can export a pdf of your map, share your map and embed your map. Export a copy of the map either by pdf or screenshot. You are going to submit this map as part of your assignment this week.


Coding the Settings: MS Word

Return to your narrative’s MS Word “outline view. Complete the following:

  • Now, you are going to color code the seasons and settings of the narrative. First, identify the season of the opening. If your narrative opens during the fall, you’ll color all the text orange, for autumn, until the narrative moves into winter then you will color all of that text as blue. This color coding will quickly and easily remind you to pay attention to the landscapes as you continue to revise the narrative. Additionally, when you move sections around during your revision, you’ll quickly identify when a spring section has been moved into the autumn section and make the necessary adjustments to place, air temperature, landscape, etc. The following color code is a good one, as it follows conventional assumptions of seasons and will quickly trigger your analyst brain to tap into the season and landscape in each section of the narrative: Autumn, Winter, Spring, SummerIt is suggested that you keep the color coding and setting labels throughout the revision process as they will make any revisions easier to track.
  • While keeping the Google map handy for reference and critical consideration, study the outline of your settings. How does the ending point reflect the origin point? How do the characters cycle back through the settings? Look up images of the settings at particular seasons you’ve written them. For instance, if you wrote a winter scene in New York, find a Google image of a New York street scene in December. Don’t underestimate the power of actually visualizing the world in which your characters live.
  • Ask if the characters have explored the local surroundings of each individual setting? How do the seasons reflect the character arcs and motivations in either parallel or ironic ways? For instance, do the protagonist and antagonist get into their most “heated” fight during the winter? By isolating the seasonal analysis, you can focus on the layers of the narrative and it’s settings, allowing you to subtly weave and marinate. Your reader may not pick up on all the subtle relationships, in isolation, but your reader will sense the craft and workings and how it affects the overall narrative.
  • As you consider the settings in “outline view,” you can click on the setting titles and open the text and read each section in isolation. As you do this, consider how each of the settings reflect the characters and motivations of the narrative? What can be added and cut in order to give the setting a narrative of its own, within the larger narrative? Use this isolation and outline view to give the setting an arc. For example: in Beloved, the characters travel a great distance from Sweet Home, Kentucky, to 124 Bluestone Road just outside Cincinnati. If a reader were to track Sethe and Paul D’s travels, s/he could Google Kentucky plantations and find one in London, Kentucky. Then s/he could Google Cincinnati farmhouses for sale—built before 1900, land, 1 bath—and find a home and address to map. The reader would know that the walk from London, Kentucky to Cincinnati would be about 170 miles and would take about 60 hours. The reader could actually view the terrain, as it is now, through Google’s Earth map. Submit a screenshot of your narrative’s Google Earth Map along with your MS Word Outline View to the forum below.
  • Beloved Google Map


Guidelines, Submissions & Formatting

  • Due Date: Sunday, 6 pm.
  • Submission Link: Submit to the forum below. (You must add at least a short note in the body of the forum in order to upload your attachment.)
  • Submission Format: Attach an MS Word document in Universal Manuscript Format with the following format. Double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman, 1 in margins, heading with name, address, email, website (if applicable), and phone number on page one. Page two and forward should have in the top right corner your last name and page number. 
  • Please make sure to contact me directly with any questions regarding assignments and technology. 



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