Timing is everything. Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference; choosing to act (or not to act) at a specific moment in time can be beneficial or harmful to varying degrees and influence subsequent actions. Evaluating the past helps plot out the future, with the intent of (hopefully) correcting the mistakes / missteps to secure a better future. Then there are those contemplative moments of wondering “what if?” – the speculations into the different paths life could lead if Action B was taken instead of Action A, leading to Consequence C instead of Consequence E. If time travel were possible, or parallel universes were real (and I vaguely recall reading an online article positing that alternate universes could actually exist – or maybe it had something to do with other dimensions) then there could be the possibility of seeing how events might unfold if different paths were taken.
If only it were possible to go back in the past to make different choices, if only to see how those different choices would shape the future, with little to no consequence to the present.
Nah, that’d be too tense.
The notion of playing the if / then game (as it were) mapping out various scenarios and constructing the outcome is the fun of creating alternate worlds within a narrative structure. Imagination is a powerful thing – the ability to create worlds and characters different from those that exist the Real World, with limitless possibilities is an asset in the writing process. The narrative structure need not be sequential – the order in which things happen can be fluid (wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey) or concurrent. Perspective is a determining factor in the sequence of events, giving the reader a puzzle to solve, with the requisite plot twists and turns. There is the possibility that the disjointed time jumps and such can leave the reader confused and frustrated, but that can be a deliberate choice so that once all the pieces fall into place, it will make sense in the end. This device is employed in many of the story arcs in the recent seasons of Doctor Who (though some may argue it’s used too frequently to have any impact).
With the almost infinite possibilities down which a story or character can take can (and probably will) lead to multiple versions of a single story, told from different points of view and with slightly (?) different outcomes. I’ve contemplated using this method while constructing the story arcs within the MASC Chronicles – telling a few of the stories from different perspectives and / or mapping out different endings, with the notion of having them as quasi- AU (alternate universe) fan fiction. (Yes, I still nurse the fantasy of writing fan fiction of my own work – it’d be hilarious).
Then again, in order to be able to write that speculative fan fiction, I probably should establish the Canon first, deciding the actual sequence of events before skipping about and messing about with the timeline.
But then again, time isn’t strictly a line – it’s well… you know…