Bit 1: More time needed.
Interlocutor: ChatGPT Mar 23 Version, model GPT-4.
Let's talk about time-travel stories.
Time-travel stories are a popular subgenre of science fiction that explores the idea of characters moving through time, either to the past or the future. They often involve themes such as the butterfly effect, where small changes in the past can lead to significant alterations in the future, and paradoxes like the grandfather paradox, where a person's actions in the past might prevent their own existence. Some notable examples of time-travel stories include H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," "Back to the Future" film series, and "Doctor Who" TV show.
Many such stories involve a protagonist moving inexorably forward with respect to a personal clock even as they travel to different points, past or future, in a universal timeline.
That's true. In many time-travel stories, the protagonist experiences time linearly and personally, despite visiting different points in the universal timeline. This allows the character to have a coherent narrative and develop as the story unfolds. Their personal journey becomes a key aspect of the story, as they learn from their experiences and adapt to the different time periods they visit. This storytelling approach makes it easier for the audience to connect with the protagonist and follow the story, even when the concept of time-travel can be complex and mind-bending.
Could you plot the events of a story on a chart with axes for these two time dimensions? What would this look like for "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells?
Yes, you could create a chart to visually represent the events of a time-travel story using two axes: the protagonist's personal timeline (x-axis) and the universal timeline (y-axis). For "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells, the chart would look like this:
Start (Origin): Both axes at 0, representing the protagonist (Time Traveler) in his present moment.
Building the Time Machine: A diagonal line upward, as time passes for both the protagonist and the universal timeline.
First Time Travel: A vertical line upward from the end of step 2, as the Time Traveler moves to the year 802,701 without experiencing personal time.
Exploring the Future: A diagonal line upward, as the protagonist spends time in the future and interacts with the Eloi and Morlocks.
Returning to the Present: A vertical line downward from the end of step 4, as the Time Traveler returns to his original time without experiencing personal time.
Narrating the Story: A diagonal line upward, as the protagonist recounts his experiences to his friends.
This chart provides a visual representation of the protagonist's journey through both personal and universal time, illustrating the key events and time jumps in the story.
Can you provide examples of stories in which the narrative does not unfold in sync with the personal clock of the protagonist?
Certainly! Here are three examples of stories where the narrative doesn't unfold linearly with respect to the protagonist's personal clock:
"Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut: The protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, becomes "unstuck in time" and experiences various events in his life out of order. The narrative jumps between different moments in his life, including World War II, his mundane present, and his time with aliens on the planet Tralfamadore.
"Memento" (2000 film) directed by Christopher Nolan: The main character, Leonard, suffers from short-term memory loss, and the narrative is told through a series of disjointed scenes that move backward in time. The audience pieces the story together as they watch the events unfold in reverse order.
"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger: The story follows the lives of Henry, a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel involuntarily, and Clare, his wife who lives a linear life. The narrative jumps between different points in both characters' lives, creating a non-linear experience for the reader.
In these examples, the narrative structure is intentionally disjointed and not in sync with the protagonist's personal clock, which adds complexity and intrigue to the storylines.
It is as though the narrative has a clock of its own, indexed by page number.
Indeed, the narrative in some stories can be seen as having its own clock, which progresses with the page numbers or the progression of the story as it's presented to the reader or viewer. This "narrative clock" can be independent of both the protagonist's personal clock and the universal timeline of the story's world.
In stories like "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Memento," and "The Time Traveler's Wife," the narrative clock advances as the reader or viewer experiences the story, while the events in the characters' lives may not be presented in a linear fashion. This non-linear storytelling can create a unique and engaging experience for the audience, as they are encouraged to piece together the puzzle of the story's events and understand how the different timelines relate to one another.
Thus, you could plot the progression of such a story in three time dimensions.
Yes, that's correct! For stories with non-linear narratives, you can use a three-dimensional chart to represent the progression of events, with the following axes:
X-axis: Protagonist's personal clock, which represents the time experienced by the main character.
Y-axis: Universal timeline, which represents the chronological order of events in the story world.
Z-axis: Narrative clock, which represents the order in which events are presented to the reader or viewer (e.g., page numbers, scene order).
By plotting the story's events in this three-dimensional space, you can better visualize the complex relationships between the protagonist's personal experiences, the chronological order of the story world, and the way events are presented to the audience. This can be especially helpful for understanding intricate narratives with multiple time jumps, flashbacks, or parallel timelines.
According to this narrative clock, we’ve run out of time.
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