A “time skip” is any time in a story where a time is glossed over or summarized to move on to the next segment. This can be minutes, hours, days, months, or years. Time skips are an essential skill to learn to master pacing. Often time skips can be used to your advantage, as they keep the story interesting, but other times they can be used to pass over moments that may be incredibly important to the story that you are writing. It’s important to know when and how to use this device, so hopefully, this article should serve as a helpful introduction.
When Should I Use a Time Skip?
A short time skip would be used when there is a small period of time that doesn’t need to be elaborated upon. This is often used when writing a scene that would be boring or not needed. For example, traveling from one place to another, or doing a menial task. If there is nothing that you wish your audience to learn about your characters, setting, or story during these segments, feel free to skip over them.
If your characters are getting in the car to go to the grocery store, you might want to consider using a time skip. If there is nothing else that you want to happen during that scene, such as dialogue, it would be best to skip it. If the important events of a scene have ended, then you can use a time skip to wrap up the scene.
Longer time skips may also follow this rule. If the period of time you wish to gloss over is monotonous (say, your character is in a job they can’t stand or in prison), you can wrap it up with a few sentences, maybe a paragraph.
Time skips should still be used sparingly, as they do change the pacing of your story. If you throw in too many, the story will move too quickly, and your reader will have a hard time grasping any significant characters or plotlines. On the flip side, if you don’t use enough, your story may begin to drag, as your readers are dragged through monotonous situations. Think of a time skip like salt in baking. A little bit adds more flavour and helps tone down the sugar, too much makes your cookies taste like the Dead Sea.
How Should I Use a Time Skip?
When you write a time skip, there are a couple of things you will want to take into consideration. If you’re writing a shorter time skip, you can probably just move on to the next scene without anything else. For example, your characters get in the car, then they arrive at their destination. You could specify how long their trip was, possibly any other quick details if you wish. In terms of long periods of travel, you can go for a “montage approach” and give a quick highlight reel of the most important plot pieces from that trip. If your characters are just walking or driving, best to pass over it. However, if they run into a dangerous enemy or have a character-building moment, you will likely want to delve deeper into that scene and summarize the rest.
A longer time skip will likely require at least a short paragraph to catch your reader up to speed on what they’ve missed. Again, you can take the montage approach, and only share what was most essential to the plot. If your character has changed in a significant way during this time, we should see some indication of that. If it’s a time skip of over a few months or years, your character’s voice and outlook on life will likely have changed, at least subtly, over that period of time.
Ultimately the placement and content of your time skips are up to you to decide. The decision of whether or not to use time skips and where you place them is based on the story that you want to tell. Some stories benefit from being incredibly fast-paced or incredibly slow-paced. The trick is to learn how best to utilize timing and time skips to best serve your plot.
is a young writer from Ottawa, Canada. When he isn’t in school, he enjoys reading, writing, crochet, and playing with his two cats. Their favourite genres are horror and fantasy, and they enjoy all things strange. You can find him on Instagram at @nate_fahmi.