I realized laying in bed last night that writers have an amazing ability to transport readers into singular and nonlinear timelines. What I mean is that a writer can literally transport the reader anywhere in the past or future of the narrative, which in turn becomes the present of the narrative.
Think about all of the times your favorite author has been telling you a story, ostensibly set in the ‘present,’ and the another character launches into an explanation of the past. In your mind, in the strange place that we all live, we see this past-as-present: the only place in which our brain can exist while that portion of the story is unfolding. As soon as we come back to the present, our brains are there, but for all of our past- and future-cognizance, we really are quite limited in comprehending multiple timelines with complex details, and an actively visualizing imagination.
It’s a bit of a dangerous and unwieldy power that we writers have, this ability to change the way people experience based upon the time we set things in, and the ability to yank them from one time to another. It almost begs for a writer to take this tool and really play with it: to use characters who reference characters in a labyrinth of time.