Playing with time

I used to watch a lot of Scandinavian TV crime series, all the famous ones, and also other foreign series too. After writing during the evening it was my unwind time. For some reason I stopped, maybe there weren’t any more which appealed to me, maybe I started watching some and they didn’t seem up to te same standard, maybe I was just bored with them, or carried on writing too late to stay up even later.

I have been tempted back by a series which had excellent reviews and also had one of my favourite actors in it, Nicolas Bro who I first came across in ‘The Killing’ and whose character in that series became my character Thomas Radwinter. OK, so the character of Thomas Buch was Danish and my character is English. The series I’ve just finished watching and thoroughly recommend is ‘DNA’, and it doesn’t take much of a guess to work out where the narrative might go. One of the key features is that the series plays about with time in a way I haven’t seen before. Maybe I missed something since I was reading the subtitles which obviously miss a lot of what is actually said and doesn’t catch the subtleties. The opening scenes introduce the characters and the basic plot-line, and then the story moves on by five years. We are following a detective, Rolf Larsen investigating a case in which he has a personal interest. A second narrative thread is the story of a young Polish woman, Julita, whose life is linked through circumstance to that of Rolf, and the crime he is investigating. What I didn’t realise – and maybe it was not made clear for reasons of tension and gripping the audience, or maybe I missed it in translation, or maybe I just missed it, was that Julita’s story was happening in the past, until it caught up with the present day events.

To be honest it did confuse me at the end when all was revealed, but I quickly worked it out. I was left wondering whether this time lapse storyline should have been made clearer, whether it would have spoiled the flow or the tension, or whether the cleverness was a distraction, or whether it was absolutely brilliant. I came to the conclusion that it was very clever, very clever indeed. The idea of sequencing in a story line is interesting – and when I first started writing I played around with it a great deal, flashbacks, different point of view, writing in the present tense in parts of it… and then I began to think these devices were a distraction, could be confusing, and worse, could be very irritating if the reader didn’t know what the heck was going on and completely lost the thread.

If I do include scenes from the past, I make sure I very clearly signal that, these events are not in sequence with the rest of the narrative. However, having watched this series I wonder if maybe I should disrupt the time line and play about with sequence. I will have to think about this!

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