Time frames in novels - real time and fictional time

Time frames in novels, and particularly when writing a crime series, are a tricky thing.  There is 'real time' and then there is 'fictional time'.  In 'real time’ I write one DI Horton a year whereas in ‘fictional time’ the novels are currently set over a period of a year.

Tide of Death, which introduces DI Andy Horton, is set in August and was published in 2006,  Deadly Waters is set in October and was published in 2007,  The Suffocating Sea is set in December and was published in 2008, Dead Man’s Wharf  is set in January and was published in 2009Blood on the Sand is also set in January and was published in 2010, and Footsteps on the Shore is set in March and was published in 2011.  The new DI Andy Horton I have just finished writing, called A Killing Coast will be published in 2012 and is set in April.

Andy Horton was 39 when I created him in Tide of Death and will therefore be 40 in September.  In ‘real time’ however i.e. in 2012 when A Killing Coast is published, Andy would really be 45.  In ‘fictional time’ the novels progress over a single year although no specific year is mentioned. This means that Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight have an awful lot of murders in a short space of time, but that’s fiction thankfully and not fact!  Following’ fictional time’ allows the author to develop the back story i.e. Andy’s marital break up and his fight to gain access to his daughter, and the search for the truth regarding his mother’s disappearance.

Agatha Christie always said she regretted making Hercule Poirot so old when she created him. By the time she finished writing about him he would in 'real time' have been about 108! (No, I haven't claculated it precisely).  In 'fictional time' though he stayed more or less the same age give or take a few years. I'm not saying that that will happen to DI Andy Horton, who knows he may age yet...but that's a decision for another day.

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