World Building: Calendar and Time

What time is it in your world? What day of the week is it? If someone is 20 years old, are they babies, young adults or elders?

When creating your fictitious world, do you consider that the orbit of that planet is not the same as Earth? I mean, unless you are mapping out a planet with the same dimensions as Earth, its orbit around its sun (or suns) would not be just over 67k MPH and would result in a difference in time.

If you have a planet that takes longer to go around its sun, is its rotation speed different? How many seconds, minutes and hours are in a day? How many days in a month? How many months in a year?

2013_dungeons_and_dragons_calendarOf course, if you change all normal measurements of time, how do you explain it to your reader and make them comfortable in comprehending the measurements in your world? Going back to age question, even if your planet takes twice as long to orbit its sun so that the average age of your people is 40, it may come across wrong if they are getting marred at 8-10 years of age.

Then there are holidays and festivals that revolve around seasons and moon phases, does your world have these events that will need to be placed on a calendar? Does your civilization mark the phases of their moon or moons?

Wait a second… man, this all makes my head hurt. Isn’t it just simpler to use our Earth based calendar no matter the planetary makeup of our world? Is simpler better?

If you have not guessed it yet, I started thinking about the calendar for my NaNoWriMo fiction story. I want to change the name of the days of the week to reflect the great kings of Milani, but couldn’t decide how many days are in the week. That got me thinking that if I change the number of days in a week I should adjust the number of weeks in a month and the number of months in a year, and that’s about where my head started throbbing. If I change the calendar too much I then disrupt the readers comprehension of time in my world and could distract them from the story I am trying to tell. Or, am I not given the reader enough credit? Can the average reader accept major changes to the calendar?

Well, I have 9 days to sort this out… wait, what did I just say? 9 days until NaNoWriMo? That is creeping up fast. Guess I know what I need to be working on, along with the rest of my character sketches.

How do you handle the calendar in your fantasy or science fiction story? As a reader, you do prefer the author leave the calendar alone or does a fictitious calendar add to the fantasy?

Until next time…

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2 thoughts on “World Building: Calendar and Time

  1. I think changing the calendar could be really cool as long as it really adds something to the story. I think for it to be worth it, it would need to have an effect on the way your characters behave and view their lives. It would need to have consequences in the way things unfold. If it has absolutely no effect on how the story unfolds and how your characters react, then I’m not sure there’s a point to it. But if I were writing a story that took place on a planet with multiple suns or moons I would feel like I had to figure this stuff out, otherwise I’d be ignoring an elephant in the room. I think with science fiction there is more of an obligation to do this kind of thing than there is with fantasy.

    Here are some questions that jumped into my mind when reading your post: just because your planet revolves around the sun at a different rate, do your characters necessarily measure a year the same way we do? What is the tilt of your planet? What if they measured time in moon cycles instead? Do they live normal span human lives, and they just count it differently? How would having more or less days in a week/month/year change the way your people live their lives? How would having shorter or longer days affect their psychology?

    You’re absolutely right, it makes my head spin too. But I think it could really be awesome if done well and for the right reasons. I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer at this point to pull that kind of thing off.

  2. One of my comic book series had it’s own calendar and way of tracking time and that was so hard to do the first time around (which I’m sure it is every time after it too). Definitely a lot of things to think about when creating your own calendars and time but it adds so much to a story that it’s worth doing. I hope you get everything set up in time for your novel so you can get your writing started in November!

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