Unique To This Moment, or Telling Time the Fairy Tale Way

Here’s a random fact about me. I really love clever ways of marking the passage of time. Why say, “in a year”, when you can say, “when the barren trees are ready for harvest again”?

I especially love it when it illustrates a character. Let me explain… Better yet, here are some examples:

When a character uses the phrase, “a month of Sundays,” I imagine an older, heavyset religious woman–Presbyterian specifically. To be fair, my vision is this specific because it was a phrase often uttered by Mrs. Rachel Lynde on Avonlea (a favorite series of mine when I was a kid and continues to be so).

The term, a fortnight casts my mind back to my historical fiction books and I can see a woman in a long gown, sitting in a castle keep, plotting and planning political intrigue. And a British accent because, why not?

Often historical fantasy characters have to account for their ages. Young people will refer to how many summers they’ve seen, while older characters lament how many winters are left to them.

All these examples show poetic ways to explain how a person perceives time. And fairy tales has the most well-known phrase of all:

Once upon a time…

An occurrence that is unique to this moment gives the reader the impression that the story following that phrase has never happened before or since. When I hear those four words, I’m immediately in a fairy tale.

Would it surprise you that out of fifty-eight stories, only eleven have the words, Once Upon a Time, in the story? And only two out of the eleven start with once upon a time! Yet, I still know that when I hear those words I’ll conjure far away lands and magical tales in my mind.

white and black weekly planner on gray surface

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

What’s your favorite passage of time phrase?

On a separate note, I want to thank my readers, who now number over one hundred! Now that’s a way to mark time!


11 thoughts on “Unique To This Moment, or Telling Time the Fairy Tale Way

  1. Great post, I did smile at the “Fortnight” part. Probably because being British, we use it a lot but sadly not while wearing gowns 😀

    I had no idea so few had Once Upon a Time in them… I feel almost cheated!! 😀

  2. I love this! Anything to romanticize the passage of time. Saying it differently conjures up different emotions and feelings. It warms the reader to the story!

    WOW! Over 100 readers = AMAZING passage of time! Cheerio!

    • It’s part of the magic of writing to write something that the reader isn’t even aware is shaping their idea about a character. Like playing background music in a movie where nothing suspenseful is happening, but the music keeps you uneasy. It’s one of the reasons I love writing.

  3. Oh, let me think… how about “the twelfth of never?” for a passage of time? My husband and I use that sarcastically when we are trying to encourage each other to do something we don’t want to do 😉

    Or if you want a story reference, I love the idea of 13 o’clock at night – reminds me of “Tom’s Midnight Garden,” one of my most favourite children’s story books!

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