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I'm a college student with a minor in Creative Writing. I would like to ask this question regarding the time travel plot in fiction.

Once I put my character back to the past, can the character change the course of a historical event? For example, can he change the outcome of a battle during the American Civil War?

My teacher said No. He said the character could only help bring about the actual event.

I'm a bit confused. If what the character does is only contributing to what really happened, then how can the plot be exciting? Is it true that he cannot change anything in the past?

Could you pls advise  according to books that you have read?

Thank you.

Hi, Lee!

Ah, you have stumbled upon an issue that Science Fiction writers have struggled with for decades. The two issues involved with time travel are: Paradox and The Butterfly Effect. These are real science theories and relate to chaos theory and quantum physics. If you do a search on the internet for these two terms, you'll find out why your teacher says it shouldn't be done. That's not to say it CAN'T be done in a novel, but unless you don't intend the world as the character knows it to remain the same, you'll struggle.

Here are a few links to start with and there will be more embedded to keep you going:

Have fun reading. You might get an idea for the next international bestseller! :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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