Okay okay okay - IT’S FINALLY THE WEEKEND SO I’M FREE TO SPEND TIME TO MAKE THIS POST–!
I’ve reached this milestone for about a week or so now, but unfortunately school and studies, plus upcoming finals (next week) has been harassing me so I rarely had the chance to do anything on her besides answer quick asks and answer a thread or two DDDD:
THIS, I CANNOT RUSH, FOR I NEED TO MAKE THIS SPECIAL AND MAKE MY MENTIONS AND THANKS TO THOSE I LOVE ON HERE S P E C I A L. NO RUSHING, NO BS-ING, I MEAN EVERYTHING I SAY HERE ON THIS POST SINCERELY AND PASSIONATELY (I’m grossly affectionate lolololol) SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO–LET’S GO!
Let’s talk about timelines. At least in the context of a story, especially roleplay.
This is you.
Actually it’s not you, this is Stabby Knife Man. He enjoys the refreshing sound of a pringles can exploding.
And this is his timeline. Note the dashed and wiggly nature of it.
Now, Stabby LooseKnives over here exists on this timeline. Every moment that Stabs will experience or has ever experienced exists on this line, whether or not we know what those events are. And in fact, we don’t know what those events are. This is uncertainty.
Is Stabby going to stab that guy? Or this one?
Until we observehim in a certain place at a certain time, we can’t know. It’s all this loose ‘stuff’ on the timeline, filled with points in time just like these, rife with questions - Where is Stabs? Who is he stabbing? And with how many knives? In fact, the Timeline is more unknown than it is known.
This is a good thing! Otherwise, we would have to specify every bathroom break, lunch hour, and morning jog that Stabby goes on. Instead, we can say that all of these things happen off-screen and not worry about them - they don’t matter until we observe them! They’re simply uncertain.
Until, that is, Stabs decides to get busy stabbing and we get to read all about it. Now, we are certain that Mr. Knife Man has stabbed someone. This action exists for certain upon his timeline. The things that we know Stabby has done show up on his timeline (in red, coming from him). Like many events, we may not know exactly when, but we know that an event has occurred with certain results - murder and payout, for instance.
But what’s the black line, you ask? And why does it add points to Stabby’s timeline?
That is the Setting. It has its own Timeline and its own rules!
Stabby lives somewhere. Let’s call it Magic Earth. He shares this setting with other characters who also live on Magic Earth.
On Magic Earth, we know that certain events have occurred. For instance, the creation of a global institute of conflict. Perhaps a ‘Cataclysmic’ event that results in the destruction of this institute. Whatever these events may be, they are the setting in which Stabby lives.
More importantly, Stabby is probably a part of the setting himself. Although it is not strictly necessary, many people who write about Stabby Knife Man, the best assassin in all of Skull Fortress,will take cues from the setting. If they do not diverge from the events of the setting, then anyone who interacts with Stabby Knife Man can assume a few things about him.
The setting might dictate that Stabby grew up an orphan, was adopted by a family of assassins, and later on grew up to become one of the best stabbers that ever stabbed. This outlines and informs Stabby’s timeline, adding key events onto Stabby’s personal timeline.
However, Stabby may be divergent and may ignore some or all of the setting. Then, his timeline is separate to the Setting - assuming anything of Stabs wouldn’t be possible. Not Stabby’s name, gender, or profession. We only know that he lives in the Setting.
Every portrayal of Mr. Man (Knife is his middle name) may also offer up unique and new ideas of the events on Stabby’s timeline, the general behavior and expectations. An individual may theorize Stabby is originally from an island continent - and thus his Stabby is. (Some may recognize this as a headcanon.)
But what if the Setting is different?
You’re expecting Stabby to live on Magic Earth, but perhaps he actually lives on Mars? Or perhaps in a version of Magic Earth where there was simply no institute of conflict?
Each difference in Setting creates a unique Timeline. We often refer to these as AUs (Alternate Universe) or as different ‘Verses’. A universe where Stabby is never orphaned is certainly a different Setting than one where he is an orphan, and both of these are different than a universe where Stabby lives on a spaceship or goes to high school!
Because the Stabby from a ‘Modern Universe’ cannot exist in the ‘Space Universe’, there is a different Stabby for each universe! They all exist in their own timeline and never interact with each other.
Should a character’s story end, the Timeline ends as well. That timeline is over. The universe contained within must end, but the Setting remains unaffected.
This is how a timeline can work. Of course, a world is not made of only one person! Interacting with others will be covered in a future installment.