This helps us understand, at least as a start, how the author is present in her story. She brings her consciousness (complete with talents and passions, ideas and shortcomings) to bear on the story, and therefore is present in it. Can we extend her presence throughout the story? Is she indeed omnipresent?
It would seem that she is, and we won’t stop there; it would seem she is necessarily omnipresent in her story.
What does this mean? Let’s assume that she wrote a book with 32 chapters, and didn’t skip any numbers. We can start by saying – as she tells the story, perhaps – that she is present in the context of the story, during Chapter 11. After all, her consciousness is directed toward the telling of the story, and the story does not tell itself. Nothing happens unless she speaks. If Chapter 11 was told, she was necessarily present as it was told.
Now, could she possibly skip Chapter 25 – just not tell it – and nevertheless have it exist? Of course she couldn’t, not in the context of her story. And so if Chapter 25 does not exist, she would not have been present for it. (We can’t, therefore, demand that she should be present to something which does not exist).
Conversely, if she does not speak Chapter 25 into existence, then it simply does not exist. Our imagined Chapter 25 depends entirely on the author for its existence, if it is to exist at all. (We, existing on the same plane of reality as the author, realize she has “skipped” Chapter 25. But in the context of her story, there simply is nothing there that was skipped).
Or, let’s consider the claim more closely. It seems to me that the challenge to omnipresence is not in location, but in time. That is, how can any consciousness – God’s or otherwise – not only be everywhere at once (easy to imagine, even for ourselves, if time stands still) – but everywhere at once, at every moment?
That is, I can imagine myself – if time could actually stand still – moving about and inhabiting every possible location in space. Then, when I’ve visited them all, we move forward one moment, and I make another circuit through and among all those same points. This, at least, is what we might imagine for the author.
Indeed, let’s slow down, so that later we can “speed it up.”
JRR Tolkien, for example, is omnipresent in Middle Earth. That is, he is present at every location where The Lord of the Rings is taking place, and wherever he is absent, that place simply does not exist. (If there is a location in Frodo Baggins’ mind – the Shire, for example – which Frodo might think about even if he can’t visit it, then it is Tolkien who permits and facilitates that thinking – so that the Shire exists inasmuch as Tolkien permits it to exist, and Frodo can no more imagine it existing than Tolkien permits).
We might say that, when the Fellowship is broken up, and Frodo and Samwise travel separately from the rest, that Tolkien might seem to have a hard time following them simultaneously. But he doesn’t; it need not stress the limits of his consciousness any more than telling a single storyline. And why not?
Because time itself, in Middle Earth, is subject to him (to his will, we might say). He may write Book One and then take a year off, in our time; this will not affect Frodo on his journey. When Tolkien picks up his pen again, not a moment will have elapsed in Frodo’s time (unless Tolkien wishes it to be so – but it need not be so).
Let’s try to lay this out clearly: An author may take 10 years to tell a story which lasts 10 minutes. In the context of her story, that author does not need to delay her characters or their sense of time one bit. Her characters will have no idea, none at all, that it took the author 10 years (in her time) to tell their story; for them, only 10 minutes have passed, and that is all. They are only 10 minutes older.
The converse could be done, as well – an author might, in 10 minutes, tell a story which endures for 10 years. That is, her characters will experience 10 of their own years passing during the course of the story, while the author has scribbled down the whole tale in a mere 10 minutes of her own time.
And back to that original challenge of being in multiple locations at once: Tolkien could tell us about simultaneous events because he had control over time. He could tell us about one event, then tell us about another, and simply explain that they were happening simultaneously; and exactly because he willed it, it would be so. When those characters all meet in the same space and time, they will relate their stories and realize (and not suspect any disruption in the space-time continuum of their world) that their stories were occurring simultaneously.
This shows us how the author can bend and manipulate space and time in her story, and at least one way in which they seem to be related. The author has existential control over all things in her story; nothing exists without her permitting it. Moreover, she has control of all “space” in her story, in part, because of her control of time.* In the next post, we will begin to “speed up” this analogy of space and time, and see how God might do likewise in our Universe.
*The interesting thing about our restrictions on time is that we typically expect time to pass in a story just like it does in our world. That is, we borrow the mechanics of “our” time, and translate them to any story we read (unless we are otherwise instructed).
But we are seldom, if ever, instructed to completely abandon our sense of time. An author may have her characters traveling through time, or traveling at warp speeds (which is the same thing), and yet the duration of their travel is supposed to have elapsed just as we expect time to elapse on our world.
I suspect there is too much work to be done in constructing a completely new sense of time, to facilitate the adoption of that new time by the readers, and then to make the whole gimmick useful and satisfying enough that the readers will have appreciated the expense of their efforts. And so we borrow time, which makes my work with this analogy easy: The author could create a whole new sense of time, but they typically use ours. In that way, we can see how the author transcends that time (in the context of her story) and how she might compress and expand it, relative to our time, in order to serve her purposes.