Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Online Speculative Fiction Seminar: Character Development in Non-Linear Time

Time is said to be the healer of all wounds. In adventurous sci-fi and fantasy stories, how your protagonist uses time to process and cope with traumas is central to their development. In a linear time construct, distance from painful experiences provides comfort, space for growth, and solace. What might change in a story that has simultaneous timelines?

What shapes do processing, healing, and accountability take in a lived experience where all time (or the perspective of time) is concurrent, or at least, disjointed from our traditional understanding? Let’s explore together. If you've had any thought of incorporating time travel, parallel universes, body time, portal fantasies, or any other element of time-bending in your stories, this seminar can support your goals.

This course is for writers of all levels, but particularly writers who enjoy investing time thinking about the "how" of their stories. This seminar is generative and collaborative in nature. As much as we will review and discuss materials, we will create our own. The goal is to share openly from our work and lives, to get to know one another, and to put words on pages. This is not a course for those who may prefer the traditional lecture structure. There will be one set of materials to review per week that should take no more than a couple of hours. Most course materials will be accessible free and publicly or provided by the instructor. Some full-form video content may require rental, purchase, or a streaming service subscription. We will complete writing exercises during the course meeting time.

Participants will leave class with a deeper understanding of the science behind constructing non-linear time, tactics for how to map a character’s development on the page, and a series of responses to short writing exercises.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- An understanding (as much as is possible) of the science behind a few different constructs of non-linear time

- Tactics for how to map a character's growth, development, narration, and voice to their understanding of the passage of time

- A series of outputs from short writing exercises that practice form, structure, and voice relative to the course principles

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Participants will spend up to a couple hours a week reading, viewing, and mulling over questions I have provided about the course materials. I will also provide longer form viewing and reading recommendations for participants to engage in at their discretion. We will complete a series of writing starters / exercises during our sessions together, and participants are welcome to continue writing on those pieces outside of class time.


Week One: Meeting and Media. We will come together as a unit for the first time, learning about each other's backgrounds, writing practices, and what we can contribute to the group. Some may be well-studied in "time theories." Some may have indigenous or cultural ideas about time. Some may be awesome writers already, as we all strive to be. During our first week, we will learn from each other, mostly, as well as discussing some video clips that give us samples of time depictions. We will also write on this day.

Week Two: Character and Time Impact. During this session, we will dive deeper into character, using both fiction and non-fiction materials to frame our discussion. Our focus will be understanding how different time constructs can affect our characters, and how we can move our characters through not only the conflicts of the plot, but the confounding of those conflicts caused by any sort of time glitches. We will spend much time focused on character interiority here. We will also write on this day.

Week Three: The External World. This session will take us into understanding how time affects the setting and place of our stories. Whether we be on another planet or another time zone, we'll do some work to construct and move time in our plots in a way that jibes with the character's development and that readers can follow. We will also write on this day.

Week Four: Narration and Voice: All we have learned is for naught if our protagonist cannot convey it effectively and authentically to our reader. We will do some intensive generative work around how to translate our course learnings into narrative prose, bridging the gap between the ideas in our minds and what readers need to receive our stories. This will be quite technical, focused on not only explaining how time works in our stories, but making sure we're staying true to our character voices through all the roller coasters of development. 

H.D. Hunter

Hugh “H.D.” Hunter is a storyteller, teaching artist, and community organizer from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the author of two self-published books as well as two forthcoming books, Futureland (Random House, 2022) and Something Like Right (FSG, 2023). He's also the winner of several indie book awards for multicultural fiction. Hugh is committed to stories about Black kids and their many expansive worlds. He loves vegan snacks, basketball, and stories that make you cry—but make you smile after. Check out Hugh’s work at and follow him @hd_tsd. 


"Hunter's worldbuilding is inventive and nuanced, deeply rooted in both historical accuracy and the protective and destructive powers of magic. But what makes his speculative fiction one of a kind is how he constructs his world on a foundation of emotional intelligence, vulnerability, and the redemptive capabilities of community. Hunter's characters are complicated in the most honest and human of ways: they struggle to articulate their feelings, cope with the pain of sacrifice, reckon with and resist evidence of ancestral magic and historical truth, and grapple with the legacies of racial trauma. And yet, it is these deeply human people that are at the core of Hunter's imaginative narrative, and they are the key to its success. What makes Hunter a master of his craft is that he shows us how speculative fiction operates not just as a genre category but as a mode of writing that illustrates how supernatural, fantastical, imaginative elements are not flourishes or tricks but narrative tools that can offer insights into everything from the power of collective action to the incredible capacities of love."

Dr. Meg Pillow Co-Editor, THE AUDACITY

"Teaching is, first, listening. In my collaboration with H.D. Hunter, and observation of his facilitation of student workshops ranging from 10-60 students at a time, I have witnessed the kind of open heart, unconditional listening that leaves me in awe and students with the feeling that their ideas are worth exploring, that their words are worth saying. H.D. Hunter possesses the kind of focus and energy it requires to walk in and out of the worlds students create, offering perspective that grows writing, and writers. I, myself, have come out of his workshops, intended for my students, with pages of my own drafted ideas, effervescent with an impulse to write. H.D. Hunter makes it all look effortless—it’s just who he is."

Christina Pepe high school English teacher

"When I ask students to reflect on their freshman year, author H.D. Hunter’s class visit always tops the list. Mr. Hunter has been joining my class for the past four years. In less than an hour, he is able to create real relationships with students. He is charismatic, thoughtful, and humble. Mr. Hunter’s commitment to creating authentic experiences for young people is like nothing I’ve seen in my fifteen years of teaching. He is a true asset to the education world."

Leah Werther high school English teacher

"It was a pleasure to co-plan a writer in residence experience for our high school students with Hugh Hunter. He has a natural ability to connect with students and they are drawn to his genuine, down to earth demeanor. Students were most struck by Hugh's willingness to share vulnerable aspects of his life and writing experience in the keynote address playlist of videos that he compiled prior to our virtual visit. Hugh led a highly engaging workshop for all levels of English 11 centered around the idea of sampling. He drew them in by first examining this concept with music and then applying it to literature and eventually trying out some sampling with their own creative writing. Every single student was engaged because Hugh gave them a starting point and encouraged them to draw on concepts in stories that intrigue them in order to remix it and put their own spin on it. Hugh even went the extra mile to host an IG Live Q&A session after our workshop experience to respond to student inquiries. Students keep talking about H.D. Hunter's visit—it was truly a highlight of the year and we can't wait to work with him again in the future!"

Heather Porter high school English teacher

"H.D. has provided in-depth insight on the creation, development and intentional voice when writing speculative YA and how it shifts with audience in a manner that is tangible and digestible, creating a framework for the worldbuilding that touches the intended readers. He has been able to broaden my perception for my own works of fiction and speculative poetry."

Lysz Flo author