Written by Parker Peevyhouse
The worst has happened: you’ve stumbled into a time loop. Your day—or hour, or week—is stuck on repeat and you’re either trapped in boredom or facing the prospect of experiencing a terrible death over and over again.
But don’t give into despair just yet. If your favorite time loop books and movies have taught you anything, it’s that there’s always a secret way to escape this doom-cycle. Try following these five tips, which I’ve gleaned from my favorite time travel tales, including my upcoming novel, The Echo Room:
You might not always know how or why you’ve gotten locked into a time loop—but you can bet there’s something you must accomplish before you can escape. Maybe you need to find an important person or a special object. Maybe you need to carry out a nearly-impossible task, as in Marisha Pessl’s Neverworld Wake, in which the characters must come to a unanimous agreement on which of them will die in order to free the others from the loop. Here’s hoping your secret goal is a lot less grim!
2. Buddy up
If you can get someone to loop with you (admittedly not always an option), they can help you achieve your secret goal and keep you grounded when you’re tempted to give in to confusion and despair. Unfortunately, sometimes the person looping with you might actually try to sabotage your efforts to escape. In The Echo Room, Rett and Bryn are stuck in a time loop together, but they know they can’t trust each other, and their suspicion makes escaping the time loop that much harder.
3. Explore different paths
Don’t let yourself get stuck doing the same thing during each time loop! In Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Sam explores different areas of her school each time she repeats the day, which helps her uncover secrets that lead to her impending death. Use your detective skills and explore your options!
4. Document everything
If you can remember everything that happens each time you loop, then great—you’re a genius. Otherwise, see if there’s a way to leave notes for yourself about what has and hasn’t worked, like M does in All Our Yesterdays, when she leaves a list of her attempted solutions in the prison cell she keeps looping back to. In The Echo Room, Rett can’t leave messages for himself—but he does figure out how to use a mnemonic device to keep track of what he needs to accomplish during each loop.
5. Try not to die
Easier said than done, but death might be the very thing that triggers the start of a new loop—so try to survive. Poor Tom Cruise gets killed over and over again by aliens in Edge of Tomorrow, but each time he figures out more about their weakness and gets closer to defeating them. To stay alive, you’re going to have to use tips #1-4 and find your way out of the loop!
Here’s hoping these tips help you open the loop and return to a linear life. But if not, there’s one more thing you can try: find a sentence in this post that starts with the word “The” and see where that takes you. Good luck!