Let’s talk about time. Not just in the deadline sense of “I have to get a blog entry out in the next hour,” or “Holy crap, NaNoWriMo is only two weeks away!” senses. I’m talking about the passage of time within your stories. I’m going to assume that those of you who are planners are knee deep in note cards, character sketches and other outlining materials, and that those of you who are pantsers have the germ of an idea that you are intending to expand.
Do you have a rough timeline in mind? Not just in the sense of events happening one after the other, but a concrete of when they happen in relation to each other? I know I tend to just gloss over things with vague and weasel-like words such as “a couple of hours later” or “a few days” or just plain “later.” There is merit to that approach in that it gives plenty of leeway to work other events in and revision.
Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned my prior two NaNo’s were either strictly tied to real world event, or an alternate history. Both of which meant that certain dates were rather crucial to events on the story. For example, it was a very important plot point in my 2011 NaNo that the Trinity nuclear tests took place on July 16, 1945. It was also a deadline for certain characters to complete tasks before the surrender of German forces to the Allies on May 8, 1945.
Unfortunately, though I kept those dates in mind, I ended up using too many of the vague shortcuts to the point that my climax was taking place in early September which rather destroyed the narrative. I’ve had a bear of a time trying to wrangle it into shape with editing.
My 2012 NaNo attempt was even more convoluted timeline wise, as it had two parallel timelines roughly ten years apart. With the 2003 scenes establishing an origin story for my cast, and the 2013 scenes dealing with the mystery set up in my synopsis (to do with headless bodies on the steps of the Washington Monument.
I tried to roughly alternate the timelines between chapters, and I thought I did a reasonable job of foreshadowing and backshadowing plot points. Reading some of it back, I was probably too heavy-handed with that, but that’s what editing is supposed to be for.
Towards the end when the two timelines were supposed to be dovetailing together, the cutting back and forth was happening more frequently, but I had a hard time trying to indicate that. I eventually resorted to starting individual scenes with an italicized time and date reference, but I hate the way it looked. This year, I’m working out an insanely detailed timeline for my NaNo. I’ve even filled out a general history for the hundred year or so time skip between the prologue and Chapter 1.
I still haven’t figure out a satisfying way to indicate flashbacks, so I’ve “solved” that particular problem by avoiding them entirely in my plot for this year.
How would you handle flashbacks? In fact what consideration do you give to the passage of time in your story? And if you’ve created a timeline, how did you go about it?
(Photo by: Viewer765 )