1. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    A plot in two time-lines

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Shadowfax, Dec 2, 2014.

    I have an idea for a story where a character in the present-day is hypnotically regressed to an earlier time, when he exists as an avatar. I know that I've read something similar a few times, but I'm unsure of how to carry this off without putting "Present-day" and "Earlier" as big chapter headings, and that seems clunky. Any ideas, please?
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    How far back is your character going? Will it be in the same location but just different time periods, or different locations?

    Creating distinct locations, atmospheres, nuances of speech, clothing etc etc will assist. But I would have no issue with seeing 'London 2015' and 'London 1939' at the start of each chapter. Of course in these distinct time periods the sound of 'planes stuttering overhead' as opposed to 'the sonorous racket of some twat revving his modified 1.1 Fiesta' would quickly put you in the correct time- I was woken by a twat revving his modified 1.1 Fiesta this morning which is why I mentioned that as an example.
     
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  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was woken by the guy next door dumping recycling in his bin outside our bedroom window!

    The past action takes place in the middle of the 11th century - various locations around the UK.
     
  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anything wrong with just putting the date of a chapter in the heading of the chapter?
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of people criticize date stamps as tacky - and I take criticism for using them - but they are used often for this type of thing. I'm reading a book right now that jumps back and forth between time periods, and every time they jump there is a blank page with the year printed on it, which I find very helpful given the complexity of the plot. (Granted it's a Star Trek novel, which might not be a literary gold-standard). I think it works especially in that case because the plot is very action-oriented and the date stamp allows them to jump into the middle of an action sequence without explaining where they are.

    I use date stamps in both of the stories I'm writing - one gets criticized for it and the other doesn't....probably for good reason.

    The first one doesn't go back and forth in time much, but I date-and-time stamp every chapter to give people a clear picture of how events are progressing. That one I get flack for using date stamps and am trying to think if there's a better way.

    The other one jumps back and forth through history in increments ranging from 100-300 years...that one I get zero criticism for using date stamps because without them, people would be lost. So, in your case, I would say go with date stamps.
     
  6. Caeben
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    I'd suggest using some sort of tag to let the reader know of the time switch with one caveat. If there is a twist, or mystery, or something important regarding why the plot is split along multiple time-lines, then I would say you don't have to use date tags. For example, it took me nearly half-way through Max Berry's Lexicon to realize that the two characters being followed were operating on different time-lines. I also remember a Star Trek DS9 episode where the crew races to save a female officer who crash-landed on the planet, and each of the main characters had time to speak with the crash survivor. Turns out there was some sort of funky time-dilation effect and she'd been dead the entire time.

    As for the date stamps, you don't have to be creative, but if you can do something a bit clever or interesting, that would be better. The only example I can think off the top of my head would be an old Star Trek book involving Q and multiple time-lines / alternate realities, and these were denoted by "As," "Bs," and "Cs" (and maybe a D, but I can't remember). I found it better than a simple date at the top or "Present" and "Future."
     

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