1. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A Question of Time

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by EdFromNY, Dec 10, 2010.

    I've embarked on a very new and different kind of project for me: a novel set a couple of hundred years in the future. In addition to being a completely different timeframe than I've previously used, this has also been a radical change for me in how I approached the project. I usually have had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it before I actually started writing, but this time I started writing when I only had the fuzziest idea of what I wanted to accomplish and then fleshed the concept out as I went.

    It's not a very efficient way to go, because I am now going back and doing major changes to the early part of the novel as I've changed where a lot of it is going. On the other hand, if I hadn't done it this way, I might never have gotten to the clarity of what I wanted to write.

    But in pausing to take stock of my rewritten material, I suddenly realized that the timeframe of the novel is not mentioned until well into it (page 70 or so), although there are references that hint at it. I'm a little uncomfortable with that, but I really like the way the narrative is flowing and so I am reluctant to force it. Does anyone see that as a major flaw?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    If it's clear that the technology or setting is different from "now", then it's no issue. I've read books where it never tells you the year specifically, it just uses the setting to reveal what's going on.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In this case, it is clear that things are different, but they are much more primitive except for a small segment of society where there has been significant technological change. That all gets sorted out in the telling of the story, but it is a concern.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    To me, that could make the story more interesting, if done correctly. As a reader, I'm going along getting hints and clues about the timeframe, trying to place it in relation to the current day, and it is fun to begin putting the pieces together as the author is sorting the whole thing out in the progression of the story.
     
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  5. Bartleby
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    Bartleby Member

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    couldnt you drop a hint like someone mentioning something in the past like, The war of so and so date, and another character being like, that happened 300 years ago.


    War sequence " Sir, I think we should try the Crimson Stag from the Nimitz war manual."
    " Damnit Clarkson, the Nimitz war manual hasn't been used since the decomission of that ship in three hundred years ago."

    then the reader assuming they know anything about todays naval forces, know the USS nimitz is a carrier today, and maybe it got decomissioned, they could take from it that the story is set 300 years into the future from the decomission date of 2025.

    Maybe thats to silly =P just an idea
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write without a plan - I am glad I do because it gives me storylines I would never have considered. However for me the first draft is just to get story out - It is quicker to rewrite it in the order and direction I want it to go. I actually finished my first novel at a point that had been halfway through the first draft, I have things that were near the end in the middle etc.

    With my new one I am re-jigging it completely. Scenes and part of the story are coming in different orders. I couldn't have written it differently first time round because I had no idea they would exist.

    You can always write the first draft and then use that as your basic plan. You will then have a clearer idea of how to introduce it earlier.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hi Ed,

    What type of novel is this? If it's sci-fi, dystopia or something in that vein, it'll be obvious it's in the future. For example, if you read something like Soylent Green or Anthem or The Giver or Atlas Shrugged, we can tell it's a warped future and a specific year isn't necessary.

    In fact, for such novels, I think it's better NOT to date the novel.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's a problem for the readers, why don't you just sub-head the opening chapter with the date?
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Elgaisma - actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm glad I started out the way I did, letting the flow of the story unfold and take me where it wanted to go. I think it's good to work in a different way from time to time. Different perspectives and all that. But, the "time stamp problem", as I've come to think of it, is just something I discovered as I went back and worked through it.

    @Mallory - you could call it dystopia, although I hadn't quite thought of it in that vein. In a way, it is rather like Atlas Shurgged in that sense. But when I read Atlas Shrugged (back in my college years), my impression was that Ayn Rand was trying to portray a not-too-distant future (still think so, for that matter), and time markers were not necessary. OTOH, in A Canticle for Leibowitz, a classic post-apocolyptic novel, you know you'rer in a distant future time almost immediately, because it is clearly long after a nuclear war, but it isn't until the end of the first third of the book that you get a date reference.

    @mammamaia - here's my dilemma: I don't actually want to start out with anything as stark as a date at the beginning of the first chapter. I like the fact that the reader has to get into the story a bit before getting his/her time bearings. I was just wondering if I had possibly left it too late. But after recalling Canticle for Leibowitz, I'm thinking it's less of a problem than I had originally thought.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know I don't work as well with an outline - it does a good story but for me allowing my characters to tell me the story pushes it to new heights and ideas.

    When I work freestyle though I am finding it beneficial to get the story out - not caring about anything else even the order or how it works. I use it as an incredibly detailed story outline.

    For example my current story in first draft form takes place over a few weeks. Taking a step back I realise a year would be poetic and change the pace and feel better. Merlin was introduced in the first chapter - Instead I introduce Charles Darwin to explain about the children - and Merlin has replaced the three Wise Ghosts and shows Socrates to the time travel chapel.

    Intially I brought Socrates lover back in parts before the main event - when I rewrite it will be after.

    None of this would have been clear without the completed story. However I know it will make a better story.

    I am not sure from your posts but gather you haven't finished the draft yet?
     
  11. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "I like the fact that the reader has to get into the story a bit before getting his/her time bearings."

    No problem leaving it up in the air then.

    Let's look at the old chestnut of a coma patient waking in an abandoned hospital - unaware of the date. We'll often go quite a while before finding out when, exactly, the events are transpiring.

    Post-apocalyptic works often leave their date for a mid-story info dump.

    I'd just write it however you see fit. If you get done and feel you need to state the date earlier, as Mama said, you can place a simple sub-head of the first chapter stating the time/place.

    -Frank
     
  12. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd sub-head with the date. That way there can be no confusion, the reader will know from the onset that the story is set in the future.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'd love to read this when you're finished!

    No, I realized as I got further into it that my original concept had changed, and that I had to rework the first part of it. I also realized that the entire story is too long for one book and rather than cut down and cram it into one, I'm going to concentrate on writing a good first novel and maybe more will spring from it. As the Zen master said, we'll see.
     

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