1. Rob Pickard
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    Rob Pickard Member

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    Brushing over a few months

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rob Pickard, Jun 11, 2012.

    Hi there,

    I'm currently a good way into a dystopian sci-fi novel written in first person present. The first three quarters of the book cover the events leading up to and the first major battle of a civil war.

    Now, after this first battle I want to move ahead to the last battle and start getting things wrapped up, but within my world it would take a good six months of fighting from city to city before the final battle can begin.

    My question is this: Do you think it is acceptable to sum up the six months of fighting with a few pages describing what happens, then move back to the real time view of my MC for the final battle? Or, would the sudden place and time jump be too jarring for a reader?

    I know the success of that move probably depends on the quality of my execution more than anything, but do you think the general principle is sound?

    Thanks for the help :)
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is absolutely acceptable, and I've seen it done. In fact, I think its very common. You're correct in that the success depends on the quality of your execution.
    Think of the alternative -- long, slogging, repetitive descriptions of battles. (Assuming this is the reason you want to skip them and move on the final battle.)

    When we tell stories, we're telling the highlights. Like if we're telling our own life stories, we'd give information about important days or events that made us think about something in a new way, or examples that highlight the things we thought were important or enjoyable. We don't go into detail of all the days we got up, brushed our teeth, watched television and then had McDonalds for dinner.
     
  3. Silhouette
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    Silhouette Member

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    The only thing that makes me wary is the possibility that the characters will have changed in ways the reader needs to know about by the time they get to the last battle. If they nearly got their butts kicked in the first fight, but then show up at the last one as a skilled warrior I'd want to know what spurred that change.

    But yes I think the general principle is very sound. Not to mention preferable to slogging through every single battle that took place over half a year.
     
  4. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the type of broom you're using.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Better yet, skip to the new time period WITHOUT summing up the intervening time. Just let the reader know that time has passed, as economically as possible. Let the reader's unspoken question, "What happened during that time?" come out in bits and pieces as the story unfolds. Meanwhile, show through your writing how the character has changed. Has he or she become more pragmatic, perhaps more closed off, cautious, even suspicious toward others?

    Such changes tell the reader a lot about what has happened, in a more visceral way than running through a list of past events.
     
  6. Rob Pickard
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    Rob Pickard Member

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    Thanks guys, I will keep all that in mind and give it a go.

    @Cogito, are you thinking something along the lines of: "It takes another six months of hard fighting to reach the capital. Our convoy arrives in a blizzard of snow. It's obvious that the siege has already begun..." at that point I move straight into the scene and just drop info about the last six months as it comes up. Or do you think that is too brief?

    @solar, hah, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get that :p
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No. I'm thinking more of ending a chapter at the last scene before the six months gap (perhaps calling it a night in oppressive summer heat and humidity, after discussing the convoy's next move).

    The next chapter opens with the convoy breaking camp in a howling blizzard. Your MC catches up with his comrade in arms, and wishes him luck. Comrade replies, "We'll need it. If we can't find a way past the blockade soon, we'll either freeze or starve."

    The change in weather alone tells the reader that at least several months have passed.

    The necessary details will leak in a little at a time.

    Stay in character time whenever possible. If you break out of it to skip over a time span, you lose some of the intimacy of the POV you have chosen.
     
  8. Rob Pickard
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    Rob Pickard Member

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    Ok, I see what you're saying now.

    Thanks again :)
     

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