1. FrankieInLike
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    FrankieInLike New Member

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    How do you keep a story that takes place over 10-15 years interesting?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by FrankieInLike, Oct 8, 2013.

    My story has a set timeline that I can't change. MC comes in at X year, and the ultimate conflict/battle (it's a fantasy) occurs in year X + 12, where she dies (a hero of course, hah...)

    In that time she'll be training her fighting skills, meeting other characters, making friends, finding love, challenging & changing her initial racist beliefs, becoming leader of her organization, gathering armies, fighting more minor battles... lots of things will happen. But it all takes place over the course of 12 years. And I only want the story to be novel-length, not a series or anything.

    So I'm wondering if any of you have any ideas on how to keep the story fresh over the years without seeming like it skips lots of time or glazes over events? Perhaps I should do 2 or 3 Acts, or as many as needed?

    What do you guys think?

    P.S. Also, hello! I'm new to the site, first post... nice to meet you all :)
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, Frankie, welcome to the forum. You answered your own question:

    "In that time she'll be training her fighting skills, meeting other characters, making friends, finding love, challenging & changing her initial racist beliefs, becoming leader of her organization, gathering armies, fighting more minor battles... lots of things will happen. But it all takes place over the course of 12 years. And I only want the story to be novel-length, not a series or anything."
    Think about where your character and story are going. You've noted lots of 'things' that can happen and make the story interesting. Think about how your character grows, how she changes, does she have a fulfilling life before she dies or is she tragically cheated out of it? Does she leave a legacy? A child to carry on? The story needs to be more than a series of events.

    The time frame is not the issue. What your story is about is the issue.
     
  3. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Welcome to the ink board, Frankie.

    I've never tried that before, and I haven't read many epics. In my preference, I would enjoy it so long as the time-jumps were non-linear, and began with sneakily placed recaps. I'll dash up an example:

    Tanya excitedly joins the Diplomats of Heather at the cost of every piece of silver she has.

    Time jump!

    Tanya grunted as she pulled the thistle by its roots and tossed it into her wheelbarrow. Her fingers ached. The last ninety-eight days were the longest Tanya had ever endured. Her mornings were spent washing the dirty clothes and crusty sheets of the apprentices. The first part of every afternoon was dedicated to weeding and caring for the outer grand garden, then she went to sewing practice until suppertime; those training cloaks were not going to craft themselves. It was the evenings that Tanya spent studying how words are interpreted. Currently she was learning about ambiguities, and how to use them to her advantage.
    Tanya was about to start on another patch of thistle when she heard footsteps rapidly approaching. She had just enough time to look up and see a tall, blond boy run straight into her wheelbarrow.
    Prickly weeds were spilled all of over the ground beside her; and too was the boy.
    "Are you okay?"
    The boy stood up, pulling a thistle from his behind. "Ow!" He looked at her "I mean, I'm fine. thank you."
    blahs blah young love blahs blah

    Time jump!

    "Tanya. I love you."
    Tanya didn't know what to say. She had never had to reply to such a statement. So much for studying tact and selective words.
    "I... I have to go train with Darren. I'll see you at blade practise." Tanya turned and sped through the arch into the common grounds.
    Finally, after another four months of toiling, Tanya's list of chores had shrunk to nothing. Her apprenticeship had begun. She liked Erat, but he was a distraction. blah blah more lover stuff

    Twenty time jumps later:

    The molten azurak spread it's wings in defiance. Tanya ran for cover behind a pillar as Kerrian unleashed a volley of exploding arrows.
    "There's more where that came from, wench!" Kerrian's laugh was like scraping steel. Probably because she had stabbed him in the throat.
    Tanya felt she had to retort. "Your pet is as ugly as sin!" Tanya heard the azurak hopping towards her.
    Oh no you don't, feather fucker.
    Tanya knew that the creature would strike at the first sight of anything.
    She held her shield out from behind the pillar. Instead the attacking beak she expected, an exploding arrow hit her shield. The shield flew to the other side of the room and Tanya fell to the ground, stunned. She looked up to see that she was at the feet of Kerrian and his pet azurak.
    "Game over, crazy lady," Kerrian sounded very pleased with himself, "Tell me where to find the twistarium, or would you rather I shoot your limbs off with old sparky here?"
    From this distance, Tanya had the opportunity to examine Kerrian's bow. Ornate symbols were carved throughout the white body.
    Tanya knew she was bested; she could only hope for a quick death. "That bow looks more like a penis than a weapon. A small one, at that."
    The smile on Kerrian's face faltered slightly, as if the verbal attack on his prized weapon had hit home.
    The look didn't last long, and neither did the face wearing it. A cloaked figure leaped from above, smothering Kerrian's head with a large hammer. Blood shot everywhere. The azurak jumped back in surprise, squawked, and hopped out of the chamber.
    The cloaked person turned to Tanya and held out his hand. She saw his blood-specked face.
    Oh my god.
    She grabbed his hand. "Erat! I thought... I... I've been meaning to say something."
    He pulled her up to eye level.
    blah blah lovey blah whatever.


    Sorry. I got carried away. I like writing terrible stuff. Anyway, as long as the transition is smooth and the gaps are filled, it works out okay.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
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  4. Head
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    Head New Member

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    Everything we're watching is exciting and continuous, like normal stories as it were but with months, years sliding by between chapters and especially parts.

    Sometimes we have to get our bearings again but we still mostly understand who and what the characters are /are doing between time lapses.

    The novels that occurred to me were (don't crucify me) Atlas Shrugged and Arthur C Clark's Fountains of Paradise.
     
  5. JindleBrey
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    JindleBrey Member

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    I'd Look at The Shawshank Redemption.

    It takes place over about 20 years. It shows only key scenes while the characters get older and greyer and also uses Red's parole attempts as 10 year markers.

    So I would focus on the key events. If you have loads of them it will be difficult.
     
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  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Nearly every story skips time, whether the story spans millennia, years, or hours. A story is comprised of scenes, with transitions between them. Managing the transitions must become part of your skill set.
     
  7. Mottahko
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    Mottahko Active Member

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    One of my favorite books is Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The story itself takes place over the course of at least a hundred years. It can be really hard to read starting out because the style is very different than what you find today but I've gotten used to it and have read both unabridged novels multiple times (in the range of 8,000 to 10,000 pages)

    You could definitely check it out to see how its done in that work
     
  8. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Genesis by Poul Anderson is a average length novel that spans a billion years or so, and accomplishes it admirably I think. You could try reading it to get a feel for how time gaps are handled.
     
  9. bpress54
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    bpress54 New Member

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    "The molten azurak spread it's wings in defiance." It's means IT IS, so your sentence reads:
    The molten azurak spread IT IS wings in defiance.
     
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  10. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you, @bpress54. Those contraction errors slip by me every now and then, I'm still a little new to writing:).
     
  11. Njal
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    Njal Member

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    Hi FrankieInLike, I'm new here too. Welcome :)

    Having not written for a while, I'm trying to make each chapter of my story quite self contained. That way I can jump between times and places between chapters (if need be). I got the idea from Kirinyaga and other books released as serials (often the case, even with some larger books like The Count of Monte Cristo).

    As there's no need for one chapter to flow into another (and each chapter provides some resolution to the scene/mini-story within), a reader can quite quickly get used to jumps in the timeline. Each chapter can be a new episode in the character's life, or one could be an Event, the next the Aftermath.
     
  12. bpress54
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    bpress54 New Member

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    You're welcome. I wasn't trying to be harsh, but that is one of my pet peeves. Or when someone uses 'then' when they mean 'than.' Good luck.
     
  13. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    So does this mean that the molten azurak, in order to defy an unspecified person/thing, has gone round and spread the following message: "it is wings"? I want to hear more of this story.

    As for the OP's question, I'd read some of the novels that the above posters have suggested (and any others you know of), ones that span a great length of time. Use them to gain tips on how to fill those gaps. Your story seems solid enough and, presuming your writing is too, all you need to do is keep the reader on the straight and narrow, ensure he knows when the story is currently taking place, how long the "break" has been and what your character is like now.
     
  14. Laze
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    Laze Active Member

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    Like others have said, you've just gotta plan out the most significant scenes in that ten to fifteen year span and write the shit out of them. Your question is a bit broad to be honest, it can apply to any novel. How do you keep a novel interesting? You write, you write your ass off. Until it's good.
     
  15. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know who's good at this, is Alice Munro. Given she just won the Nobel and being Canadian I dug out a few of her short story collections to read. Many of her stories segue a generation or two seamlessly.
     

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