1. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    How do you keep track of a story's time line progression?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by robertpri007, Oct 21, 2012.

    I've used several methods, but not happy with any of them I used to keep a series of post-ums, and then notes thumb tacked to a story board. One per chapter.
    Neither worked well. I now keep a doc file just for timing, to keep track of the days, and a brief paragraph about every chapter.

    Without this, I once had the characters go to lunch twice in the same day. At times, I have the plot advance far too much for a single day, and rewrite to add a day.

    Just wondering about other methods. I am more than willing to try another one.
     
  2. shaylyn
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    shaylyn Member

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    I personally write down every day that's in my story, almost like a calendar then paraphrase the important parts of each day.

    Like this.

    friday- met jack/Ryan gets caught

    saturday- first day at tree house

    sunday- Arie is missing

    monday- Arie comes back in the morning/helps melody/ david dies/ anna comes

    tuesday- everyone planning to leave/jack kiss/anna dies/go find matthew/sleep in motel

    wednesday- visit matthew/leave ryan message/return without matthew/sy is gone/romance

    thursday- leave/ stopped by Ryan/Paulson is killed/ catch adams/finds out ben is still alive

    friday- ryan dies/watch company/root kills adams



    Obviously this doesn't make much sense to anyone else but it makes perfect sense to me :)
     
  3. Thromnambular
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    Thromnambular Member

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    If this is really posing a bit of a problem...

    Have you tried putting together a detailed calendar? There are tons of planner/calendar apps out there, though I'm not sure they'll be of much use, since you probably can't just make a custom calendar with whatever dates you want.

    Maybe you could try a spreadsheet? A cell for each day, make a comment on the cell to put your info for that day.

    Like this thing I made for the sake of example:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    Normally, it would not be a problem for me, but I like to write spy/espionage/thrillers. It's often a challenge to keep track of all the building action from all the various characters. They are often working independently, and I can't have Bill begin to see minor clues about Sam's activities until the timing is right.

    Your idea of a spreadsheet is a very good one--thanks. Odd that I never thought of that because I have worked with Excel for decades. I could even expand it to a linked database and clicking on one character would display their history in chronological order. I will work on this, and thanks. The posting was not a waste.
     
  5. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Usually it hasn't been a problem for me, but in my current WIP I'm having the devil's own time simply because I've got communications time lags. Pigeons only take a few days to reach their destination, but couriers could take weeks on horseback, and trader caravan's months. It's not so much what happens when that's the problem, its the what do people know about what happened when that's urging me to pull my hair out.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What's wrong with using a calendar? There is plenty of software that you can use to print out daily, weekly, or monthly calendars for any given range of dates.

    Or you could use a time line on a whiteboard.

    Personally, I've never had a problem with timelines, but if your story is complex enough to need one, there are any number of ways to organize events.

    Look into business time management techniques and tools. They may even hep you stick to a writing schedule!
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    As mentioned, a schedule on a calender (Physical or digital) is a good idea. Plot the length of time the messages, or whatever, take to reach a destination, and also plot when the relevant people react to make sure that they match up. You can do this with lines, or notes, or both. You can also make constant notes in the draft using red (or whatever) text to keep track of who is where. It depends on how you like to stay organizized (A little Taxi Driver in joke there).

    Timelines on A3 paper also works well for some writers, plotting how long each even or activity takes place in relation to each other.

    Luckily I don't need these tools as I can keep it all in my head. I usually go backwards and forwards to check on my timelines and co-ordination of events. I always keep track of where my characters are, and what they are doing, even if they are not on-screen / in the scene / in the chapter.
     
  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    I like timelines, with a parallel line for each major character and perhaps the McGuffin. I can draw arrows between them to indicate interactions, and those arrows can incorporate communication lag.
     
  9. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    I like the idea of timelines. I need to start utilizing them!
     

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