1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to write passage of time

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lea`Brooks, Feb 19, 2016.

    In my current WIP, I feel like things are moving too quickly. But I don't know how to slow it down. I'll give you the gist of the story to explain.

    My MC Seren gets crowned as the queen. (The queen is chosen by a seer, normally from a group of pre-selected women, but she selected Seren instead, who was watching in the crowd.) It's the queen's job to fight this destructive force that's killing the ground, food, and people. She has 30 days from the time she's crowned to do it. And so far, every queen that has tried to destroy this force has died.

    Seren doesn't want this responsibility. She doesn't want to fight it. She doesn't want to worry about it. She believes she's going to die fighting it, so why even bother? But I'm worried her change of heart may be happening too fast.

    At first, she's very aloof. She secludes herself, does her own thing, tries to keep her mind off of it. Later, she catches someone in the palace mistreating a maid, so she punishes him out of instinct to protect the helpless. She goes back to being aloof. But then the next day, she basically throws herself in head first, changing the rules and considering firing someone of importance -- something only the queen can do.

    Planning-wise, this takes place over eight or nine chapters. Story-wise, it's only three days. While I'm planning it, it doesn't feel like it's happening too quickly. It feels natural. But then when I realize it's only been three days, it throws me off. I want it to take longer for her to have a change of heart. But I don't know how to do it!

    I mean, should I just fill up days with nonsense? Should I quickly summarize a couple days so that a week has passed within one chapter? Or should I just not worry about it at all and let the story move at its own pace?

    Remember, I have a deadline in what can be accomplished. She has thirty days and a lot happens later. Sure, I have a leeway of about 5-6 days, where I can stretch things out as needed -- there's a week-long training session that can be cut if it must to make more room. So I don't want to drag out the beginning too much... But I also don't want the reader to read it and think, "Wow, she got over her aversion of being queen real quick, didn't she?"

    Anyway... Forgive my rambling. What do you think?
     
  2. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    What are you giving her in order to change her mind? Does she still think she's going to die fighting, or does she have any hope yet?

    If she's still fatalistic, you don't necessarily need to change her mind per se. If there's no point in fighting, there's also no point in not fighting, and if the person she wants to fire is frustrating, she might as well fire them. Even while she's changing the rules, she may still rationalize it as a way of occupying time before the end.

    If she has hope, you need something big to give her hope. I can't tell you what that thing will be--it depends on what kind of story this is.
     
  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's supposed to be a slow progression that makes her change her mind. She goes into it thinking she's never going to win, everyone before her has died, so what's the point? But she starts to realize that palace living isn't as luxurious as she imagined. The maids are mistreated by corrupt royal advisers (who run things in the queen's absence), they are wasting too much food (in a world where food is rare), and the advisers have lost hope in the process.

    So she starts to change the way things are run, starting with the maids. She issues an order that no maids will be punished without consulting with her first. She allows them to eat meals with her and her advisers (to much objection). She allows them to work in shifts and go home when they get off, where they used to sleep in a dark, cramped room in the basement. To ensure that her rules will be followed should she die, she's forced to fire a corrupt adviser who fights her on every decision she makes. This alone makes people inside the palace respect her, because the queens before her were so afraid to die, they barely tried to do anything. But Seren comes in and immediately cares about the little guys, earning respect from many in the palace and in the city.

    But the biggest thing that gives her hope is her ability to use magic, in a world where magic is so rare. Most queens before her needed to train for the entire month to be able to use even a small amount of it, but she can use it without training. When some of her advisers catch her using it, they start having more faith in her. I think this faith may drive her more than anything, because she doesn't want to let them down.

    Make sense?
     
  4. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not a fantasy writer or even a reader so I may be way off base. People usually have some tip over event that changes their thinking from one state to another, not that they were necessarily on the tipping point before hand but something changes their perception about the issue(s). In your story maybe you can have her do some sort of magic that makes her realize she could make a change to the problem and that it does matter, it isn't a total wasted effort. But back to the time issue, things go along in some direction and then at some specific point in time you realize the direction has changed, there is no particular time slot needed for a change of perception, just a realization that things have changed. As long as there is a trigger event, subtle or not, I think you don't have to worry about the timing, just let it flow. Looking back at your last paragraph, I think I just rephrased what you have written, you have already accomplished your task.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Lea`Brooks why don't you select certain events over those few days that contribute to changing her mind and dramatize them as scenes?
     
  6. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Already have... lol

    The day she becomes queen, she holes up in her room.

    The next morning, she goes outside to practice fighting. That afternoon, she goes to the temple to talk to the seer. On her way back, she catches the adviser mistreating the maid and stops him.

    The next morning, she meets with the head adviser to apologize for attacking one of her own (she didn't know the man was an adviser at the time of the attack). The head adviser tells her he needs to be put in his place from time to time. She then hints that he should be fired. That afternoon, she does more fighting practice and meets a man the head adviser selected to spar with her. The maid thanks her for saving her the day before. That night, she takes a tour of the palace and sees the awful conditions the maids are living in and how the advisers throw away unnecessary amounts of food. So she permits the maids to eat with her and the advisers, then distributes what's left to the citizens of the city.

    That's all I have so far. Three days... lots of chapters. lol Looking at it now, I guess I could split it up more. Instead of her meeting with the seer the first day, I could have her hole up in her room. Then she'd meet the seer the next day, on day three. Save the maid, hole up in her room again. Day four, she could apologize for the attack, start becoming a little more active. Day five she could meet her new sparring partner, discover the maids conditions...

    I guess five days is better than three. But still doesn't seem like enough time. I don't know. :( I'm so confused!!
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe it has less to do with the time and more with the fact that the transition doesn't feel natural or believable to you? I think a character can change very fast if the author can sell it. I had this issue with my protagonist, where I thought some fairly substantial changes came too quickly. My beta readers felt it was OK, though, so I wonder if sometimes as writers we have a harder time experiencing the story from the perspective of a reader. If you ever need someone to look at it, let me know and I'd be happy to help.
     
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  8. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Once I get it written, I'll shoot it your way. I'm still in the planning stages.

    When I'm planning it, it feels natural to me. I don't feel like I'm forcing the transition. If anything, I feel like I'm forcing it to happen slower, and that feels unnatural. I'm just worried other people will see it as too fast. I guess no point worrying about it until I get some betas anyway.

    Oh well :p
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I'd go with what you have and then evaluate it/have it evaluated when it is written. There is a whole lot that can go into the perception of the transition, including pacing based on word choice, sentence structure, and structure of the larger work. You could take that same basic plan and write it in such a way as to be too fast or take way too long. For now, I say trust in your vision of the work. That's the best place to start. Once you're done, feedback will tell you where you've succeeded and where you haven't. My impression just based on this conversation is that it can work as you've planned it.
     
  10. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    Instead of having nine chapters about how she changes her mind, maybe you can extend over a week or two a certain situation or dilemma that TRIGGERS these thoughts.

    For example, if she doesn't want to fight, make her more uncertain. Allow certain things to happen over the next week or two that slowly help her come to her realizations, instead of secluding her to come to them on her own.

    It could be as simple as a servant making a harmless comment that triggers a certain thought in your Queen. Or perhaps she accidentally stumbles upon a book, and this book makes her start thinking about things.

    Right now as it stands, you're already prepared for your Queen to change her mind, but us readers don't know that. Maybe add some back and forth. No change of heart is ever linear either, it's always back and forth until the person makes a decision. Perhaps this back and forth could be included over a week or two.

    OR, she could want to change her mind, but a nagging advisor (give him some importance -- maybe he was an advisor for the previous royalty also) keeps trying to convince her to stay on course. Add some challenges and obstacles that will DELAY her change of heart, this can extend time.
     
  11. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's actually a good point... I could have her initially fight off her instinct of wanting to help because she doesn't want to get involved. That could easily double the amount of time it takes her to change her mind, making it seem more natural in a way.

    She could witness the adviser being cruel to a maid, but she decides not to get involved. She could see the maids living in poor conditions, but turn a blind eye to it. I could even have her direct maid plead for her help, to which Seren could respond harshly. That actually fits her character pretty well too...

    But what would be the turning point? Maybe she seeing the adviser be cruel to her personal maid, who she grows very close to. Maybe that makes her realize that he's dangerous and needs to be fired. Then things could start happening very suddenly, like helping the servants, magic training, getting the advisers back on her side.. That may work.

    But I'll have to double-check my timeline and see if there's room. Like I said, I'm on a strict 30-day schedule. Once I hit a certain point, there's no room for filler because so much happens in such a short amount of time. So I'm really going to have to figure out how much time I have to extend this without taking anything away from the second half of the book.

    Thanks! That's very helpful.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    I feel that you're combining, "Ack! Why me?! No!" and "I don't care." And I don't see that they need to be combined. Couldn't she care deeply about some of these things, without actually wanting to do the thing?

    Of course, if the whole point of the story is going from not-care to care, I guess that won't work.
     
  13. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Seren is very aloof. She doesn't have any family, she doesn't have any friends, and she's distanced herself from the only people she knows (family friends) to live alone in the city. She's mad at life. It's hard for her to want to be apart of it because she feels it dealt her a bad hand and that no matter what she does, she always loses.

    So when she first becomes queen, she doesn't see the point in trying. Every queen before her has died trying to destroy the evil presence destroying the world, so she thinks it'll be no different for her. Why bothering training, fighting, having hope, when the chances of her death are pretty high? In the same light, why bother making changes to palace life if she's not going to be around to ensure her successors follow the rules?

    Does she want to help the maids? Yeah. But she feels that as soon as she dies, the advisers (who stay in their positions until a queen lets them go) will just reverse the decisions she made. So even if she gets them out of the cramped basement, she knows that after her death, the cruel advisers will put them right back in. So she doesn't want to give them hope only to have it snatched away later.

    The whole point of her trying to fight this process is to get her power back. She's kind of just been along for the ride, making no real decisions or connections basically out of fear that it will all fail. But at some point, she realizes she has a chance to really make a difference. She can do what no one before her has done -- make life better for the people of her city, make life better for the maids, and possibly save the entire world. The power is in her hands, if she only chooses to accept it.

    Eventually she does and she wins. But I really wanted to play up this struggle that she goes through to make her change more dramatic. Because by the end, she ends up with a best friend, a boyfriend, and a family she never knew she had, while also repairing the relationship with her family friends and saving the world. She's a completely different person at the end than at the beginning, so I wanted to show that as strong as I could.
     
  14. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have gotten a bit more confused as you explain some details, way back in post 3 it seems the advisers need to have faith in her which then becomes a driving force for her, and now you seem to suggest that they mistreat the commoners and this might be her motivation. I was going to suggest having her go amongst the crowd in disguise and let her see some of the reality I think you want her to correct, this is a common concept so it might not be a direction you want to go, but it can justify a major change in thinking in short order.

    Hopefully this is not a sticking point in your writing effort, if you complete the first draft you might come up with a solution to this particular dilemma that dovetails in nicely with the rest of the story.
     
  15. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's seven advisers. One is cruel to the servants, one is just cruel (she actually becomes nicer and grows close to Seren), and three or four of them have faith in her and urge her to become more involved. So I'm doing both simultaneously.
     
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  16. doggiedude
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    Keep in mind that in this universe you are god. If you think her behavior is not being realistic because of how fast her personality needs to adjust then change the time frame. Ask yourself if a 30 day deadline is really necessary. Maybe a traditional fantasy year and a day theme would work better or just the next change of the season (giving you 4 months). If you don't like the rules, change them (ohh ... I like that, gonna put that on my signature line.)
     
  17. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't want to allow too much time to pass before the end. Having so much pressure on Seren to accomplish what she needs to is part of what makes the story interesting, especially at the end. She has so little time left and so many questions and problems that need resolved. But if need be, I can add a couple more days to make room, like 35 days instead of 30.
     
  18. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I did try planning it today where she sees the bad things happening but chooses not to acknowledge them. The problem I ran into though was filling up the space in between.

    For example, in my first attempt at the beginning chapters, I had her exploring her quarters (she lives in a four room, two story section of the palace), falling asleep, waking up, going to her old house to get some things, practicing her fighting skills, talking to one of her advisers, then going to see the seer to find out why she was named queen over someone else.

    But if I want her to be angry and uninterested, she wouldn't explore her room because she wouldn't care. She wouldn't go to her house right away to get belongings because she wouldn't want to commit to living in the palace. She wouldn't go and see the seer because she'd have no interest in knowing why she was chosen as queen.

    So I tried to plan it differently. I had her talking to the adviser immediately after becoming queen, realizing she can't flee or she'd be charged with treason and hanged, so once the adviser leaves, she throws a temper tantrum (breaks things). In her anger, she realizes how afraid she is to die, so she starts crying and falls asleep in the corner of her living room. She gets woken up by her maid, who questions the mess. Seren tells her she'll clean it since she did it, but her maid says no, it's her job. Seren, being very independent, snaps that she can do it and hurts the maid's feelings. So the maid leaves, Seren cleans, and then..... That's it. That's all I could come up with.

    Because now what happens? She wouldn't go see the seer or go to her old place yet. She'd hole up in her room but.. Doing what? I just don't have the skill to write mundane scenes. I don't know how. Filling up space just to pass time isn't something I've ever done, so I don't even know where to begin.

    I've quit for the day because trying to figure it out put me in a very foul mood. I'll try again tomorrow, but if I still can't figure it out, I'll likely stick with what I originally had because it's easier. I suck. :(
     
  19. GoldenFeather
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    It could be absolutely anything you choose :) Keep us posted!
     
  20. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    This part sounds like an opportunity for her to come to a realization that people have a need to have a purpose in life, maid is to clean, etc. and Seren could finally realize that her purpose is to be the leader she was chosen to be despite her misgivings about it.
     
  21. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that's the track I'm on. But I'm struggling with how to get there.

    The problem is, I have all these scenes and events that help her realize she needs to be the leader. But in my first planning attempt, I felt that yet were coming too quickly. So I'm trying to plan it a second time to slow it down. I still have all these scenes that I want to do, but I need to add more time in between them. So I have all of this empty paces that I don't know how to fill.

    Ah, fuck it. I'll just stick with my first plan. This is too hard.
     
  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Read Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain, particularly the sections on Scene and Sequel.

    A scene is played out moment-by-moment. It shows the important bits of the story that the reader should live through so s/he knows what the character is experiencing.

    A sequel is that part in between one scene and another where characters react to what happened in the previous scene, make decisions, bide their time and think back on things that will affect what they will do next.

    That's the gist of scene and sequel, but a thorough understanding of these concepts should help you a lot.
     

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