1. marksteen
    Offline

    marksteen New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Manchester

    Jump back in time line

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marksteen, Sep 1, 2011.

    Hi,

    Very inexperienced writer here to learn.

    I have chapter one say opening in present time, can my chapter 2 jump back to her birth or should the time line be from a point moving forward say starting with her birth.

    second question could I jump forward many years?

    Thanks in advance

    Mark
     
  2. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    If it's your story, and you write it well, you can do absolutely anything you want.
     
  3. theweatherman
    Offline

    theweatherman Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2011
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Boston, Massachusetts, United States
    Do whatever you want to! There are no rules of what you can do with your stories. If it can work in your story, go for it! Good luck!
     
  4. marksteen
    Offline

    marksteen New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Manchester
    Hi,

    Thanks,

    Just wasn't sure if it was frowned upon as it might confuse readers but that's prob where the 'write it well' comes in to make it clear in some way it is a jump back lol
     
  5. Naiyn
    Offline

    Naiyn Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2010
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Nebraska
    It can indeed work and work well. Just make sure it makes sense for your story, and don't do it just cause it sounds like something fun to do. If jumping around in time is the best way to tell your story, then by all means do so.
     
  6. Heather
    Offline

    Heather Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2010
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    London
    There are lots of novels which switch from time period to time period, have elongated flashbacks, or switch from one character perspective to another (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as an example). As you've pointed out, the thing to do is to make it clear to the reader that you are jumping back or foward in time.

    If you are unsure of how to do this, I'd advise reading other novels which have done a similar thing - if you can see how other authors have tackled this, it may help you.
     
  7. tiggertaebo
    Offline

    tiggertaebo Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2011
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Cumbria UK
    Nothing wrong with doing it - you just need to make sure that your reader can follow what you are doing and that the time period you are "viewing" is relevant for that point of the story.
     
  8. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    The drawback of flashbacks is that readers tend to shut down. They'll not emotionally invest themselves in flashback because, if events unfold in the past, they already know how the flashback will end up because they've already seen the outcome. For example, you know Rose survives the Titanic disaster because you see her in the present time. How does Cameron make a multimillion dollar movie work, then? We don't know how Rose survives or what specifically her ordeal is. The conflict shifts from what to how (I'll explain in a bit).

    In this way, you'll have to find other ways to make the flashback count, i.e. you'll have to find other ways to make it suspenseful, i.e. you'll have to find other questions the reader (or viewer) will want answered. Like James Cameron did, you'll need to make the question of the flashback not what, but how.

    Suspense comes from readers needing answers to questions. In a story that unfolds normally (i.e. no flashbacks) the reader wants to know what: What will Dino do to get the prized gem? What will Kevin do when he finds out Martine cheated on him? These questions are answers at the end of a chronological story. But in flashbacks, they're either already answered or aren't answered in the flashback. These "what" questions don't count in flashbacks since we see their answers before the flashback even begins. So the question needs to become a "how" or "why." How did Dino get mixed up in going after the gem? How did Kevin push Martine away so that she would cheat on him? How will Max survive the fire, how will Gretchen lose her eye, how will Bob and Diane get together, how does Yuri kill Nicholai? But these questions, and the flashback itself, need to add essential elements ot the story, or else the reader won't need to know the answers to these whys and hows in the first place. In other words, the flashback needs to answer necessary questions.

    Look at X-Men: First Class (or the Wolverine: Origins... or any prequel... or flashback movie). The entire story was a flashback. We know what Professor X and Magneto become. We know that Magneto will evolve into the leader of the mutant rebellion. We're not concerned with Professor X's survival because we know he survives to become Patrick Stewart. So we don't care about his survival. We care about how he survives. The suspense comes from the how and why. How does Professor X become the leader of the X-Men? How does he end up in a wheelchair? Why is Magneto such a bitter enemy of regular humanity? Why does Wolverine not rememeber anything from his past? Why are Magneto's motivations what they are? How this, why that? Audiences also want to see the punching and kicking, but there would be no story without a story question to resolve.

    You could also add depth to characters in flashbacks. This is a bit different, but at the root, the same questions are answered. Check out "Luck of the Fryish" in Futurama. The end wouldn't have any impact without the flashbacks that build Fry's character. But the why question is still at its root: Why is Fry so spiteful of his brother? Why does he have this sibling rivalry that's survived even after his brother is long gone? Why does he have this frustration over his brother? Then, in the end, you understand way more than you would without the flashbacks because the flashbacks add to the story by answering those questions (and then pulling the rug out from the audience and Fry). In other words, they answer questions that the reader probably wouldn't realize existed without the flashbacks, but in asking and then answering those questions, the story is richer for it and the ending is more understandable.

    So if you use flashbacks, ask yourself if readers want to know the why/how, not the what. if you can't, you don't need the flashback. The flashback will bore the reader because the reader is forced to go through a chapter knowing the answers to everything, and will therefore not feel suspense.

    Prologues are a different but similar animal, so be careful with those, too.
     
  9. Cain
    Offline

    Cain Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Cambridge, UK
    Another problem with flashbacks (similar to lostinwebspace's comments), is that you might also lose any momentum you've built in your current plotline. The reader might be keen on knowing what happens next, and then is suddenly forced to wait while the flashback unfolds.

    This isn't always a problem - there are a lot of stories with parallel plotlines (with each plotline in a different time), although the parallel plots have developed their own individual momentum, and a single flashback chapter may not be able to successfully achieve this. Just be aware that you're putting something on hold when you do it.

    Another point that crosses my mind is that flashbacks are also used as character backstories - there's a thread on this somewhere in the character section I think. This is generally poor writing - it's a form of telling rather than showing. If the past is important in your character's personality, then it (probably) is more effective to present this to your readers through the character's current actions & emotions rather than simply describing it in a flashback.
     
  10. Terry D
    Offline

    Terry D Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Southeast Iowa
    In my novel there are two story lines set 160 years apart with one common character tying them together. I alternate between the stories at fairly regular intervals so the reader soon comes to expect a time shift. I also gave clues to the time frame by mentioning a chracter name, a location, or specific technological reference very early in the scene in which the shift takes place. I also tried to incorporate subtle differences in writing style -- for example the scenes taking place in 1853 were written with a slightly more formal style.
     
  11. marksteen
    Offline

    marksteen New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Manchester
    Hi All,

    Thanks for the great comments.

    Obviously mixed views from different people.

    The first chapter is about a main charactor who has a gift to heal illnesses then chapter 2 is about her birth all in the hospital but at the end she has an unexpected twin that was never seen on any scan obscured by the first, uncommon but has happened before, I wanted the option later to possibly bring him into the story maybe he uses his gift to kill people possible the old good vs evil or one could turn the other. So there is an eliment of suspence and questions about the unexpected twin.

    Thanks for your comments :)

    mark
     
  12. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    So, you're giving an entire flashback in chapter two of the character's birth (meaning the story, I hope, isn't happening from their POV at this point, so is just exposition), all to establish one minor point of detail.

    Honestly, it all sounds very unnecessary and a bit like a bad b-movie style.

    At the end of this post, something will die!

    My advice would be to just tell the story through the perspective of the character, and if a twin comes up, it'll be compelling in how you present it through the MC's experiences in the now, not because you had some elongated flashback how many chapters back that got the reader thinking ooooh, there may be a twin that comes into the story!

    It sounds like a bad attempted a prologue-style teaser, as if the promise of future action is enough to keep a reader reading. It's not suspenseful, it's a gimmick. You know what's suspenseful? A character feeling suspense, not an author artificially trying to force-feed it to a reader.

    See, now, I have to kill something, since I said at the end of this sentence something would die! And, sadly, if the only thing that kept you reading or made this post interesting or relevant was that teaser, then the thing to die is my career as a writer.
     
  13. Radrook
    Offline

    Radrook Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2010
    Messages:
    236
    Likes Received:
    14
    To see one way it can be done I suggest that you read Joseph Conrad's short story "The Lagoon".
    It employs the flashback technique in a very effectve way.
     

Share This Page