1. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Plot Spanning a Long Period of Time

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ice, May 26, 2009.

    I've recently been researching for a massive historical novel that spans roughly twenty years (AD 19–41, for the record). The problem is that the historical events don't fully play out for as long as a decade: For example, the politician behind a murder in AD 23 isn't himself executed until AD 31. This means that (a) for a long time after the crime no one knows he's behind it, or (b) the sleuth does figure it out but can't convince authorities to act for a long time. Meanwhile, AD 24–30 are filled with trivial details that aren't really enough to fill the gaping hole in the chronology.

    My options as I see them are to either divide the novel into a series and focus individually on each event, escalating to the climax and big reveal at the end of the time period, or keep the single novel format with a narrative that might break off for years at a time or else cover those years with only a couple of chapters.

    Turning the storyline into a series means that the early installments will largely leave the reader unsatisfied, because, as described in the first paragraph, while the sleuth might uncover the antagonist's crime at the end of book one, the antagonist wouldn't be brought to justice until the end of book two, with nothing to satisfy the reader in between beyond perhaps the elimination of a couple of the antagonist's henchmen (largely for action's sake).

    I'm sorry, I've done a pretty bad job of describing this and I realize I'm repeating myself. Basically, I'm asking for advice on how to write a novel spanning a long period of time. Would it be jarring for the reader for chapter five to be set in AD 23 and chapter six to be set in AD 26? Would it be better to divide the (mammoth) novel into a series? If so, how do I satisfy the reader on a book-by-book basis when the solution to the mystery isn't accepted and acted on for books/years after the sleuth arrived at that same solution (evidently, the sleuth's authorities don't buy his conclusion)? Is it okay to let the murderer to be caught by the sleuth in book one but not zapped by the authorities until book two/three, after he's gone about more heinous crimes?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unless you already have a relationship with a publisher (i.e. you are already published and your novel has been reasonably successful), you need to focus on single novels. You won't be able to sell a series, and in any case, each novel must be complete in itself anyway.
     
  3. -Reaper
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    -Reaper Member

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    I would do it as a novel, But i would have large time differences between chapters. and 'skip' the years when nothing interesting happens. Or have a couple of paragraphs to summarize those years.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Pull a Gladiator/Alexander/(insert story set in Classical period here) and butcher the facts for the sake of entertainment. Take the interesting bits, the interesting characters and the interesting ideas and throw them onto an vaguely accurate timeline where there aren't 10 years of boredom in between, and you'll have a hit!
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm reading a book right now that takes place over an even longer period of time. They skip years, no problem. No reason you can't.
     
  6. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    All right, I'll go for the single novel then, thank you all. That was a serious confidence boost. :)
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're welcome. Happy to help.
     
  8. Hindumaliman
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    Hindumaliman Member

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    I'm reading a book called "Alaska" it spans for about....the beginning of time to now and it's now my favorite book.


    It can be done.
     
  9. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second this. Look at films such as Braveheart and Highlander. They are almost pure fantasy! But very popular, even amongst clansmen whose chief's lands the latter absolutely trashed.
     
  10. faceless
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    faceless New Member

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    An excellent book that spans 46 years and often skips ahead a few or more years at a time, although it is a much later timeframe (1899-1945), is Winter by Len Deighton. I'd reccommend it to anybody as a supreme work but especially anybody writing a novel over a period of time.
     

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