1. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Showing a jump in time

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Shadow Dragon, Jan 24, 2009.

    When going from one scene to another that takes place (i.e. like later that night or a day or so later), how do you show that jump in time? Do you just go to the next scene and hope the reader gets it? I have heard that you can use a few asterisks between the scenes like this:

    ***​

    To show the jump in time. Is that correct?
     
  2. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Well you could always just have the character mention the sun setting through the windows. People would then get it's becoming night and then go onto on another scene.
    Or even say that it was now later in the day, have the character notice the stars glowing or the moon. Or even an exterior body such as Venus. You could introduce them to the later of the day through the character's observations, while still being in a new scene.
    Hope that made sense and that I helped.
     
  3. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    I've seen asterisks used, and having characters take note would be fairly unobtrusive to a story. I am partial to simply double spacing between the two paragraphs to show passage of time. I think it is the same idea as asterisks, but just leaving them out, and letting the white space speak for itself.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there should be NO blank lines between paragraphs in a ms [unless it's at the end of a chapter, which doesn't count]...

    for a line break [that's what it's called], you should put a single # in the center of the line... anything more than that is annoying to the reader and not the most preferred 'standard' though some writers may indulge in the egregious excess...
     
  5. othman
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    othman Member

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    Well, going along the line of the change in time shown by nature, perhaps they experience cold making them put a jumper on and a comment about how the sun really does make a difference?

    Or has the lights/candle on, is feeling sleepy or something ... ?
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I think a combination of the scene break (whether you use a blank line, asterisks, a pound sign, whatever) and brief mention in the text that time has passed is best. For example, the asterisks or whatever, and then something like "A few hours later..." or else the characters doing or saying something to indicate that time has passed.

    To just start the next paragraph with some sort of comment about it being dark or cold or whatever, without there being some sort of scene break or explanation (however brief) that time has actually passed, seems too jarring. One moment it's sunny and warm, the next it's dark and cold? What the heck happened?--that would be my reaction as a reader. (Not to mention that a scene break can also indicate a POV change without there necessarily being a time lapse.) There needs to be more of a clue that a time change has taken place. Sometimes it's perfectly fine to just say, "A few hours later..."
     
  7. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Usually, I don't think about it because it comes naturally. For example,

    "And you are sure this will work?"
    "Only one way to find out."
    I gave her a nod, she returned it, and we turned on our heels and strode in opposite directions.

    Six hours later, five of us were cramped into a four foot room, and our tempers were matched only by our temperatures.


    It just kinda happens.
     
  8. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    You don't always have to mention it outright, just think of why you are skipping ahead and if the reader could discern that the time has passed without being told, if you know what I'm saying.
     
  9. kyle777
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    kyle777 Member

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    I usually use *** to represent a very large passing of time or a dramatic change or shift in perspective. It really all comes down to what you want to use them for.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    *** (or more correctly a line containing only a #), denotes a break between sections or scenes within a chapter. Thi may indicate a discontinuity in time, location, or both. What really indicates a time change is how you open your new scene. You could, of course, throw subtlety to the winds and begin with something like "Later that evening", or "Winter passed into spring, and spring into summer." Or you can use more subtle cues, like the character wiping dust and sweat from his brow, when the last we say him, he was heading out the door into a blizzard to search for his overdue son.

    Formatting has its place, but most of the work is in words, not typesetting or punctuation.
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Also, adding to what Cogito has said, this reminds me of a question someone once posed, inquiring as to the reason for chapters and the quantity that one should use.

    The best thing I can think of that chapters do is drop a cliff hanger that lasts only long enough for you to turn the page.


    My heart was racing faster. I remember blood on my hands and people running into me.
    A pain shot through my knees, and I suddenly noticed - though I knew not how - that I had fallen to my knees.
    I pulled in a raspy breath, eyes wide, fear making me frantic. They say you never hear the shot that hits you.
    I hadn't heard a thing.

    *******


    It makes you think, "HOLY COW, I need to read the next page and find out what happens!"
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true, but that's not the only reason to start a new chapter and there shouldn't be a cliffhanger at the end of every one of them... sprinkle them judiciously and sparely, or they'll be more annoyance, than incentive to go on reading...
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    A few years ago, I may have agreed with you offhandedly, but there is a series called the Dresden Files, and virtually EVERY chapter ends with a, "And something HORRIBLE may happen on the very next page-- End Chapter".

    I never, not ONCE, grew weary of it. The most I did, once, was think about it, and that is because, being a writer, I consider every minute detail of the books I read.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That does not make it a good writing practice. Maybe this writer made it work, or maybe you liked his work despite possibly poor writing.

    I should probably set this to music: You should listen to Maia.
     
  15. wtmckee
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    wtmckee Member

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    Yeah, the works in the words. I'm all for the reader figuring it out... and then flipping back through time to make the reader figure it out again... and then flip them around again. The reader gets a time shift. The reader likes a time shift. A subtle phrase will get them there.
     
  16. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am presently re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. This story makes many "jumps in time"...some only a few hours in duration, while weeks may pass in others.

    I noticed that his treatment of these time breaks seems to follow a simple pattern...one linked to the logical continuation of a scene. For example, in one setting he and a few male friends are talking in a bar about a lady character. After leaving the bar, the main character goes home and to bed. Not long thereafter, the lady who was subject of their discussion, shows up unannounced at his apartment. There is no obvious break indication (# or ***) inserted in the story. The narrative and dialog simply convey the break in time through context. It actually flows quite naturally. This pattern -- leaping over small breaks in time through scenes linked by context -- is common in this book.

    When making breaks of a week or so, he starts a new chapter often beginning with a brief summary (one paragraph) of some things that happened during the passage of time. The "happenings" may not have any bearing on the story, other than to illustrate the amount of time that passed. For example, during one such 'break", the main character is able to finish several stories for his publisher, catch up on his banking matters and make contact with an old friend who just returned from New York. Then, the story takes off again with relevant dialog between characters, after having established the passage of time.

    I feel the key to illustrating passage of time is to select the best technique to advance the story. As Hemingway illustrates, you can "show through context" or "show by chapter break" and you can always use the # or *** to show larger breaks. My personal preference is to use # or *** only when the time break includes a change in POV.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this nearly made me choke on my mint, cog!

    [is there a composer in the house?]
     
  18. Aristocrazy
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    Aristocrazy Member

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    I've got honors in composition class at university with an A average
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. I considered Bach, but he's not even decomposing anymore.
     
  20. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Perhaps.

    Or, it might just be a good writing technique that does not get old.

    Forgive me if I do not bow to orthodoxy, but I am certain that I can tell a 'bad' technique from an 'exciting' one.

    Way I see it, if a 'bad' technique works to improve the quality or excitement of a book, then it is not a bad or poor technique.

    My brother never complained, either.
     

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