1. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    time skips

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Masli, Apr 3, 2011.

    Hiya,

    I'm writing sort of a side story that tells about the life of one of the side characters from my main storyline.

    The problem is that not every year of his life is interresting enough to talk about. I mean he has an interresting life, but no need for a day to day, year to year diary or something. Meaning there will be time skips...

    Does anyone has a nice idea on how to do so, without it reading like a long list of happenings along a timeline?

    Any help or suggestions would be welcome ^.^
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to use dialogue to show passage of time - or major events. I cursed one of my MCs birthday lol so bad things always happen on his birthday.

    For example in my prologue I have a character 'die' there is a gap of 21 years behind it and the start of the main chapter (I also have a 120 year gap between my first and second book) - I show it by my MC moaning about his age and talking about his partner to an old friend.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually just use a scene break, and then when I start up again give hints of how much time has passed, same as any time skip of any length. So you can have a character say in a scene established as morning, "I'm going to the library" then a break, then, "The lights of the library were not yet on, though the sky had begun to grow dark... "(Oh, I LIKE that line. Going to write it into something :p)... Same with longer times. If the previous events are well-written there will be something to say that will make people realise where the characters now are without you just saying "Five Years Later".

    Fortunately my current novel, which skips years at a time in rapid succession, is told in first person, where you can be a lot lazier, so the narrator pretty much just says, "I don't feel like describing the next five years. Oh hey, but then this happened!"

    In third person a little more work has to go in. :p
     
  4. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    I agree with everything written above.

    You can also put it in the form of a diary that the character wrote in and put dates at the top.

    You can also have flashbacks over the course of a book (if the character is thinking back on parts of his life) and each time he a flashback make it so that it flashes back to a different point in his life. Have a story within a story and a main plotline that's taking place outside of that that these flashbacks affect.

    Or just use sentences that IMPLY years have passed. Like, they are sped up. Such as . . . .

    "He went to college and studied anthropology. He grew a lot as a person and eventually got a career in a museum where he . . . . "

    or

    "He then studied martial arts until he became a black belt. He decided to use his newfound skills to travel the world. This was where he ran into . . ."

    Just carefully worded transitional sentences is all I mean. A lot was jampacked into those sentences (several years of studying and working towards getting a job and also several years of studying martial arts and starting a worldwide journey) without actually stating the amount of years that went by and when you finish writing something like that, then you can go into a scene that's more specific.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Skip over time periods that aren't part of the story itself. They can be referred to obliquely when needed, but always keep your focus on the main story.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or, mention that he was going to do it in a previous scene, then jump ahead and treat it as a given at the opening of the scene, so that the "decided to travel the world bit" is A: covered by the fact the next scene opens in Nepal, and B: not just stated right out. Wait until the setting is nice and established, then let it naturally slip in. So, have the character competently doing his job in the museum, and it will be obvious he's developed in the time skip.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yes, write fiction, not a synopsis or time line.

    People are talking about scenes, which is great, but it's a bit concerning you bring up the fact you're stumped because not every year of a side character's life is interesting? If it's a side character, even in an epic novel, you shouldn't be thinking in terms of years.

    I guess I'm worried you aren't working in scenes, which may be a problem. It seems more you're doing the style of writing that summarizes the history of a character. That's a biography, though, not really compelling story telling.

    One book that might help is called The Scene Book. It helps with handing passages of time, along with a lot of other things. Basically, if you're working in scenes that are necessary for the story, you don't have to worry about whether there are years of a character's life that isn't interesting or relevant, as the only thing relevant is the moment the scene is depicting.

    If you're writing in scenes that are necessary and relevant to the story, then relevant and necessary history and information will exist naturally, without needing an information-driven section of biography style prose.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    No offense, as I know they were probably just off the cuff examples, but those two examples read more like obituaries than fiction.

    The nice thing about writing in scenes is you don't need to explain the history of the character and a time-line of martial arts belts that were rewarded.... if the character knows martial arts, and the martial arts are relevant and necessary, the character will simply be DOING martial arts, not having a writer step in referring to the martial arts.

    And I don't mean just suddenly have your characters doing inexplicable things. Characters, like people, are an accumulation of their entire history and background, and that subtext should be present and hinted at throughout a story.

    So, instead of a synopsis or biography on the character and their martial arts training, you just have a scene:

    Okay, I got silly, but the relevant information is delivered in the context of action and a scene. Instead of a biography and history of the character and when he learned martial arts and the name of his dojo and what he ate the day before graduation and his favorite color and being told the year/date when the incident happened with the kittens, we only learn what we need to learn to make the moment work, which makes the scene work, with makes sub-plots work and large plots and entire story-lines, etc.

    But yeah, scene breaks are good, but you first have to be working in scenes, and the examples I initially quoted aren't really scenes, but more summary.
     
  9. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Well, you haven't read my examples in any kind of context. It was hard to explain what I meant without context, but I'd have to write a whole story to show context.

    In a normal story, no, you don't have to explain things unnecessarily, you can show people's background and knowledge through their actions, but this is a story ABOUT the events in a character's background, so it's different. I was showing that by briefly summing up what happened in a few sentences over the years, you have a transition from one scene to the next quickly.

    And it's fine to do as you said. Like I said, I agreed with the above examples and someone else said pretty much the same thing, except through only dialogue, but I was listing this as another option. =)

    It actually doesn't read like an obituary at all. It reads like a transition.

    If you look at a lot of books, they describe passages of time in the same way often. It's just not usually over years of time. It's usually shorter periods.

    For instance, the book I am reading right now (the one next to me that I didn't even have to search for) . . . "Crescendo" by Becca Fitzpatrick says on page 73:

    "The food was gone, the dishes were washed, Mrs. Parnell had finally left to hunt down Scott, and I retreated to my room."

    Before this, they were in the middle of dinner. By describing the events that took place briefly inbetween dinner and her running back to her room, you have a transition that's simple and doesn't directly state "An hour passed. Dinner was over and she went to her room."

    It's just one of the many options out there. And it is actually a way of showing and not telling, briefly, that a certain amount of time has passed. Describing the events will do that.

    There's not actually one absolute way of doing this.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I've never heard of a type of story that isn't 'normal' but instead is 'ABOUT the events in a character's background.' As I mentioned, to me, that sounds more like a biography, or actually very much like an obit, where you're trying to summarize the events in the life of a character as the important thing is simply getting the information out there, not having it be compelling or engaging or working toward an actual storyline.

     
  11. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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  12. Masli
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    Masli Member

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    Wow, interresting discussion. I coulnd't have wished for better answers! Eventhough you all have different opinions and ways of doing things, you've all given me plenty of amunition to think on, and that I can actually use.

    I guess I was so focused on how to do the whole time skipping thing that I actually lost sight of the story itself.

    And yes, popsicledeath, I do write in scenes I just was focusing too much on how to go from one scene to the next. Your advice brought me right back on track, and helped me to remember what I was doing in the first place. lol

    And katica, you're advice really helped me too. I have the tendency to tell things instead of showing them. Something I should really watch out for.
     

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