1. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    Time story or plot story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ellebell16, Mar 12, 2011.

    Which type of story format would interest you more - a story that is told over time, such as The Other Boleyn Girl or Harry Potter, or a story that goes by plot?

    For example, each Harry Potter is told over the span of one year. The kids go to school, go to lessons, socialize, play Quidditch, fall in love, learn magic, celebrate holidays, etc. all while the different plots twist and fold. Or a book that is more "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, and then OHMYGOD this happened too".

    I hope you understand what I mean :) I'm writing a story about a girl going to boarding school and I want each chapter to be one month in the school year, so it goes from September to June. Chapters would vary in length (some could only be 15 pages while others 75), depending on what happens during each month, but in the end, there'd only be ten chapters. Or is it easier to go down the traditional route of Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three...?
     
  2. Yandos
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    Yandos Member

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    I would personally go down the traditional route for what you suggested, as the varying chapter lengths could end up being quite excessive if one month was 'action packed'.

    Even Harry Potter, although each book was a year, the chapters was still separated by plot.
    You could always time stamp the chapter to give an idea of time.
     
  3. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I think this is a good idea, to timestamp each chapter, like Chapter one: This happend on Septemeber 1, 2000. Chapter 2: Augest, 2001, and so on. That would help organize a plot a little bit better too, in my opinion.
     
  4. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    My latest read is The Book Thief, which is structured into chapters, chronologically. There's not much plot in it -- nothing compact or linear. I find that it works well if the characters are interesting and relatable.

    Ultimately, it's up to you. Write what you'd like to write, there are bound to be people out there who'll enjoy it.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    regardless of the time frame, there's still some sort of plot... so i don't understand the distinction you're making...
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    She means the layout of the story - some are told in a way where the setting influences it as much as anything, hence historical fiction and Harry Potter, which is set within a regulated year. Historical fiction HAS to take place within the bit of history the author's chosen to write about. Same with Harry Potter - these kinda novels involve a lot of timeskipping and slow unfolding of the plot, in the character's eyes, sometimes taking years for it to make sense. Whereas something where there's no set time period it has to take place in, the author rarely messes around with "and then we sat around and did nothing for a month" because it's more interesting to just make it happen. Events move faster, there are less time skips, and the story concludes pretty much in the amount of time it takes to tell what happened. The actual scenes and events of the typical Harry Potter book, minus all the time skips, are probably about a month or two worth of days of action.

    In any case, it's just a background thing to the story - as long as it's told well, I'd read either. I never stop to think about it. In the context of your story, if you can make it work so each month has a particular event - maybe even plan it almost like a TV series or something, so there's definitely something meaningful going to happen - then go for it. :) If you can see no way around having March be 20 lines long, then just do normal chapters. That's a slightly different question to do with layout anyways. if it's set in that time frame you'd be doing time skips however you chose to present it.
     
  7. Booker
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    Booker New Member

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    I'm sure Rowling choose the 1-year-per-book format because that's how schoolkids (her readers) experience their lives. Each year, you're in a new grade with bigger challenges but with the assurance that summer holidays will come, the seasons progress as usual. That said, is there a reason for making each chapter a month? Because that seems a little limiting to say only X amount of plot can occur in November etc.
     
  8. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    It depends on the kind of story you want to tell.

    If you want to really get people in tune with the character's life, go with the time based structure. It works if you have interesting characters with an interesting life. Fantastic elements are not required.

    If you want to show people who a character is, and show some kind of precise struggle, I'd go with the 'plot based' structure.
     
  9. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    To have the chapters slavishly titled month-to-month seems heavy-handed and monotonous... but to have some *relevant* or *evocative* title that slyly alludes to the changes from month to month ( "The First Frost of Fall" and kinda like a'so) would give the reader a worthwhile frame to hang everything in.

    I like the idea of a format that organizes things... it creates a momentum all on its own.
     
  10. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    My story has chapters titled as Place, Time-frame (e.g., London, United Kingdom, September 12-15, 2000). In my story I link real events so the time line is vital.
    I guess in your story it's somewhat similar. I don't think, however, that you need to stick to exact months. You could consider to use one day, one hour even for a chapter. In this way you can still use the time line, yet can get a plot-driven story. At least, that's what I am trying to do....
    HTH.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Time Traveller's Wife does it, as do The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. No problem.
     
  12. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    Well, let me be clear, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with heavy hands, or monotony...
     

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