1. Ravenius
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    Ravenius New Member

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    Timeline

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ravenius, Apr 27, 2010.

    I'm writing a story that is chronologically out of order, this is probably about the 5th or 6th time that I have rewritten the story completely.

    The first time it was 'in' chronological order. But somehow within the rewritings the story moved out of chronological order. I debated with whether it was good or bad and researched on flashbacks, but it didn't feel like a flashback but maybe it is I'm not sure, so I'm calling it out of chronological order. Since the entire novel is written in the past without a present (the present being whatever date I'm in).

    However one of my issues right now is in modern time if it is 1538 we know we're in the past, but if it is the year 1700 then you know it's somewhere further down the line from 1538.

    But I'm writing a story that is BCE, so 1700 would be the past and 1538 would be the present.

    In a story that is chronologically out of order might that be confusing? Esp. when past and present 'calender time' is reversed. If I don't intend on putting the story back into chronological order how would I make that not so confusing?

    And then I was thinking of converting everything to an ancient calender using either the Egyptian or Mesopotamian calenders using years that they themselves would have had and just explaining that somewhere in the intro or back of the book or something, which might remove time moving backwards to go forward phenomenon but I'm not sure.
     
  2. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    To be honest, I was confused just reading the above! (Although I'm having a bad night; therefore it may just be me.) If I were you, I'd get someone whose opinion I value to have a read of it.
     
  3. Elvis
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    Elvis Member

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    I'd love to help you, but with all the dates you posted, I got very lost and don't really know what you're talking about.

    If you could re-post and try to simplify things for me and/or use some exampes from your manuscript, I'd like to give you my opinion on the matter.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i think i can get what you mean... it's the 'backwards' counting of BCE years that confuses things... and the problem is only a problem if you don't append 'BC' to the dates, where they apply...

    however, there's a simpler way of dealing with it, if instead of just giving the dates, you refer to 'three centuries later' or whatever, in the chapter header and/or in the text...
     
  5. s.knight
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    s.knight Banned

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    Writer, thats your job. To find a way to make it work. Or shelve it.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    After all, none of the local calendars will give the date as 1700 BC :)

    So give your dates according to the calendar that IS in use. That will definitely be a forward-coiunting calendar unless your race is infallibly precognitive.

    It really doesn't matter what the date would be according to the Gregorian or Julian calendars, right?

    Of course, defining the numbering fot your dates is the lesser problem. Your real problem will be managing your transitions such that the reader knows you have transitioned to a new time, and doing so smoothly. That requires good wordsmithing, which in turn requires practice.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you need to explain it somewhere, I suggest that you don't do it. By all means use their month names for historical colour, but if you do then the descriptions of the seasons should be the real cue to the reader what time of year it is.

    My understanding is that people would only have used the years on those calendars if they were astronomers/astrologers. Everybody else would have counted years in a king's reign ("The fifth year of the reign of King Fred") or from major historical events ("In the third generation after the exile"). And I think they would have been more likely to count in generations than in decades or centuries. But it's for your historical research to confirm that :)
     
  8. Ravenius
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    Ravenius New Member

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    Thanks! A lot of everything said has helped :).


    Each chapter I have starts out with a year and place ex.

    ca. 1548BCE
    <Name of Place>

    ca. 1538BCE
    <Name of Place>

    ca. 1542BCE
    <Name of Place>

    (Which is how I handled the transitioning, I just made each scene(s) into a chapter with a year and place). Each chapter takes places during different specific times. And each year is a chapter which shows a year or years passing or going backwards.

    The reason I thought people would get confused is because in the beginning as I was subtracting and adding and multiplying 'I' myself got confused and at one point wrote all the dates 'forward' instead of 'backwards', which...sucked having to redo my math to make sure it was all correct!

    I was thinking about converting an Ancient calender using dates, and brought several books on ancient languages that are now extinct that my characters spoke and did some research online, I have the months/seasons that they counted but I'm not sure how to convert from 2010 time to 1700BCE period.

    Does anyone know how to convert a calender?
     
  9. runaway_lighthouse
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    runaway_lighthouse Member

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    Why would you need to convert? What I would do is probably just use whatever year the society would have called it back in BCE years when it was taking place, and use their months/season units/whatever to move through time in that section of your story. Then transition to the more modern calender when you're in CE years, using the normal calendar months and years of that time (though for accuracy's sake, in 1538, if your story takes place in a Christian country, they would probably be calling it "The Year of Our Lord," and not CE or AD).

    A year is always the same length, no matter what calendar a society uses, because summer and winter solstices happen at the same time every year. It's only the months that differ in length. It should be pretty simple to count years, if that's the issue.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Google it. You'll find a miriad of tools to convert calendars in a matter of seconds.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Specifically, Google "Calendrical Calculations", which is based on what seems to be the definitive text on the subject.
     
  12. Ravenius
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    Ravenius New Member

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    Thanks, I spent about a month or so trying to figure out this calender on several different search engines and all I managed to get were the months and dates etc.

    But when I typed that into the search I got closer to my result. Thanks (also). My calender that I'm searching for is rare (Ancient Egyptian easier than Mesopotamian though I wonder if it's just gone by a different name), but if that happens I'll just sit down and do the math with my math friend.

    That's a good idea. But if I went by a title "Year of the God" then I would need something to symbolize moving forward, backwards and wanted to avoid 3 years before, 10 years after, 5 years before (just too confusing for me).

    My thinking is that if I use an ancient calender like someone else mentioned counting backwards wouldn't be a problem, on it's own the calender would just move forward. Another problem was the year wouldn't be the same as our year and how we count it, (considering all the calenders we have today with different years). But!

    I think I have an idea 'now' what I want to do.

    OH! I just had a new question, <what if?> I created my own Ancient Calender? One of the tribes I am writing about is an extinct tribe, what if I created a calender with a <year title>+<list of months they probably would have gone by>+<made up year>

    Using the earlier calenders as a guide since a lot of their culture came from trading with these other ones.

    That wouldn't be a put off in a story if it was constructed realistically? And it would take out the ca. 1500etc. and get rid of anyone who might be saying (But so and so was born before the 2nd millennium.)
     
  13. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Making up a calendar would probably lose your reader entirely.

    And, IMO, the above is one of the worst reasons to use a made up calendar anyway. Your research should back up what you're trying to convince the reader.

    What about using the current calendar, but just noting it something like:

    5 years earlier - 1530BC
    Location

    Then we have a real time and date, yet we know at a glance if we've moved forward or back.

    As a side note, if there are such drastic time jumps throughout the book, you should consider: who is the MC and how do we identify with that person? Unless they are living through the ages, you'll have to make the chars immediately familiar and interesting in each time period.

    You have your work cut out for you :)

    Best luck,

    //R
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think so. Explaining the calendar that you made up would lose the reader, but numbering from some fictitious event in the culture's history should work fine (the activity in Lord of the Rings starts in the year 3018; I wonder how many casual readers know or care what the baseline for that date is?) Similarly, month names can be either illustrative like the Chinese major and minor month names ("Awakening of Insects", "Descent of frost" and so on) or arbitrary with other clues in the text . Do it right and it will hardly be noticed but will add a lot of authenticity.
     
  15. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Yeah, I did mean explaining it or having a reference guide for it.

    Constructing it around a single event and then noting it forward or back from that event would probably work.

    Personally, I like stories with a lot of depth but, probably as with most people, I don't want to keep track of a fictional system. It should be apparent by context first and foremost.

    Just my thoughts.

    //R
     
  16. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Personally I liked the idea of the story moving forward but the calander counting down, something of a puzzle for the reader to work out. But I'm probably a minority. :)
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could imagine that working well in a fantasy setting, especially a comedy fantasy setting. A calendar based on a prophesy of something that's going to happen, but nobody knows what.
     
  18. RedRaven
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    RedRaven Active Member

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    Check out the Time Traveler's Wife.. you don't necessarily need to read it, but Niffenegger made it easy for her readers to know where exactly we were at the time.

    But be creative.. Your readers don't need everything on their plate cut in little bits. :)
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    True -- but using a familiar calendar!
     

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