1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    timelines in a fantasy world?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mckk, Jan 30, 2015.

    So, my fantasy story tells 2 stories at once - one in the past about my two love interests falling in love, and one in the present about how the MC screwed up. Eventually the story from the past will finish, leaving the story in the present to continue on to the resolution. The two storylines have alternating chapters right now.

    I'm stumped as to how to label the chapters?

    I was thinking maybe:
    Chapter 1 - Nov 1995
    Chapter 2 - Feb 2045
    Chapter 3 - Dec 1995
    Chapter 4 - Mar 2045

    You get the idea. Those are not the actual years, just an example. However, it being a fantasy world, would putting a year like that take the reader out of the story? I also don't want to put something like the year 1267 and then have some knowledgeable history person tell me, "They didn't have this in the 13th century!" I know, I know that readers will know it's in a fantasy world, but I'm worried they would inevitably expect certain things from a certain era if I gave them the years of the events.

    But how else am I meant to do it...? Using labels like "the past" and "the present"?
     
  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are the scenes from the past essentially flashbacks?

    I've seen it done where someone writes:

    Chapter 1 - Thirty years ago
    Chapter 2 - Present
    Chapter 3 - Twenty five years ago
    Chapter 4 - Present

    I'm not sure if that's the most effective way or not.. But that's all I could come up with. lol

    If I saw exact years in a fantasy book, I'd probably relate them to a time period also. Not on purpose, of course. I think it's just human nature. You could use outrageous years that haven't happened yet, like year 3487. But I typically tend to see years as being used in Sci-Fi, not fantasy. Then again, I haven't read much high fantasy (mostly urban stuff), so I could be totally wrong. :)

    I don't know why I responded to this. I was no help at all! :p
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think using relative time periods works, as does the idea of using a timeline that is dissimilar enough from the real-world timeline that no one is going to confuse them.

    If you use a year like 1540, or 1980, by itself, and there are resemblances between your fantasy world and the real world, you might have a problem.

    Steven Erikson is a fantasy writer who jumps around in time, and he has a fantasy world that is completely distinct and also uses an invented timeline that can't be confused with the real world. For example:

    1161st Year of Burn's Sleep; or 1161, Burn's Sleep.

    No one is going to confuse that date with anything in the real world. When he's dealing with other cultures who might track time differently or use a different calendar, the way the date is presented changes, but no one is going to mistake any of them for real-world dates.
     
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  4. CedricMiddorick
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    CedricMiddorick Member

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    How about

    CHAPTER ONE: THE DAY I MET HER (or some other title, relating to something that happens in that chapter)

    November, 1995, New York

    The boy looked out the window. There she was, the other love interest of this story.

    (ie have a little footnote at the start of the chapter, saying what year it is, so that you can be more creative with the chapter titles?)
     
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  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like dis.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    They're great books. Though hefty and more complicated than most epic-style fantasy. Erikson doesn't go out of his way to tell a lot, leaving the reader to piece together what is happening. It's fun :)
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Lea`Brooks - haha no worries! It's good to hear your thoughts because every idea could always inspire something else, so I wouldn't see any suggestion as wasted. The way you proposed was one of the first ways I thought of, actually, but I thought it would get confusing really fast. And besides, the flashbacks are a continuous story of its own so it's not like there're years between each scene - more like days lol.

    @Steerpike - I quite like the idea of setting an old enough number that won't be confused with anything too recognisably like a real era as well as naming the year to set it apart. That's not a bad idea at all. So far the scenes in the past are really teenage romance orientated, which means there isn't a lot that's necessarily "distinct" from the real world, since the fantastical aspects really aren't the focus. But there are mages and priests and I'll probably throw in some cool, fun creatures for the sake of adding colour to my world. Would that set it apart enough?
     
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