1. lilac88
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    lilac88 New Member

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    When writing a story with a non-linear narrative is it better to initially write it..

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by lilac88, Apr 21, 2011.

    in a linear way, then go back and kind of 'shuffle' it around to get the effect you want?
     
  2. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    You could do it this way, but I wouldn't spend too much time crafting dialogue and details in this phase. There is the reader's order to take into account. If you have a detail of an earlier event late in the story, it would be less jarring if it's alluded to.

    It all depends on what you're trying to do. Two characters hate each other, how jarring would it be to have no reason through much of the story, and then learn why they hate each other. If they're working together even because of that history, it might be better to have that reason slightly before or immediately after.
     
  3. lilac88
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    lilac88 New Member

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    Thanks Smoke. Iv been wondering whether to abandon the idea of making the narrative non-linear anyway because as iv been planning the story out i think it works quite well as a regular, linear narrative, but im worried this will make it more boring and typical (not that im suggesting linear storylines are all boring and typical).
     
  4. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I found switching it up later worked better. My story revolves around four different stories that all merge into one at the end. I tried writing them with all the scenes in the order I first intended to, but suddenly I started feeling a particular scene didn't really fit in there after all. And when I looked at all the stories seperately, they didn't really feel complete. So I started somewhat over, and wrote all the stories by themselves, then switched it up. The end result was a lot better.

    But if the story works just as well with a linear storyline, then there isn't a reason to switch it up just because. The end result might actually be kind of annoying.
     
  5. dnsralg
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    dnsralg Senior Member

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    I use a series of spreadsheets to organize my story and then write the scenes in the order I decide. For example, I have a sheet with each character's linear story and how/when that intersects with other characters. Another sheet is my list of scenes in the "shuffled" order I am working towards. This list is constantly changing and I find working with excel keeps things neat. I color-code individual character sheets to correspond to their participation in the scene list.
    Since I already have a good idea of where I want things to go and when I should reveal/allude to things, I don't even have to write the scenes in order. Sometimes, I put off my more "normal" scenes in favor of writing my cool scenes. :)
     
  6. lilac88
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    lilac88 New Member

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    yeah, im starting to think the switching up of the story line may just be annoying, especially since the story has a first person narrator, rather than several narrators/viewpoints.
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Like finerprints no two are the same but it seems a strict adherence to the rigid timeline concept buries the dramatic tension too far into the body of the text, and has the work reading as stiff as the Red Coats marching on Bunker Hill.
    The real writers, the real authors with real books on real shelves do a masterful job at breaking Mrs Crabapple rules.I see far too many 1000 words amatuer intros that do nothing to pique my curiosity as a reader....Often we bury great imagery in paragraphs behind boring/cliche description of the French Quarter and/or Xavier's ear muffs.
     
  8. lilac88
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    lilac88 New Member

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    thanks, though im not quite sure what your point is here. (im not being rude i just dont understand, sorry).
     
  9. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    In school, when we're learning to write, our English teachers drill the "more details, more details, more details" mantra into our fragile, pliable little brains. We're taught to describe everything down to its most minute detail, while being directed to various classics as examples of "See? This is how it's done."


    Progress has shortened attention spans since Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, with cell phones, computers, on demand tv, readers are quicker to pull the plug and lose the desire to read on. The real writers with real books on real shelves are emulating each other much more than they are emulating antiquated classics.


    The truth is too many details before presenting a conflict and/or the dramatic tension has readers bailing out on us. My point is that inverting the order to showcase the stakes is what the current pro authors of today do.


    My point is inverting the order may not impress a creative writing teacher that lacks the creavity he or she needed to get any one of their 17 finished novels published.

    Go to the book store look at only the works of the no-names that have actually made it to the next level in the last three decades.


    Understand I mean no disrespect to Cervantes the Godfather of The picaresque novel genre.
     
  10. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    If I am assualted by a barrage of imagery before the scene presents a problem of some kind for one or more characters, and shows me how the characters deal with that problem, in turn, showing me something about the characters and moving the story ahead, I bounce. I am almost insulted by the arrogance conveyed that the prose is so 'hot' I am being held captive by stylistic rambling.
     
  11. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    We all agree fiction demands more showing than telling but. However, the thing that's tricky about showing vs telling is that many writers blindly drink the kool aid and launch off into a verbose showing mode. The reader's time and 100 words wasted on an inconsequential character ducking thru dooorways and trying on tousers too short, in an effort to 'show'.When the four word sentence, 'the dude was tall' would suffice, when this is done before any conflict is implied to honor a timeline, the results are coma inducing......The real writers (those born after 1492) with real works published by real publishers present the problem early then work backwards with the texture of details but what do they know ?
     
  12. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I'm trying to think of a good non-linear story, all I can some up with is one scene from "What Dreams May Come" where there is a flashback showing the relationship with the son right before he finds him. (I think there are several moments like that.)

    Basically, it's starting with the middle and using backstory to introduce the characters.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry either way but then my story is usually in the wrong order when I finish first draft.
     
  14. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote an out-of-order-ish novel recently. I kept it in check by having the dramatic conclusion of the rest of the events as a constant timeline running through it and then the characters flash backed left right and centre so that it made up at least half the novel.

    I think it is necessary to write in the order you want the reader to understand it, because themes, images and allusions are all so hard to keep in check at the best of times, and no matter how neatly plotted, the coherence of the writing itself will be at stake by shuffling it later. The character development is shaped by the flashbacks. So I would have a scene, for example, where someone says something like "I would never do that!" - cue next scene which is a flashback of him doing just that. If the story was written in order the weighting I gave the scene would maybe be all wrong, since I'd have to be straining my brain thinking, "Why am I writing this? I suppose maybe he might regret this later..." Maybe the events are out of order, but to the reader the narrative is one long continuous thing, and if it's told out of order then it's the writer's duty to make it seem as if it belongs in that out of order.

    this is how I kept track of mine too. :) I didn't at first, but as I got near the end I quickly skimmed through and made it both in chronological order and in the marching order just to check how it was looking and to make sure I hadn't made any epic pratfalls around my plot.

    That would be extremely annoying with a first person narrator. Maybe if it was, as I suggested, a small thread running through that is chronological and then it comes in heavy use of flashbacks, so the "order" isn't broken and there's a train of thought that links it all together. But it could easily seem rambling, and the closer together the events the more pointless telling it out of order. My novel, most of the events had taken place at least 2 months, if not a whole year, before the main timeline, and so there was no way telling it chronologically would have worked, never mind a lot of it depended on a shock reveal 3/4 of the way through, of something which would have come in the first part of the novel otherwise.
     

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