1. R-e-n-n-a-t

    R-e-n-n-a-t New Member

    Nov 10, 2010
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    How should I transition?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by R-e-n-n-a-t, Dec 10, 2010.

    My writing is passable in most areas. . . but I'm not sure how to span large areas of time quickly. For example, In high fantasy, you obviously don't want to write about every minute of the protagonist's trek across a field.

    Can anyone give me advice on how to move through time without disorienting a reader?


    I'm not asking for examples. I want to think of my own. . .
    Maybe I should have asked "How often, and at what times do you think transitions sound the best?"

    Though I thank you for replying, Darthjim.
  2. darthjim

    darthjim New Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    Cumbria, England
    "Jeff had always loved the dry, golden hues of autumn. But that autumn, as he gazed out of his office window each day, the world seemed to be a desaturated, hollow place; echoing the emptiness he felt. Days, weeks, months fell away as the trees revealed their stark nakedness. Soon the crisp chill of winter tinged the air, and the first fingers of frost caressed the woods outside..."

    For example...
  3. Sarah's Mom

    Sarah's Mom New Member

    Dec 7, 2010
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    New England Coast
    I tend to think visually. So, if someone were trekking in a film and crossing a large open area and the story doesn't resume until they enter the woods, what would you see? You'd see them pause and look across the filed or savannah or desert or whatever at there distant objective, then you might see them entering the cool shadow of the woods, all sweaty and shirt off and collapse wiping their face. Or something.

    I say trust the reader to fill in the negative space the way artists do. I leave an extra space in my work when some time has passed

    like that.
  4. Mallory

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Jun 27, 2010
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    Tampa Bay
    Some ways to show that time's gone by without trying too hard and thus boring the readers:

    1. Deadlines, things coming up, etc, then show them come to pass. For example, your MC could be worried about running into an antag at a meeting/party/conference/etc...mention in passing a few times what date that event's on..then show it come to pass. The reader will know that time has obviously lapsed to get us to this point.

    2. Mention it in passing, but don't ever info-dump it. (in-passing = BRIEF: for example, "she was shocked to see that only three months could add that many lines on a person's face." NOT "Three months had passed since....")

    3. You've gotta be careful with this one because it will be super cliche and annoying if done wrong. The weather. Don't begin a chapter with "Winter had come, and the streets were now frosty with snow" or anything to that effect. What you CAN do is just subtly mention it as part of the setting. When we first meet the MC, he could be dripping with sweat and freaking out about being gross already after only a short walk to work. Without info dumping, we can figure out it's summer. Later, mention in passing the sky getting darker earlier, fall leaves, biting cold, etc. Readers are smart they'll figure it out!

    Hope I helped!
  5. popsicledeath

    popsicledeath Banned

    Nov 11, 2010
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    Not looking for examples? Why not? It's one of the best ways to learn.

    For example (jinkies!) Tony Doerr has a story called The Caretaker where in a paragraph he completely, naturally, smoothly spans months of the character in a steam ship crossing the ocean from Africa, through the panama canal, and up the west coast of America.

    Everything I ever needed to learn about depicting the passage of time (compressed, summarized time) I learned for one example in one paragraph of one story.

    How he does it? Well, it's complicated, I suppose. But basically every sentence feels like it was pulled directly from an actual scene that had taken place. So instead of a summary of time, we just have time compressed by each sentence representing one place in time that is distinct, vivid, meaningful, real, relevant, and the reader getting the feeling of the time passing without it being referred to directly.

    As with everything, easier said than done. One helpful method might be to actually write out every important scene that occurs in the time you want to pass, and then pull out a sentence or two that's most representative from each scene.

    Or, you could just cheese out and give the weather, or 'on the other side of the field' or worse, have the characters comment on the time that just passed: "boy, that field really took a long time to cross, thankfully we're on the other side now, dear reader, and can continue our tale."
  6. JeffS65

    JeffS65 New Member

    Nov 17, 2009
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    I supposed it would be not so much on how to span time but how you introduce a section after time has passed. Unless dramatic action happened during the gap of time; I would assume that when you are 'returning' from a gap of time, that the outset of the new section/chapter would reflect the passage of said time from the previous section/chapter. Something akin to 'We walked for many months...' type of deal. Not the only way to go but is a way to bridge before and after. There are books on this subject. Worth reading if you are serious.
  7. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    with a line break, or chapter break...

    can even use a sub-head date/time...

    best way to find out what your options are is to simply look in books by good writers and see how they do it...
  8. Melzaar the Almighty

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributor Contributor

    Aug 28, 2010
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    At the moment I'm writing a piece where a character is narrating it between action - it's much more natural for a spoken narration to keep things short and to summarise than a piece where the narrator is just third person.

    Time skips in first person always bugged me because obviously the story is so much more their emotional journey, so missing anything feels wrong, even if it was a long trek home. I've found the best way to do it is just to make a new chapter and keep talking like nothing's happened, though maybe the first or second action is taking off shoes and massaging aching feet or something.

    In third, generally, I start the characters moving through time, then ramble about something - the landscape, or something they were thinking, making it clear they're absorbing this or thinking it as they move, and then usually pick up just as if I was carrying on from anywhere, except the action is now three miles west of where it started.

    So, my advice in general is not to think too hard about time skips - don't make a whole special subcategory of writing for them in your mind. Just write the scenes, and they'll link themselves naturally enough if you include enough detail. :)
  9. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    In my first draft I often use a story fairy she zaps em lol - I find it helps once the story is laid out and I know the characters better to transition between the events - sometimes an exchange or something fun works, sometimes putting them to bed lol Or something really genius presents itself.

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