1. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

    Jul 13, 2015
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    How to handle a plot span of several years?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lyrical, Jul 6, 2016.

    I'm having some trouble knowing how to handle something in a new story idea of mine.
    How does one deal with a plot which spans a character's lifetime? Well, by lifetime I don't mean until death - I just mean well into adulthood.

    The plot of my idea builds over a period of several years, with important events taking place in his childhood, adolescence, and the climax happening in early-adulthood. I don't want to show the early events as flashbacks. They are part of the story. So do I divide the book into parts? Sort of a 'Part One: Childhood, Part Two: Adolescence, Part 3: Adulthood' kind of thing? Do I just kind of write my way through the time jumps like: "And so the child grew day by day, until he was almos a man" - except obviously more drawn out than that to give the feeling of time passing? Or does that just bore the reader?

    I admit, I've only read a couple books that span a considerable period of time, so I haven't had much opportunity to see how other authors handle this.
  2. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

    Jun 7, 2015
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    You could get some ideas from some of Ken Follett's historical novels (Pillars of the Earth, Century Trilogy). He does this kind of thing all the time and he does it well.
    Lyrical likes this.
  3. FireWater

    FireWater Senior Member

    May 29, 2016
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    If the first chapter happens when the MC is a kid, and the second chapter is years later, you can just include "Twelve years later" in passing as part of the first sentence (like mentioned very briefly, not as a special header or anything!) of chapter 2. Or you could have an equivalent comment that makes it clear that they're much older now. You don't have to set it up via flashbacks or anything. I think the "parts" by age is unnecessary, and the "the ages turned until he became a man" thing feels really stiff and cliche. Just make it clear in a non-awkward way without making a huge deal about it.
    Lyrical and King_Horror like this.
  4. King_Horror

    King_Horror Member

    Jan 8, 2016
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    Somewhere in the U.S.A.
    I second this. When done the way FireWater put it, It would definitely be something I'd like in a book.
  5. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

    Jan 12, 2016
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    Unless the mc's lifetime (ages, growing up) is a major part of the story or simply what the story revolves around I wouldn't suggest using "part 1: childhood etc" but instead you can just write the important parts and then in the next use (*****) to divide the years so readers can know when there is a time change.

    My WIP has many years within it but the first time change that occurred I simply took Dream Theater's line from octavarium "so many years have passed.." And the rest is divided understandably but there is still attention that needs to be paid.

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