1. stubeard

    stubeard Active Member

    Jul 16, 2010
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    Messing around with time/chronology

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by stubeard, Aug 13, 2010.

    Hey everyone. I've looked through the threads and cannot find a similar one so I'll start a new one.

    This is just a general question about what people think about messing around with chronology.

    As an example: starting a book with a bang - showing the dramatic events of (let's say) day 4, before turning back the clock to what would've been day 1 in order to get to know the characters a bit more before the big event.

    My thoughts at the moment are to write the big event, end the scene with the main character being knocked out, then say something like "Four days earlier...", but I'm not too sure what I would do when day 4 comes around in the regular chronology. I imagine I'll just skip the day and go to the main character waking up the next morning with a sore head. Any suggestions?

    This is the only time I plan to jump around with the time by the way. It is an action-adventure book so I want to start it with a bang, but I need the time before the event to introduce the characters before this life-changing event.

    I'm not looking for approval or permission or anything - just looking for some opinions.

    Thanks :)
  2. Thanshin

    Thanshin Active Member

    Jun 1, 2010
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    What you suggest is a common structure.

    A succession of events such as:
    A --> B --> C

    Written, for structural reasons, as:
    B, A--> B' --> C

    What you do with B' makes the various "sub-structures" that have derived from the base one.

    If B'=B, you just cut B', implying the reader already knows that part.

    If B'=/=B, you can, for example use the previous content (A) to change the reader's interpretation of B. For example, the story starts with someone dying from a gunshot and before it actually happens chronologically, the reader gets to know that the supposed corpse carries a kevlar vest.

    Those are very common structures you'll find fast in most long running tv series, when the writers start looking for "original" ideas.

    For more complex structures (e.g.: Memento, Rashōmon), you have to be careful with the connotations to the original story you may be bringing with the structure.
  3. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    Mine is a fantasy book and it has allowed me to do that in previous versions of the story, my character can move backward and forward in space and time. I really enjoyed the final episode of the last Dr Who series, which messed around with chronolgy a lot. However I don't like it when the CSI shows start. It depends on the story.
  4. erik martin

    erik martin Active Member

    May 20, 2010
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    San Diego, CA
    Can be effective--put your MC in a tight spot then go back and show how he got there. However, there are times, depending on the author when I find it somewhat annoying. It is common in movies--how many movies open with the hero in dire straits and then spend the next 90 minutes working back up to that moment. More and more it seems.
  5. Manav

    Manav New Member

    Mar 26, 2010
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    Imphal, India
    There is nothing 'original' in the idea any more, you just have to watch, as Elgaisma said, CSI... they do it every week. This is not to say the idea is bad, but it is exhilarating to the mind when it is more complex and DO IT WELL (each time making it VERY clear when and where the scene is taking place)

    You can do that, just make sure the readers understood clearly that this scene takes place after the opening scene (knocking out scene)
  6. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    it's done all the time... just make sure you do it in a way that works well and won't confuse the readers...

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