1. Dagolas

    Dagolas Banned

    Feb 4, 2012
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    Pacing my novel despite loads of time-jumps

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Dagolas, Dec 21, 2015.


    In my novel, there's a very erratic spacing of events. It follows a man from him being six years old (though told from other's POV's since he's a child), then it goes to when he's seven (now from his POV) for a scene or two, then it jumps to when he's thirteen for two scenes, then to when he's fourteen for an entire chapter, then to when he's sixteen for two chapters. Then it jumps and for a good few chapter's he's 18-19 (they are close together since it starts at end of eighteen). Then it goes to 21, 22, then it jumps a bit everywhere until he's 56.

    I'm at a loss on how the hell to pace it!
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I'd think you'd want the pacing to be based on the reader's experience, not the character's. So it sounds like you've already made the wise decision to leave out the boring stuff that hits between your highlighted years - good call!

    Beyond that? Can you shape the scenes so they're building to mini-climaxes, then mini-denouements, then building to the next mini-climax, all on the way to the ultimate? That's the standard pacing idea, and I can't see why it would have to be changed just because your scenes are spaced out in time. They still fit together somehow, right?
  3. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

    May 8, 2014
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    Washington, DC, USA
    Yeah @BayView sounds about like what I was thinking.

    Depending on your writing process, I'd just write it how you envision it and see how the pace feels.

    Honestly, pacing has almost nothing to do with the in-story chronology. It's more about the consistent forward movement of the narrative and the speed at which you want the story to move in terms of reader experience. You can drag out a day or compress a year. Plus, its sounds like you have a linear timeline, so forward momentum should be relatively easy, considering that you're moving forward in time rather than bouncing between the past and the present.

    So, I haven't seen your work, but based what you described, I'm not sure you have as big of a problem as you think you do. You seem to have a clear thought process on roughly how much important stuff happens at which point in the characters life, and how long we need to spend with him - it's just that your in-story chronology spans decades rather than days or months.

    The only other thing I'd suggest is to think about any books you might know that have similar time spans and see how they do it. I'm reading one right now (Cixin Liu's 'The Three-Body Problem") which has two timelines, one flashback and one present, and so far the flashback timeline has effectively spanned 20 years of the character Ye Wenjie's life without making me angry. The author just drops in on Wenjie at the high points of her life, stays there as long as he needs, and then next time we pick her up, it's could have been six months or eight years. Another one is Issac Azimov's "Foundation" - which traces the development of a civilization over a couple hundred years - that one is told in a series of five roughly even vignettes spaced about 50 years apart, and it still has forward momentum and a consistent plot. So, really there are lots of ways to do this.

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