1. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Spanning a story over years

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by O'ree Williams, Jan 25, 2017.

    Greetings fellow writers,
    I am working on a project that spans approximately eight years. The burning question I have is, what is the best way to approach this. Mind you, there is at least one sub-plot in this project, so it and the main story will be interwoven. That said, I obviously want to keep the interest of my readers. Any advice would be welcomed.

    Thanks
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Well, not sure about the plot or anything, but since I'm assuming you'll mostly be highlighting the important things that happen in those eight years, you're going to have to be mindful of your narrative summary and omniscient voice. Think of it as connective tissue. You'll probably have a few places were you need to rapidly advance the plot to fit the timeline, so I'd be think ahead about how you plan to summarize all that. A strong omniscient voice is probably the best bet. Something reliable that can take the wheel for a bit to skip ahead a year or two. The main scenes wouldn't be the problem, it's all the spaces in between.
     
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  3. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Thanks Homer, I appreciate your feedback. The POV I am writing is primarily 3rd person limited. I have heard told that switching between 3rd person limited and Omniscient can be confusing. Any recommendations on doing that gracefully? I get where you are going with using an omniscient viewpoint as it can work well to fill in the exposition, but I just want to make sure I don't lose the reader's interest in the process.
     
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    To add on to what Homer already said, smooth transitions are really going to be the key here. Since you know exactly how much time this novel is to span, you might benefit from laying out a timeline to consult as you go. I've never written anything with that kind of scope, but it's been done. I don't remember how many years it is, but The Count of Monte Cristo does the manipulation of narrative time very well, and this one covers the majority of Edmond Dantes' life! So certainly it shouldn't be too much of an issue.
     
  5. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Many Thanks Spencer.
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    You wouldn't actually switch to an omniscient POV. It's more of a voice thing. All writing that isn't in 1st person has it to some degree. It's wherever the writing goes when it needs to pull back and advance time. It's kind of like narrative summary, but because there's a time delineation, it might need to leave the POV and wander around a bit. Some books require a lot of it. Some books none. Yours would seem to trend toward the longer side.

    You could also play around with interludes. Some short chapters between the major acts of the book that summarize in a clever way. Lots of writers do italicized chapters here, or they'll switch to a 1st person POV and have a character (usually a minor one) talk directly to the reader, usually in some epistolary form like a journal or a letter back home. In my opinion, the interludes tend to come off as lame but some books do it brilliantly.
     
  7. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    I would agree with the interlude bit. At least as far as my project goes. As I write it, I find that it has the potential to become extremely complex, what with tying in a long timeline, adding subplots, and keeping the POV straight. That's why I turn to this forum (among others) to do the self check.

    Again, many thanks.
     
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  8. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    I think it would be very interesting. Personally in my writing, I avoid modern times and American slang with an expansion of ten years even. One collection I did called Novellas de los túneles subterráneos stretches over a million years on earth. I think brings a sense of vastness to the story.
     
  9. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    My first novel covers a similar span of time. It's very long. More recently I've wondered if I could have written a series instead (something that never crossed my mind for many reasons not important to this thread). My answer is no, it could not, because that's the time it takes to tell the character's relevant story. By now I realise that the reader has to be interested in the character or they won't keep reading. I can only write it to the best of my ability. From this point on it's out of my hands. Not everyone will be interested in this character but this is the story I want to tell, so that settles it.
    I simply started at the beginning and told it as it happened. I've tried to keep the reader interested by never neglecting the main plot, ever, if only in the character's thoughts. I want the reader to know it's not over yet, the story has a lot more to offer.
    What are the problems or hard parts you're encountering or worrying about, specifically?
     
  10. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Hi Rosa,
    The project I am working on is a historical piece, and I was concerned about tying historical events accurately, as they pertained to the overall story. My main concern is not losing the reader's interest as the plot line lengthened. After careful consideration, I think I have a solution whereby I have been able to shorten the timeline a bit, and then fill in the historical event parts with a combination of exposition (albeit carefully crafted), and flashbacks. When I really looked at it, I came to the conclusion that I could get away with this because some of what I had included, really didn't advance the story so much. Additionally, by doing this, I could use the historical events as augmentation to the story, rather than making it the main focus.

    Many thanks for your input.
     
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Sure you can, but you have to be decisive with the events as they pertain to the story.
    Pretty much sticking to the important things, with little fluff or filler.

    I wrote a short of 9521 words, that spans the entire adult life of a person.
    Though it is in third omniscient and first diary entries.

    So I think you can handle spanning 8 years with relatively ease if you work it right. :supersmile:
     
  12. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    In short, whatever you do, you have to keep promising. The reader has to know at all times there's a lot more to come, and it will be rewarding to keep reading.
    A bit of advice in your case specifically, from my personal opinion. I tend to get bored by historical facts in fiction. When I want detailed facts I prefer a good old History book; if I just want the gist of things I can always look up Wikipedia. So, when I''m reading historical fiction I want it to be about the story I don't know about "yet", be it the writer's version of real events or the stories of fictional characters that cross the path of real historical figures. An example, one of my favourite books ever, The Count of Monte Cristo. I couldn't care one bit about the Napoleon plot (I know all that, thanks) but I care a lot about Edmond Dantes. He's the story I don't know yet.
    Hope I've been of help. :)
     
  13. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Absolutely my take as well. I have no intention to make the historical fact the centerpiece to the story, as I know that takes away from the interest. However, my characters are present when historical events happen, but I only plan on telling their minute part of said event, and more as a minor flashback in order to move the story along.

    Many thanks for your input.
     

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