1. Snowball

    Snowball New Member

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    Writing different chapters set at the same time?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Snowball, Aug 28, 2020.

    The book that I'm writing resolves around the lives of multiple characters.

    Therefore I want every character to have their own chapter (I write in third person though). Each chapter will be based on one of the characters and what's happening to them, and then the next chapter will go to the next character and so on.

    The only thing is, for example, two of my chapters are about different characters, but they are happening at the same time. How do I make sure the reader knows this is the case?

    Do I directly tell them with times and dates etc.?

    Or is there a subtler way to do it. Like, during the writing?
     
  2. N.Scott

    N.Scott Active Member

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    You may consider using whichever pov you're writing as the chapter title.
     
  3. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Are they happening at the same time at the same event? In other words, is it two different perspectives of the same event? Or are they happening at the same time, but in two different places?

    In each case, yes, it's important to orient the reader. Make it clear in the previous chapter where and when that event is happening, and who the POV character is. Then do the same for the change of POV chapter.

    Do NOT rely on chapter headings to do all the work! Many readers don't really pay attention to what is in a chapter heading. And if the heading includes a date, and they've forgotten what the previous date was, they'll need to backtrack.

    Just make it clear who, what, where and when in the prose itself—as close to the start of the chapter as you can. Starting with the name of the character (if it's in third person) is probably the best way. Then what they are doing, where they are doing it, and how it relates to what has gone before, in terms of time frame.

    For me, nothing destroys story immersion like disorientation. If I read several sentences, realise I've picked up the wrong end of the stick and this is NOT where or who I thought it was, I have to backtrack and start again. That annoys me. A lot.
     
  4. tandem1

    tandem1 New Member

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    If these are rather “side” characters, then you can put them both in the same chapter, no? At least that would be one possibility and because of the fact that these characters do not have a completely separate chapter, it is easier for the readers to understand that these are less important characters than those who got an entire chapter. I personally would not give any time or date information. I always find this a bit annoying if I read that in books, because it inhibits the imagination a bit. But that is only my personal opinion. :)
     
  5. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Senior Member

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    George R.R. Martin used this tactic in one of his Game of Thrones books (I can't remember which one), but he took it a step further and wrote an entire book that took place at the same time as one of the previous books in the series. This was confusing until I realized what was happening. I think if you leave small but important clues to what's going on then it'll be easier for your readers to follow. Like Jannert said, disorientation while reading is incredibly off putting for me and makes me disinterested in continuing to read.

    I don't know if chapter headings or section headings would work in this instance because it depends on the story. Mary Higgins Clark wrote scenes from different perspectives and she used dates and times to indicate who was telling the story when. It can work, but I feel like sometimes that's a bit too direct of an approach.
     
  6. tde44

    tde44 New Member

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    Personally I prefer different "scenes" within the same chapter so the timeline isn't as confusing for the reader. I don't mind if a characters backstory gets its own chapter, but constantly rewinding the clock from one chapter to the next makes the reader work too hard to follow the story....at least IMHO.

    As always, lots of exceptions and it is whatever you prefer as the creator.
     
  7. Snowball

    Snowball New Member

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    No, the chapters aren't happening at the same event - just at the same time.
    I'm the same when it comes to having to backtrack. When reading I like to know exactly when and where my characters are and if I get the wrong end of the stick and have to backtrack - it annoys me. That's why I want to get this right.
     
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  8. Snowball

    Snowball New Member

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    I guess slipping the "side" characters into the same chapter as the main character could work - I'll have a look. Thank you. And yes, usually I agree that dates and times are annoying, but my book is set in the past so it's kind of necessary. I'll just do the date; not the time.
     

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