Past vs. Present setting

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Past vs. Present setting

Post by myangelie04 » June 25th, 2010, 7:40 pm

I'm starting out on my next project (I really shouldn't until I finish the current one, but I can't help when inspiration hits)'s written partly in the past, and partly in the present. I can't decide how to incorporate the two. I was thinking of starting in the present, then going back and forth between the past and present, but I don't want to it get confusing. Is it better to write the past as a whole and then switch to the present? It all makes sense in my head, but then, I already know the story!

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Re: Past vs. Present setting

Post by polymath » June 25th, 2010, 8:11 pm

William Faulkner's 1930 "A Rose for Emily" transitions smoothly through a nonlinear narrative timeline. Present, past, farther past, present, past, and present. It does what I require of a satisfying nonlinear narrative timeline: It makes sense and the plot keeps moving forward. I've encountered similar nonlinear narrative methods in recent stand-alone novel and novel saga installment releases.

At a short four thousand words (3600), "A Rose for Emily" is a good candidate for investigating nonlinear timelines and timeline transitions.

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Re: Past vs. Present setting

Post by cheekychook » June 25th, 2010, 9:58 pm

I agree with Polymath---it's all about making smooth transitions. As long as you keep your reader feeling comfortable with where they are, and there's a solid reason for them being there, it's okay to hop around in time. Generally speaking, keeping things smooth and relevant are two of the most important things a writer needs to do. You can't confuse or jar your reader too much or too often or they'll stop reading (or throw your book at their pet/spouse/wall).

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Re: Past vs. Present setting

Post by sarahdee » July 9th, 2010, 4:35 am

I had the same dilemma with mine. I tried to keep it coherent by keeping all the present bits in chronological order and all the past bits in chronological order rather than skipping about too much. I am sure much better writers than me could handle completely mixed up time lines but I wanted to keep it simple. I've also clearly labelled each chapter with the date. As much of my past flashbacks happen on one night, I also included references to exact times


May 2010
Nov 1993
June 2010
March 1996 - around 11pm
July 2010
March 1996 - just after midnight

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