This week’s problem has been my timeline. I knew from the start of the book that I wanted to cover events over a year and a half time frame approximately. In order to cover that time interestingly, I incorporate time skips into my book which I use to improve pacing as I move between poignant and essential events. From a narrative perspective, it works. The only problem is the effect it has on the overall timeline.
My goal with the first draft was to capture the emotional progression of my characters and pace that journey well. I wanted to make sure that each character had enough time to process their situations and come to various conclusions without the story seeming rushed. I wanted them to have the time to discuss their views and form full, complex perspectives that differ from character to character. Outside of that, everything else was left to sort itself out.
My “laissez-faire” attitude had somewhat disastrous effects on the life of my character Jo. Jo is a member of Sam’s friend group, and, currently, she is also a competitive gymnast. She spends a lot of her time in the novel training, and on two notable occasions, she attends competitions. Both times, Sam accompanies Jo as she travels to the meets. The second meet is pivotal as it provides an explanation for Jo and Sam’s absence on the night of Charlie’s second suicide attempt. Narratively, Jo’s competitive lifestyle plays a vital role, but when it comes to real-life timing of gymnastic competitions, Jo’s competitive season doesn’t align with the surrounding emotional states. Charlie comes to her conclusion before Jo’s competitive season would began in earnest, making it unrealistic for her and Sam to be attending a meet at the same time. Jo’s timeline doesn’t match reality, thus it becomes unbelievable. The solution to the problem would be to allow more time to pass between Charlie’s depressive episodes, but that creates more timeline ripples which tend to tidal wave as the story goes.
One such tidal way is the school calendar. I decided to set the beginning of the book in April, as the girls are beginning to prepare for exams and it fits well with Charlie’s own sports career. After making that decision, I made no attempt follow a school calendar, and as a result, the High School that the girls attend ends classes in mid-July, and the college they attend later that year begins in October instead of late-August. Despite the summer lasting longer than usual, the girls only have time for six weeks of activities before school resumes. Additionally, Sam and Jo are able to rent, furnish and move into an apartment all within a span of three weeks.
One of the benefits of making the timeline is that I was able to see the anachronisms, which I can now fix, but I was also able to note plot threads that appear at the beginning of the book but never eventuate. By witnessing the loose strands of my story, I can decide to either take them out completely or add scenes that will bring them to fruition, making my story stronger with a more cohesive structure.
Timelines are the structures that humans use to understand change. They are an essential part of understanding development and growth, and they help people relate to each other. Humans can instinctively tell is something is moving too slowly or quickly, and that can make it harder to empathize with a character because it makes them seem unrealistic. Details add believability and allow the reader to become more invested in the story as a whole. Currently, my timeline is a mess, but it is important to me to get it right, so as to not diminish the effect that the story could otherwise have. Life is change, and time is how we mark it; so get your timelines; it’s essential.
Thank you for your company and your continued support.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The playlist is available. If you are interested in hearing the songs that very much lend to the atmosphere and emotions of the characters, feel free to check it out here.
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Project Status: Pre-Editing. I am tying up the last loose ends before beginning to edit my first chapter. Editing will commence next week.