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Do you have any advice for dealing with time jumps? (1 Viewer)

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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
The novel I am writing is based on a real-life financial fraud case that occurred in the years 2000 to 2002. While I have fictionalized the corporations and characters, the settings and time frame are true to life. I would liken it to fictional movies such as The Titanic and Pearl Harbour. The book starts with a prologue and is subtitled New York City 2002. The first chapter is then subtitled New York City 2000. The next 39 chapters happen in a six-week period. Now, in order to stay consistent with the actual history, I have planned two time jumps. One will occur after six months and the other will occur after one year and three months.

I thought I'd reach out and see if anyone has any advice or creative ideas on how to signal time jumps.

Advice for my particular scenario would be great.

Please also feel free to share examples of things that have worked for you, or other good methods you have seen.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Of course, the most simple is merely announce how much time has passed. It's not the most artistic or dramatic, but it might not need to be. There are a few other things I've seen, and a couple I've used:

  • List intervening news events.
  • Change the season.
  • Mention a life event (promotion, death of a family member) and a character's long-term reaction to it.
  • Mention a list of simple things which happen with the character(s).
  • Suddenly have the character involved in an activity which would have taken some time to come about (friend was three months pregnant ... next chapter character is holding the baby).
  • Mention how long it took before an anticipated event happened.

In my sci-fi book from last year, two characters were kidnapped and kept in induced comas while being transported. I described how the MC occasionally came to and remembered a few details before he was put under again. When they arrived at the destination, he could estimate the travel time. Later I described a planned investigation of a corrupt judge turned private attorney. I had a couple of scenes after that, then segued to "It took three months before investigators gathered all the evidence Jim Garsch discussed, then made it ready to present to prosecuting attorneys for the Terran government." Something similar might be "The Board discussed among themselves concern for how Joe Smith ran the company, but it took them 15 months to gather the collective nerve to pull the plug."

And you can use a combination of techniques.

How you do this is going to concern you more than it concerns the reader.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Of course, the most simple is merely announce how much time has passed. It's not the most artistic or dramatic, but it might not need to be. There are a few other things I've seen, and a couple I've used:

  • List intervening news events.
  • Change the season.
  • Mention a life event (promotion, death of a family member) and a character's long-term reaction to it.
  • Mention a list of simple things which happen with the character(s).
  • Suddenly have the character involved in an activity which would have taken some time to come about (friend was three months pregnant ... next chapter character is holding the baby).
  • Mention how long it took before an anticipated event happened.

In my sci-fi book from last year, two characters were kidnapped and kept in induced comas while being transported. I described how the MC occasionally came to and remembered a few details before he was put under again. When they arrived at the destination, he could estimate the travel time. Later I described a planned investigation of a corrupt judge turned private attorney. I had a couple of scenes after that, then segued to "It took three months before investigators gathered all the evidence Jim Garsch discussed, then made it ready to present to prosecuting attorneys for the Terran government." Something similar might be "The Board discussed among themselves concern for how Joe Smith ran the company, but it took them 15 months to gather the collective nerve to pull the plug."

And you can use a combination of techniques.

How you do this is going to concern you more than it concerns the reader.
That's great advice and more importantly, you have given me the confidence to go forward without worrying about it too much. Since I like to tell the important aspects of the story in dialogue, I thought I'd try something like this.

CHAPTER FORTY

Six Months Later


As Claire sat waiting in the Santana’s office for Pamela to arrive, she thought back on the events that had changed the course of her perfect life. It all started with Peter the night of Meredith’s charity event. She remembered the conversation as if it were yesterday.

And then the conversation of which I can't share because it will ruin it if you ever read it. I'm interested to hear people's opinions. Does this work?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
That's great advice and more importantly, you have given me the confidence to go forward without worrying about it too much. Since I like to tell the important aspects of the story in dialogue, I thought I'd try something like this.

CHAPTER FORTY

Six Months Later


As Claire sat waiting in the Santana’s office for Pamela to arrive, she thought back on the events that had changed the course of her perfect life. It all started with Peter the night of Meredith’s charity event. She remembered the conversation as if it were yesterday.

And then the conversation of which I can't share because it will ruin it if you ever read it. I'm interested to hear people's opinions. Does this work?
It works, but I'd watch out for the cliche (remembered as if it were yesterday). It stands out more in a short selection than it might in the middle of a story, though. For example, if the conversation was stressful, you could have something like "she found she often relived that conversation when her mind was idle".
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
The novel I am writing is based on a real-life financial fraud case that occurred in the years 2000 to 2002. While I have fictionalized the corporations and characters, the settings and time frame are true to life. I would liken it to fictional movies such as The Titanic and Pearl Harbour. The book starts with a prologue and is subtitled New York City 2002. The first chapter is then subtitled New York City 2000. The next 39 chapters happen in a six-week period. Now, in order to stay consistent with the actual history, I have planned two time jumps. One will occur after six months and the other will occur after one year and three months.

I thought I'd reach out and see if anyone has any advice or creative ideas on how to signal time jumps.

Advice for my particular scenario would be great.

Please also feel free to share examples of things that have worked for you, or other good methods you have seen.
I used a spot of rumination in one story.

The smell of gingerbread coffee took Alice's reminiscing back six months to the time everything changed. They had been heady days. Now the fall out was about to start flattening some high fliers' careers.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Question - does your story hit a natural pause where the break happens?

If so, there's nothing says you can't pick up with Part II: Six Months Later. Put that on a page unto itself and it makes the jump harder for the reader to miss and reinforces the passage of time.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It works, but I'd watch out for the cliche (remembered as if it were yesterday). It stands out more in a short selection than it might in the middle of a story, though. For example, if the conversation was stressful, you could have something like "she found she often relived that conversation when her mind was idle".
You see that's what happens when you get me too relaxed...the cliches are flying everywhere...lol! But, at least it got me over the hump and I was able to move forward with the chapter. I like the idea of the dialogue because I'm not a huge fan of long backstories in narration. I can finesse the transition into something more like:

Pamela had wanted to meet at the office to discuss what she described on the phone as, "Not great news." While Claire waited, she remembered the last time she got some unwelcome news. Six months ago, in the Hamptons, the trajectory of her perfect life shifted after a conversation with Peter.

Although now I'm using a word twice, which I'm not a fan of.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I used a spot of rumination in one story.

The smell of gingerbread coffee took Alice's reminiscing back six months to the time everything changed. They had been heady days. Now the fall out was about to start flattening some high fliers' careers.
I love the idea of using smell as a reminder of the back story. And your piece is exactly the tone I was shooting for.

Organizing was Claire's go-to therapy when she was stressed. Pamela had said she wanted to meet to discuss what she described on the phone as, "Not great news." While waiting, she calmed her nerves by cleaning out a dresser drawer. There it was. One of Peter's cashmere sweaters. She picked it up and buried her face in it. The smell brought her back to six months ago. That night in the Hamptons after the charity event.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Question - does your story hit a natural pause where the break happens?

If so, there's nothing says you can't pick up with Part II: Six Months Later. Put that on a page unto itself and it makes the jump harder for the reader to miss and reinforces the passage of time.
I like the concept! There is not really a natural pause that would warrant a second part. It is really a continuation of the same story unraveling. I only need the break because the actual historical timeframe set the next major incident six months later, and it would be too long to cover that period in between. I can't picture it, but I will give it some thought. If you know of an example that works with a real-life story let me know.
 
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Tettsuo

WF Veterans
I recently had this discussion with a beta reader about my current WIP. The reader felt I didn't connect the past to the current well enough to keep them in the story. My solution was to add a scene where I placed the character in a similar place and had her mention being around that location 12 years prior. Of course, I didn't make as plain as "Hey, I was here 12 years ago", but you know what I mean.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
There are a few ways I handle times jumps in my own writing, which include:

1) Putting a date/time stamp on certain acts/scenes
2) Announcing the movement in time
3) Having the characters discuss the passage of time openly, yet neatly. No need to waste too much dialogue on this
4) Character checks a chronometer

It really depends on the story I am writing. I write one-offs, and also write a series that involves time travel, so I really
have to have the periods of time figured out and mapped in the story itself.

Hope this helps.

-JJB.
 
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