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Time
Bradley
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:01 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 18


Is time important in your stories? If so, how do you keep track of time?

And do you have any favorite examples of using time as a plot- or suspense-building tool? (Other than 24, which always seemed to take a ham-fisted approach)

MarieDees
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:08 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


For the mystery novels timing can be important. I've had to resort to building a Excel chart a couple of times to make sure I knew who was were when. And also to make sure I remembered what day of the week certain events took place on.
Bradley
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:36 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 18


I've thought about using Excel before. I've also just tossed in date/time stamps at the start of scenes to make balancing them out easier.

Have you found any specialized software for keeping track of time and dates?
MarieDees
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 8:18 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


I've looked into some that chart timelines and such, but I really can get through most novels without worrying about too much detail on where everyone is at every moment. It's the mystery novels that are tricky because the readers also try to track the character's movements and any "off screen" character is still a suspect.

So even if I'm not planning to write a scene showing what a particular character is doing -- Patrick is waiting tables or Myra is in the bookstore -- I have to know what they're doing so it doesn't conflict with anything else. If Myra is in the bookstore, would she see the killer if....

A friend suggested Google calender for time tracking. Which could work in a more general sense, but for a mystery it doesn't show me everything I need to see at once. I'm still looking for the perfect timeline tracking software for mystery novels.
Bradley
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:54 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 18


Huh, I never thought about character-tracking as being something confined to just mysteries. I know it's something I do when I'm plotting. "I haven't heard from so and so in a while, I wonder what they're up to now..."

Day dreaming here, it would be cool to have a tool that tracked character actions and married those actions to scene importance/tension to really track the tension of a novel, especially one with multiple concurrent plot lines.
MarieDees
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 3:16 AM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


I don't think it's confined to mysteries. It's just intensified in mystery. When I write other genres -- romance, fantasy, etc. -- when characters are "off stage" I usually have a general idea of what they're doing, even if I'm not writing about it. But in mystery I actually have to work with a specific focus of the story being on a character who is actually creating the conflict out of the reader's view.

In a mystery novel, we often don't see the murderer act. We see the effect of the action after it's taken place. So I don't just need to know where everyone is when the body is found. I need to know where they were hours before when the victim was murdered. Who has alibis for the police. Who needs to be without an alibi so I don't run out of suspects. Who was somewhere where they might have heard or seen something that means the murderer will come after them. And the actual clue items have to be tracked too. Where was the scarf and who could have gotten hold of it to strangle the victim? Who had access to the pot of coffee and when?

Mystery readers know there are clues hidden somewhere so they're looking for all these things too. Mystery novels function as a game between the author and the reader. If the writer misses something, the reader will find it.
KD Sarge
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:04 AM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 16


I've used StorYBook to track threads before. I'm told it's like Scrivener, only free. It can certainly do much more than help you track threads.

http://storybook.intertec.ch/joomla/

Generally I just make a seven-column table in OpenOffice and call it my calendar, but I don't usually have a lot of characters in different places and times to track.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 3:44 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383


While I don't *generally* worry too much about it, because I don't generally write things where it becomes an issue, I have had to track time before. The most important instance was one where the POV character's time sense was totally bollixed up, and many things were happening off screen, and once in a great while time *did* come up as clues to why his time sense was off, mostly things like 'I haven't eaten in *how* long?'

I found MS Project's Gantt chart to be a fabulous tool for timelines. I suppose any project management software with Gantt chart capability would work just as well. Kind of using a 'will it blend' blender to stir up your chocolate milk, but by god that milk was stirred but good.
lesliedow
Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:03 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 3


I've tried a lot of different tools for this. Most have been mentioned here. But one that is kind of cool and fun is Dipity. http://www.dipity.com

Its an interactive timeline tool. That lets you expand and contract times depending on your needs. It also allows you to map points on the timeline with google maps.

It also has neat graphics and can be a real time sink! LOL

Leslie
Tori Schindler
Posted: Monday, March 21, 2011 1:30 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 41


I use Excel for one series where every story is from a different character's POV but their stories overlap. It's a pain to keep track of where everyone is year after year but then also during a couple short critical periods where everything happens at once in different places. I think Nathan Bransford called it a series bible in one of his posts. It's handy to keep track of time not just character information/world building.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:25 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


One of my current wip is interesting in that it goes between day to day, journalistic detail, to a paragraph handling a few days worth of time. Its made pacing interesting, as I have to make it not feel like everything is happening together. A few scenes coming up, timing is going to be very important. I like the excel timeline idea, I may use it!
Thothguard
Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 3:37 AM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 18


Many editors keep track of character movement and the passage of time on their style sheets, especially with epic novels that span a good deal of time.

For short stories or stories where the whole book takes place in a matter of days, its not such a big deal.

I have read books where the readers know the passage of time because its usually listed as the chapter titlle or as the first paragraph of each chapter. Day 1, Day 2, Day 6, etc etc...
stephmcgee
Posted: Monday, March 28, 2011 2:40 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I know I need to keep better track of timeline and such. In one novel, I realized that the seasons were changing and I'd not made any note of it. In another, I would make references to a passage of time but then I'd also be sitting there and realize that either more time than I'd referenced had passed or less time had passed.

With the first novel, I created handwritten calendars. The major events of each storyline for each character went on whatever day they were referenced as in the book. If things didn't make sense to each other, I'd move dates around. I also used the calendars to track birth dates and festivals/holidays. (This was a fantasy world so there was a lot to track.)
MB Mulhall
Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 9:16 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 81


I don't normally have to be too concerned with time but when I'm working on my fantasy novel, rather than use a time line, I made up a map to chart their progress from place to place. It's really helpful, not to mention helps me remember what weird names I give to the towns they visit
Bradley
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 2:42 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 18


There is a Windows beta and the community has rolled up a Linux version as well (though the .deb releases have been hit or miss lately).
 

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