Time after Time after Timelines . . .

Someone somewhen said that time is nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once.

Someone else said that children are nature’s way of making sure everything does.*

So, apparently, is writing a book.

I’m not just talking about deadlines—though when I set mine, I’d forgotten that this is the week Janie and I signed up for an evening family activity “camp” and half my day off this Friday will be dedicated to various dental and medical appointments that have been put off for far too long already.

I’m talking about actual timelines. 

The other evening, I realized that I have five chapters and three scenes happening in the same four or five hour period.  Granted, there are nine characters heading with purpose in four different directions** and two of them got up pretty early, but that’s still lot of stuff going on one morning before they all come together again to discover what’s happened in everyone’s mutual absence, with the exception of the one it happened to, and the two who made it happen.

After that, there are three conversations, one long distance phone call, one emergency plane ride, a dangerous conversation, another phone call, a guilt trip, and possibly a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge, though I’ll have to check my Writer’s Guide to Grievous Bodily Harm first, to make sure it’s physically possible.***  All before midnight.

I think I forgot lunch in there, but two of ‘em had brunch, so . . . never mind.

The plane ride, the second phone call, and the guilt trip have to line up.  The rest has to be in order, but no one is really looking at their watches.  Especially, it may be noted, me.

So I decided to take the time this morning to make up a chart in Excel that plotted everyone’s movements that day, using colors.  Lots of colors.  It looks like a solid OCD rainbow designed by a Tetris champion.  And it seems out that everything can happen, exactly as written. Each scene hangs logically on its predecessor(s). 

Chronologically, it all works.

But I’m afraid it might be a tad exhausting to read.  Those nine characters might not have had such a tiring day^ individually—fraught, perhaps—but their collective experiences are being launched at the reader’s imagination at a furious pace.

While I’m hoping to write something that will compel people to turn pages, I don’t want those pages turning backward because readers can’t absorb all the events.

So it occurred to me that if I shift the dangerous conversation and the second phone call to the next morning, the guilt trip can be divided into two parts—guilt is as regenerating and adhesive as starfish—and I can still slip in some uncertain pre-nudging without tearing open any (physical) wounds.  

The pacing will be better, I think, and the characters will be well-positioned for the next rodeo.  Plus everyone will have time to pack.

And then maybe we can all get some rest. ^^ 


*Especially when you’re on the phone.

**Okay, one’s sitting still, which isn’t perhaps the best idea, but he doesn’t know that . . . or does he?

***I wish—that baby would save bookshelf space and keep me off the blasted Internet. Who wants to volunteer to write it?

^Though when the adrenaline wears off, the crash will be impressive.  This is what is called an autobiographical element . . .  

^^This is what is called wishful thinking.


12 thoughts on “Time after Time after Timelines . . .

  1. Oh my, you have your hands full. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in my books, but I do sometimes lose track of body parts. (Wait, he’s not an octopus, how can his hands be in three places at once? And when did he unbuckle his pants?)

  2. Timelines. I am so, so with you.
    Granted, mine are years, of who is where and lining them up with the real counterparts to make sure someone isn’t say in Cuba when they are at a party on Long Island, or you know a testy war might make it difficult to be a certain religion and running around in France in Germany, but you know, same idea.

    I had to do the timeline as well. I could still make it work, ages changed just slightly up or down, but man, the hassle!

  3. I love your color chart. You could totally market those. Mouse pads, coasters, even tee-shirts would work.

    You remind me of a band leader, orchestrating the flow of the music. Arms stretched, slightly bent, pointing at your various characters. Watching you move is fascinating.

    • Ha! I’m just along for the ride at this point. It’s all smoke, mirrors, and caffeine.

      That’s not my chart in the graphic, by the way—that’s wallpaper from a Tetris site. I couldn’t get a screen shot of my chart to work right. 😦

  4. Sometimes when I’m reading a fast paced book I do have to go back and check things – I think that’s okay. You get caught up in the flow and then you retrace your steps a bit to double check.

    Or maybe I’m just a bit thick…

    • You aren’t even the slightest bit dense, Downith. And thanks for the reassurance!

      I received my copy of To Know the Road yesterday! I read one—one—chapter after I opened the mailer and had to put it down well away from my desk. Margaret is quite a character and I already feel for Victoria!

    • Oh Downith! Such a good point. I do this all the time. I’m a flipper, double checking incessantly.

      Sarah, I actually have great fun doing it, solving the riddle, going back to see why I missed something. If it’s built like that though, you have to be so, so on your game because people are looking for errors. I LOVE not finding them.

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