e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

Nose to the Grindstone: timelines

You will have noticed no word counts for a few days.  That's because the virus and exhaustion have temporarily disabled my FFB (fast fiction brain) and what I have to work with now are two other modules, the LEB (logical explanatory brain) and the AB (analytical brain.)

Which means it's a good time to work on time lines when I can keep my eyes open (the eyelids are lined with sawdust but very heavy.   The entire head is very heavy and wants to fall off, but I'm not letting it.)

The problem with timelines is that if you do them after the first draft, you discover why you should have done them before. 

Of course I knew I should do them before.  But I was still hoping to find the old notebooks with the old timelines that gave me every detail of travel times (for instance) plus other stuff I haven't been able to intuit.

Instead I had to go back to basics.  If Train A leaves Chicago at 9:45 traveling 52 mph, and Train B leaves Denver...no, wait, wrong century/universe.   What I have now is the first of what will be many large sheets of graph paper with names across the top and days down the side (two squares per day, because there's day, and then there's night.)  So on Night 0, for instance, Kieri leaves Verella for Chaya, and Selfer rides north to contact Dorrin's cohort and bring them south (this is all in Paks III).   Someone in Dorrin's cohort then continues north to the Duke's Stronghold to let them know what's happening.  When does that messenger arrive?   If someone then goes back to Verella from the Stronghold, how long does that take?   Paks readers know that on Day 10 (in that sequence) there's a battle.  When could word of the battle get back to Verella?   Will A get to V before or after B gets to V?

Some events/time-intervals were set in the Paks books and cannot be changed without ruining continuity.   Paks's recruit group took seven days on the road from the Duke's stronghold to Verella in Paks I.   This is pre-auto/train/plane travel, so getting there is less predictable (weather, road conditions, terrain, load, etc. all figure in) but some transit times would be clearly impossible.  (I could drive, on a good road, from Verella to the Duke's Stronghold  in a day.  On a superhighway, less than a day.  It's still seven days on foot for a marching unit--if the weather holds.  On horseback?  With one horse only or with relays?  All this has to be calculated....and then the decisions come.   For the plot, it's best if one traveler is in and out of the city before the next arrives...and after (but not long after) another.  First approximation put the wrong one first.    

This has plot significance.  Causes come before effects (well--usually and sort of...)   If you want event X to affect character A's decision on something, A must learn about event X before making the decision. 

In addition, when working with multiple viewpoint stories--in which the POV characters are not in the same place at the same time--the decision on how to braid the POV sections together so the reader isn't confused will depend on exactly this kind of control of temporal information....the reader needs to feel the story moving forward, not be jerked around in time.  (Some readers like that; most don't.)  

In this instance, if the second courier travels as fast as the first, and the second character responds as quickly and decisively as he could, the events he needs to know about will not have happened yet.   Why would he not respond that quickly?   Hmmm....that will have to wait until the FFB comes back on line.  The chart has a little box that says "Need delay or...???"


Tags: the writing life
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