Shadows of the Grey Tower has been in Limbo since December, due to basically Writer’s block on my part – I needed a way to transition between two points in time. Five years needed to pass, the main character needed to grow up, and while not much important occurs in those five years I had maintained a relatively continuous flow of narrative.
So, in the end, five years of novel time consumed 1700 words of novel length and two months of writer time. It also resulted in my spending a good chunk of time thinking on time transitions in stories, and the options I see there.
1) the direct cut.
Scene A closed, and Scene B opens. There is no intervening text, but Scene B opens with ‘six months later’ or includes a lot of hints as to the time gap in its first few paragraphs. This also gets done a lot with a ‘time stamp’ – a little blurb at the top of each Scene listing where and when it occurs.
Pros: we’re only showing the important parts of the story and don’t need to come up with verbiage to cover the intervening time frame, just a little bit of description of the past if its a major jump.
Cons: we’re only showing the important parts of the story. A lot of little background detail can easily be lost, though anything really important we can probably slip into the description of the time gap. This, however, risks telling instead of showing, always a big worry…
In this case, we insert a Scene, call it A-B, between Scenes A and B. It isn’t really a scene in its own right, as covers our intervening six months in much less space than our active scenes are occupying. It’s told at a high level, with occasional drops into greater detail for more important pieces. A good example of this is the first book of the Belgariad, where almost all of Garion’s life before the grand quest begins is told at this level of detail.
Pros: we avoid having to backfill data in Scene B and we can include a little bit more background detail than with a direct cut.
Cons: its pretty hard to avoid telling not showing here. The point is to show what happens not just tell as in method 1, but because of the high level view we take of the time frame, a lot of information is just dumped by telling.
Now in Shadows of the Grey Tower, I decided to hold to a continuous narrative viewpoint. This meant I finally went with options 2, and like I said, it took two months of thought but not even two thousand words to make the link between the two parts of the story.
Anyone reading this have thoughts on the two methods? Any pros or cons I’ve missed? Any methods that didn’t cross my pen? The comments on here are pretty quiet so far 😉