A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.
Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.
Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)
So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!
Earlier this week I posted about November being National Novel Writing Month. Even if you aren’t officially participating in the event, you might pose yourself a similar challenge over the course of 30 days. Some of us have story ideas practically oozing from our skin, while others are just left with the passion to write but don’t have the tiniest clue about what. I came across a fun (in my lame writing nerd opinion) article on Slate that talked about Wycliff Aber Hill’s 1919 manual for screenwriters. Screenwriter or not, you will find his plotting section helpful. His claim was that there are only 37 basic dramatic situations that can be used to start plotting for your story. I thought this to be pretty cool because it shows how basic plotting can start off as. You don’t need an intricate web of interlocking events right from the start. All you need is a basic idea for your plot’s ‘situation’ and you will be surprised what you can do with it once you start writing. Hopefully these suggestions will light the fire to your very own novel writing month. I outlined the basics below, but click the link above to get more details.
- Lost loved ones recovered.
- A miracle of God.
- Love’s obstacles.
- Rivalry between unequals.
- Rivalry between kinsmen.
- A mystery
- Loving an enemy.
- Sacrifice of one’s self for an ordeal.
- Sacrifice for one’s self for kindred (or friend).
DISASTROUS SITUATIONS WITHOUT CRIMINAL INTENT:
- Possessed of an ambition.
- Fatal indiscretion.
- Enmity between kinsmen.
- Effort to obtain.
- Daring effort.
- Kindred avenged against kindred.
- Mistaken jealousy.
- Involuntary criminal love.
DISASTROUS SITUATIONS WITH CRIMINAL INTENT:
- Struggle against God.
- To sacrifice all for a passion.
- Adultery with murder.
- Criminal love.
- Loved ones lost.
- Falling a prey.
- An innocent suspected.
- Obligation to sacrifice loved ones.
- To learn of the dishonor of a loved one.
- Mental derangement.
- To kill a kinsmen or friend before recognition.