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Need ideas on how to show passage of time.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dark Huntress, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. Dark Huntress

    Dark Huntress Scribe

    I am at the point in my WIP where my MC has already suffered her traumatic childhood and has started to show magical tendencies. She is eight years old. Now it's time for her Aunt to take her to an island for mystical training. This part of the story is necessary but adds nothing so I want to skip it.

    I would like to end the chapter with the six year MC being on the island but have the next chapter start when she is 16. I just don't know how to do this smoothly. I would appreciate any ideas.

    Also the first three chapters are told from the Aunts perspective but I want to switch to the first person perspective when the character turns 16. The aunt will simply disappear never to be heard from again....yay or nay?

    I haven't touched this story in about a year (work called) and it is taking me awhile to get back in the flow.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
  2. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

    Here's a few approaches:

    The passage of time can be described itself. "The weeks turned into months, the months into years." It's a poor example but you get the idea.

    Dialogue is another option. For example start a scene where your MC is conducting some advanced magic (perhaps don't reveal who it is at first). Then someone asks who she is and how long she's been training etc...

    If you have any other characters in a different place to the MC, perhaps switch to their POV. It will make the passage of time seem more genuine to the reader if they return to the MC after a few chapters.
  3. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Your idea for dropping the nanny for a first person 16 year old narrative sounds good to me. A good way for a time passage is one of two ways. One is a space between paragraphs, maybe a little doodle or insignia in that space, and you write from her perspective maybe in her classroom thinking "Fifth year at this place and this class is still boring" or something like that. Another way is to start the 16 year old narrative from the beginning of the next chapter. Just let the readers know from the get go that it's your protagonist all grown up.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    You don't have to do anything special unless you really want to. You are ending one chapter entirely, and starting a new chapter. Just start the new chapter at the point ten years later, writing normally. You don't have to do some kind of transition to address the passage of time.

    Works for me.
  5. TyGee

    TyGee Acolyte

    Hi there.

    Is it possible for you to create a dating system for your world? This way you can palce this date above the relevant passage as a way of indicating time and era. It's a widely used method. For example; 1209, Year of Misrule.

    Just an idea. Hope this helps.
  6. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

    A simple convention would be to show the character receiving or taking part in some sort of rite of passage (e.g. graduating magic school) that indicates her age or you could make a reference to said rite. The school does seem like a good place to nurture and develop this character. Maybe you could recap it.

    Kill the aunt. hehe. You should inform the reader as to where auntie went, even if it is just a blip about how she did indeed disappear.

    Good luck out there.
    Firefly likes this.
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Three full chapters of the aunt, when she won't be used again? That can look like either too much or too little.

    Better to give her one short chapter prologue just to set up the start of the MC's training (or else some event from before it) and then stick with the MC, maybe showing the aunt from the MC's view during a key moment or two during those years, or cover their points when the training's ending. Or you don't need the prologue.
  8. advait98

    advait98 Sage

    If you could tell the first three chapters of the aunt as a massive prologue, and then start CH 1 with 16 year old, that could prove to be acceptable. As prologues instil that sense of events-before-actual-story kind of thing, I can see the readers going along with it, perhaps mention a few tidbits as to what happened in the past 8 or 10 years in the first chapter of first person narration.

    As to the never hearing of the aunt again thing, provide information on her later on in the story so that the reader, um, well, knows what happened to her.

    Ease the present into the past, and I'm sure it will be a smooth transition.
  9. Babayaga321

    Babayaga321 Dreamer

    I would like to end the chapter with the six year MC being on the island but have the next chapter start when she is 16. I just don't know how to do this smoothly. I would appreciate any ideas

    This is exactly what I'm struggling with myself at the minute (and have actually just posted a separate question about...). In my case the aunt is a witch, the protagonist is an 11 year-old girl, the period of training is 7 years, the moment of her 'graduation' is on her 18th birthday. I don't intend to kill off my witch tutor after that though...

    A simple convention would be to show the character receiving or taking part in some sort of rite of passage (e.g. graduating magic school) that indicates her age or you could make a reference to said rite.

    Yes. I have that... actually it's the main part of a short foreword I've written for the piece. The thing is I want to properly show how she learned the skills the witch will have taught her, illustrating these with actual events which are described (e.g. she is taught how to amplify her voice and use this as a weapon, but only actually realises she can do it when she is attacked by a giant hound). So each skill she learns can be shown by describing an example.

    Anthing else would seem to me to be the "...weeks turned into months, the months into years." example which was mentioned previously if she ends one chapter aged 11 and then starts the next at 18.
  10. Yora

    Yora Maester

    I never thought about doing time jumps myself, but with such big jumps, how about essentially starting again with another "first chapter"? So much should have changed over the years that you could basically introduce the character and her life all over again, as at the start of a new book.
    It wouldn't have to be very long, and perhaps shouldn't be, because a lot of the circumstances are already known to the reader. But I think that the sense of a new beginning might work to evoke a lot of time having passed.
  11. buster13h

    buster13h New Member

    I have read something similar, but cannot recall the book. Have something happen when aunt delivers the child, like a storm at sea and the boat crashes. The aunt saves the child and they both crawl out of the waves to rest on the sandy beach. The next chapter is the sixteen year old waking from the dream of when she lost her aunt Maybe???
  12. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

    If you don't want to turn those first couple chapters with the aunt into a prologue, (which I think might be the best thing to do in this case) it might also work well to have some sort of part 1/part 2 or book 1/book 2 division, or even just an "eight years later" page.

    I think you definitely need something of that sort, though. A six year time jump, change in person, and change in perspective character is a huge shift that could easily make things feel disjointed and lacking in cohesion if you don't set it up with a strong boundary of some sort.
  13. I agree with Steerpike. You don't need to do anything special for the time lapse. Starting a new chapter years forward is fine.

    My first inclination is to look for a way to make that clear in the very first line/paragraph of the next chapter. If you are switching character POV you can perhaps incorporate something one of the Aunt used to say to her all the time (best if you seed the same saying somewhere in those early chapters to make it familiar) so, something like:

    Chapter --

    Girl, your will is stronger than you know.

    It had been ten years since I'd heard Auntie SoAndSo's voice utter those words, but they'd stuck with me over the years. Now, facing the . . .

    And away you go with an older character and new POV. I might also try to make sure the last lines of the previous chapter hint at a definite ending of that period of the MC's life or the Aunt's role in it and, perhaps, something that hints at what the future may bring or questions it.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2019
  14. Avadyyrm

    Avadyyrm Scribe

    I would describe the first little bit of her life maybe as a prologue. Or write it as a memory of your MC, so you can go from third person to first. Maybe space out the memory over the first chapter or so. And it's up to you if the aunt disappears, because you know your story. I would have her die of an illness or something, but you may not want a scar affecting your character. Or maybe that's an important part of your MC.
  15. R.H. Smith

    R.H. Smith Minstrel

    I think the thing to show the passage of time is essentially a before and after mini fluff piece. In my MS, I show my MC training and gradually getting better. I do this by portraying more difficult spells and such being mastered. Remember, almost no idea is original anymore, its all been done, it's just how YOU do it. Don't be afraid to grab a whole ream of post its or index notes and just start brainstorming ideas about how to show the passage of time. Once you get some down, leave it for the next day to view with fresh eyes. Hope this helps!

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