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Viewpoint timelines

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Prince of Spires, Nov 26, 2020.

  1. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

    I'm wondering how much the timelines of different viewpoint characters can differ before people find it confusing / anoying.

    My current novel has two main viewpoint characters. They start in different places of the world and don't interact with each other (or even know about each other's existence) until partway through the book. They get about an equal number of chapters. However, for one character, the events take place over a longer period of time than for the other. If I would line them up chronologically, I would first have 15k words from one character's point of view and then 15k from the other, after which they meet each other. Now, once they do join up, I'm going to keep their timeline chronological. So from that point onwards there is no issue.

    As an example. I have 2 chapters from one character, which take place only moments apart. Currently, in between these two chapters, I have a scene which takes place over the course of 3 days for the other character.

    How much of an issue do people find this?
  2. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    As always with writing, it's all in the execution. I have 4 POV characters who all start in different places but they all end up in one location by the end of Act 1 (and then cross paths at different times after that) so this is a thing that I've been dealing with in editing. You have to read it and get a feel for how things flow from one into another; beta readers can help with this.

    For your example....why does the other character need to be in between those two chapters? Do you want to have a cliff hanger from the previous chapter? Is that character rushing across a great distance to try to save the other character? Or are they just chilling out? If the latter is the case, then you're tossing out all that delicious tension that you've built up. Now, of course, as you're writing the story the order might end up like this. But that's a first draft, you can always fix it in editing. You can put scenes on index cards or sticky notes and rearrange them to figure out what order works the best for you.
    Prince of Spires likes this.
  3. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

    At this point in the story, the characters don't yet know about each other. Like with your characters, they'll only meet at the end of act 1.

    The first of those 3 chapters does end on a cliffhanger. The reason I ordered the chapters in this way is that I want to spread them more evenly between the characters. I don't want a whole block of chapters from one character's viewpoint and then a whole block from another character. I try to go with one or two chapters from one character and then switch to the next character.

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