Toolbox 17: Tracking Timelines—Story and Reference Material

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Whether telling a story chronologically or not, there should be a record of what happened and in what order.

It simplifies things.

I started writing a little document for each story about how the suspects knew each other before the inciting incident (usually murder in my case) and their motives behind their behavior afterward.

This evolved into other reference documents.

historical event timeline:

Whether in bullet form or in a short description, the incident must have a detailed timeline. Because it is in these facts, the murder and its motives are rooted.

The frenemies of the suspect pool share a common point in their histories—a wedding, a funeral, a picnic, etc. Something happens there and this historical event changes all of them to some degree.

Whatever the occurrence, it is the source/motive of all their following interactions… with the murder victim as the linchpin in both events.

Because the relationships between the characters were solidified long before they met again, their resulting interactions are more organic.

Think of a family stricken by a death and the member’s individual reactions. Some may feel guilt or react so strongly they that it can’t be contained. Words are said that can’t be forgotten, and/or forgiven. Violence may break out.

Just as likely,  a love affair may be abandoned because of the event. Leaving one of both lovers pining or dreaming of what might have been.

Everyone goes back to their usual life, but their feelings rub raw over time.  These rifts, bonds, scars, obsessions, and unfinished business overflow into the story timeline.

historical event touches the story Timeline

Later in the story, the characters will reveal certain events which may not be correctly remembered by everyone or had festered within one individual, warping their memory. No matter what happened, however, these recollections are up to the reader to interpret when the frenemies finally have it out.

The chaos between the suspect pool provokes fake alibis, lies, motives to kill, and deep dark secrets revealed.

MURDER Timeline

In theory every suspect should have had an opportunity/means/motive to harm the victim. Only one commits the crime unless it’s an Orient Express retelling.

Again, whether in bullet form or not, a copy of the murder must be written down for reference.

Why?

Because if something in my mystery timeline prompts a change, I can easily update all my reference material.

Story Timeline

In MS Word, I use the chapter/scene headings and table of contents to track my timeline. In each heading I note the day and time. As I re-rearrange my work so it will read better, I update the table of contents which supplies a new list of headings.

Reading it, I can easily see if something needs to be fixed.

In Scrivener, I use the meta-data or scene/chapter synopsis section and track my timeline from there.

For both, I simply use: “Day One AM” or Day One PM”. I break it down further only if necessary.

My motives are simple. These three documents help me keep the facts in order so I won’t paint myself into a corner. It gives me an opportunity to update one central document as I rewrite. It also helps me find plot holes and gives me an opportunity to look objectively for plot twists.

I hope I’ve made my thoughts clear. If not, I welcome questions? Feel free to ask away.

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IWSG #57: DIY Book Covers

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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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Co-Hosts: Raimey Gallant, | Natalie Aguirre, | CV Grehan, | Michelle Wallace!

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’ve messed around with covers. What do you think?

It’s amazing what a person can find online these days.

Here’s the YouTube that started it all:

It’s a how-to series. I followed the advice and my heart and this is where I landed. Didn’t hurt that I got Photoshop (not the subscription but the disc) for Xmas in 2018. I’ve played. I’ve had fun. Learned a lot. A LOT!

Graphic design is nothing like drawing (I only dabbled in sketching, etc.). Some say I have the eye. I know what I like. It’s all subjective like choosing the perfect read.

On another note: still in a funk. Will it ever end?

Have a great month! This time you’ll need to do it for both of us. 🙂

Toolbox 16: Engaging the Reader

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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I don’t know about you but I’ve been asking myself this for some time. What engages a reader? That fell flat on its face, so I move on to why do I read.

  • Biggest reason is I’m looking for the next big story.

While I’m looking I’m okay with:

  • visiting to another world (fantasy or not)
  • enjoying a good laugh, surprises, crazy antics
  • solving mysteries

I thought long and hard about what makes up a great story. The Five (TV Series) comes to mind. It blew my mind, but I’m not talking. You’ll have to watch it yourself.

And The Magicians + the Wayward series (the books) were definitely good.

I Googled it. Online says its all about the characters. I’m not sure it is only the characters, but I have to start somewhere.

WHAT MAKES CHARACTERS COMPELLING?

My problem is don’t necessarily connect with the characters immediately but I do accept them. I’m like that with the people I meet as well. Be warned: it’s a personal thing that may slant my point of view.

Online suggests to write a compelling story, we must start with a compelling character.

Some traits to include:

  • well-rounded and random characteristics from all walks of life
  • a driving need, desire, ambition or goal
  • a deeply hidden, possibly shameful, secret
  • coping/not coping with a contradiction and vulnerability (ex. bravery = deep need vs fear)
  • showing vulnerabilities beneath a tough exterior (to the reader at least)
  • the constant pressure of the consequences of success and failure
  • the drive to face an opponent that has a better chance of succeeding than they do

What’s a hero without a villain

Something I love to see the protagonist and antagonist are both sympathetic characters. I love understanding and even agreeing with both sides. It makes for an undetermined outcome. (Rarely found in a mystery.)

Lets say we’ve done all this and the readers are still not connecting. What then?

Characters carry the reader with them throughout; but occasionally, it takes time to get to know them. Stalling for time….

The world

We might have a very strong woman on a vestroid in the Asteroid Belt. We don’t know why she’s there.

Why do we care?

We might not. But hey! we are experiencing the Asteroid Belt. Hopefully that’s cool enough until the reader gets into the murder, industrial espionage and characters.

I’m thinking of the Magicians and Wayward. Sometimes the world can draw a reader in.

The Stakes

It isn’t the actor as much as what they face that brings out the egads in us.

Our actor faces an incident that could shatter their outer world as well as their inner reality, leaving them changed forever. The consequences leading to something more unimaginable. And will not only destroy the protagonist, but everyone else in their world.

For example check out an episode of Manifest.

Whether or not we used the stakes as a draw, we need to express them as early as possible.

OUR MISSION AS WRITERS

All of us need to find a way to engage our readers. They’ve checked out our cover, and read the blurb. They’ve scanned the first few pages. Lets not lose them now.

Anything you’d like to add? I’m all ears.

Gleaned from:

IWSG #56: Just Trudging Along

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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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Co-Hosts:

Patricia Lynne | Lisa Buie-Collard | Kim Lajevardi | Fundy Blue

OPTIONAL Question: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

My favorite question: Can I read your work?

It’s exciting and frightening (even now) and a leap of faith into the abyss. I get mixed reactions which can be hurtful, helpful and depend completely on the reader’s ability to share their thoughts constructively.

Wattpad has helped with this—a lot.

Worst question: Why do you keep going?

The answer is I don’t know.

I’m in the dumps when it comes to my writing. It’s hard to stay positive when the rejections keep coming. All my fault. I’m the one submitting. Anyway, so things have been tough. I keep writing though and that is good.

I’m struggling with my next project big time and don’t expect what I’m working on to go anywhere, but still keep going.

I’m like the mule that sees the carrot and knows it’s a trick. I don’t have the heart to stop. It would make it all too real. And the worst part is then I won’t move forward.

Sorry for being a downer this round. I just can’t help it.

Pacing (Non-Toolbox Post#2)

Pacing Trouble:

Many things can destroy pacing. The reader could be struggling the the dialogue–slang, accents, etc. Slogging through an info dump or getting caught up in bad grammar and worse punctuation. But what if that’s not the problem.

If the language is clear, and poses flow, how can there still be a pacing problem? 

When to Slow it down

Has a reader complained that a scene made them feel uncomfortable or nervous? Maybe, even upset. These are all symptoms of pacing being too fast.

Every reader needs to breathe. Process. Gather their thoughts.

T0 slow the pace:

  • Add inner thoughts
  • Write longer sentences with descriptive detail
  • Use language that is more relaxing
  • Insert some passive sentences
  • Slow time down and stretch it out with more details

I’m not suggesting a writer use all of these techniques, however, selecting what works for them will help when revising.

When to Speed it up

If you are getting feedback about the chapter being boring, not holding the reader’s attention, or they are skimming/skipping ahead; pick up the pace:

  • Use short, quick, simple sentences and paragraphs
  • Throw in some sentence fragments
  • Punchy words. Energetic, and active language.
  • Avoid linking verbs
  • Fewer inner thoughts
  • Less overall description

Again, the writer will have to select what works best for them and not go too far. Or they are back at too fast.

Pacing needs balance

Depending on the genres, the pacing may tilt more one way than another. Faster paced for thrillers, and more of a slow burn for some romances.

A well balance story entertains your readers and compels them to read to the end.

Gleaned from: