Timelines

Sausage and chip leftoversPhil: What order do you eat your dinner in ?

Are you a slave to the convention that dictates you start with, sausage, egg and chips and then follow-up with a desert ?

Or do you have a spoonful of sweet to tantalize the taste buds and the return to the main course, the tingle of anticipation taking the edge off those brussels sprouts that you don’t want to eat but know that you should ?

That’s sort of the problem we are grappling with at the moment. The Book begins in a fairly linear way. We set the scene with some character back stories. After a couple of chapters this all comes together and the story begins to pick up pace. The problem is that when you send the requisite first three chapters to an agent, what they get is the build up and little or none of the pay-off.

We’ve been told we need “a hook” to draw people in and the sensible solution appears to be to drag some of the main story toward the front of the book. Having played around with this, we both feel that while this might help, it does make the timelines less clear. For example, I’ve written a version which starts about half way through the earlier draft and then jumps back to the build-up. Not with much is given away, just a morsel to tempt the reader, but enough to plant a seed in the back of the mind. Possibly.

We still need the set up though. So, should we just hope the reader can follow or make it easier at the risk of seeming patronising. Do you say “Two months ago, a BMW three series pulled in to….” or just go with the “A BMW three series pulled in to…” and hope that the reader works out that this is a flashback ?

This is a writer’s problem. We are happy with the story but then we know the whole thing. The setup is funny but not as riotously funny as what happens later. Comments so far indicate that it is these later bits that people enjoy, but at the moment, we are several cakes away from working out how to spread these moments throughout the text.

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2 Comments

Filed under Phil, Writing

2 responses to “Timelines

  1. I’ve read books where the first page or so seem to be a preface – they are a dramatic and apparently out-of-context event where the reader has no idea what’s going on, but it’s really exciting. Then the book starts properly, at the beginning. Later, maybe halfway, that initial “hook” is repeated but this time in proper order and it all makes sense. Gimmicky, but worth considering.

    If I were reading a book and I hadn’t had much pace in the first three chapters, I might be inclined to give up. Or put it down and just not get round to picking it up again – that’s a risk you run if you stick to a very chronological retelling.

  2. Now that IS an interesting idea. We already have an epilogue so why not a preface ? I’d not thought of this idea at all but now you mention it, I have read books that employ just that trick. Hmmmmm.

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