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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
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FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
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Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Fiction Logistics   Wed Nov 26, 2008 6:07 pm


Cognizant writers who have been through the process of composing a full length novel, gain visceral understanding of certain elements of the writing craft. One of those elements has to do with the Logistics of timing.

This is especially challenging and crucial in novel- length works. Throughout your book, you will have to move your characters from Point A to Point B, and their journey must make sense; they can't be in two places at once, can't be wearing different clothes with no opportunity to change; can't be thinking about something someone said, when they haven't heard it yet, and generally have to follow the chronology you've set up.

For instance, I might need to know how long it would take a person to reach a certain destination, because it is integral to the plot; that character might need to arrive at a certain time, but the time factor has to be rooted in reality. There is a logical time-frame for certain things, and a good writer will endeavor to maintain accuracy in this regard. A sense of timing and a sense of logic is crucial to maintain your writing credibility.

I had an even more complicated version of this in plotting the expansion of my novella A Random Act of Blindness, into a full-length novel. My character, Rachel, an Literature Professor, drove a van, but thrilled to the moments when she was allowed to drive her neighbor's Jaguar. He was an Italian antiquities dealer, and was often out of the country. In return for watching his house and watering his plants and such, he allowed Rachel to drive the car of her dreams. I'll try not to give this portion of the plot away, but there came a time when she had to send her van in to the dealership to get the starter replaced (which also was part of another sub-plot) and she had the Jag for a while, but then got a Miata as a loaner while her van was being repaired. Then there was a timing issue with returning the Jaguar in time for her neighbor's return, returning the Miata to get her van, and then there was another vehicle and another person involved, which i needed to be somewhere ahead of her and then leave, so that the rest would make sense...and it got complicated because i needed these characters to be doing and going and i had to account for how long they had the cars and where they were going and when they'd be back, and why certain events would unfold in a particular way. For a while, I thought I'd never get the kinks worked out. I had to make a chart to figure it all out. Sometimes writers don't think too much about this sort of thing, but smart readers will pick up on it, and it will make you a better writer if you nurture a meticulous attention to those details.

For instance, when you need certain events to happen, they must happen within the limits of linear time, and within the sphere of possibility. (Unless of course, you write science fiction or speculative fiction, or are purposefully using creative license).

One recent example is this:
I had a character who wanted to see a person who escaped punishment for a crime, at least get punished for another crime. She noticed this person stalking her outside the apartment complex where she lived, and called the police from her cell phone while sitting in her car. As the writer, I knew it would take police at least a few minutes to arrive... nah (digression: this depends on your location and the realities of the police force in that area--I've been known to actually call people who do certain jobs or work at a certain place in order to get realistic data. Most of them are happy to help and are charmed by the idea that you are writing a book and they were able to help. I used this to my advantage while writing Achilles Forjan, when two of my characters were paramedics. I was in touch with two paramedics in the exact town the book was set in).
scratchhead
Back from the digression: To solve the delay issue, I had her sit in her car for a few minutes before confronting the man, and engaging him in conversation. The police arrived, and when they searched him, he had drugs in his pocket. He was then arrested for drug possession and justice was served, even if in an indirect way.

This served a fourfold purpose: {1} it created a motive for the arrested stalker to act out later in retaliation {2}it revealed character--she was clever enough to time the encounter so that she would be in little danger and the law would take over and serve the purpose she sought, {3} it provided a "hook" when the reader realizes what the character was really thinking and why she did what she did, because I didn't reveal that while it was happening. It became apparent only after her goal was met and {4} it released me, the author, from any accusation of unrealistic or contrived writing.

This scene would not have had credibility if the character called the police, confronted the stalker immediately, and then a squad car showed up only a minute after her call. We know that police can only respond so fast, and if this aspect of your writing does not gel with reality, you might lose some readers and they will lose respect for you as a writer.

Another interesting benefit is that your efforts to tell your story in an authentic way, often provides you with solutions to various issues that vex the story. It can frequently introduce a new element you hadn't thought of, and this new element just might be what you need to pull it all together.

Using these methods, in conjunction with Google Maps, has a way of creating a smooth trajectory for your plot.


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