I’m no stranger to using dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, and dialogue to divulge a character’s past. Let’s face it, we all know we don’t start at the beginning, that’s yesterday’s advice. We all know Timmy was born on a chilly spring morning in 1983 isn’t where it’s at. Was there a storm? Was Timmy born on a ship in the middle of the ocean? No? Who cares?
Today, we drop our characters in the action: a pivotal moment in their lives, or hell, into a fight. We drop our characters in the middle of the ocean on a stormy night and let them find their way home.
Lately I’ve been thinking about chronological order. In fact, in my current WIP (work in progress) I’ve been trying what I call Tarantino style where I shoosh back and forth through my character’s life like I’m a fucking Time Lord.
Call me crazy, but maybe this is where it’s at. I mean, who’s to say what the pivotal moment in a character’s life is and when it has significance? We’ve all seen the book or movie that started at the end, and then took us back to the beginning. What I’m talking about is multiplying that by ten.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not throwing in flashbacks like some hack wizard. I’m legit Time Lord-ing here. For instance, my character is a solider and the very first scene is him landing in the good ole US of A after ten months in Afghanistan. The whole first chapter is about his initial adjustments with civilian life and the aftermath of what has happened while he’s been away. Chapter Two shoots forward a year, showing just how much being a soldier has changed his family dynamics. Chapter Three swings back to before he ever joined the military. Chapter Four is in Afghanistan.
You get the gist. Each chapter is a totally different facet of his life. Each chapter: The Veteran, The Son, The Boy, The Soldier, etc, is meant to all represent his own fragmented sense of self.
At first this seemed confusing, but the more I went with it, the more it made sense. There is no way to portray each of these pieces in order with the same effect. The more I ripped through time like some sort of maniac with a time portal, the more I wondered… is chronological all that logical after all?
Let’s face it, it’s your story. You’re the wizard, you’re the time lord, you’re the boy with the magnifying glass scattering the orderly little ants into chaos. Go wherever your pen (*cough* keyboard, iPad, voice recorder) takes you. Whatever we were taught about order, screw it. You’re the person who knows when and how to reveal what’s going on. And trust me, there’s a kind of powerful feeling about throwing some of the rules right out the window.
Emily is currently writing for fun, although she has published a few short stories. She is trying to focus on finishing a novel this year, hopefully her fairy tale. Connect with her and/or read her amateur blog!