Writing Tips – Part 4

Writing Tips by JT Scott

Author of the Sammy Rambles series about a boy and his dragon.

This is a short series of writing tips which will feature each month and offer tips and advice on how to create a story. Part 4 covers how to keep track of when things are occurring in your story and why this is important.

Part 4 – When will it happen?

Last month, we covered how to create memorable locations for where your characters will meet and where elements of your plot will take place. This month, it’s time to find out when things will happen and it might not be quite as you expect!

When writing the Sammy Rambles books, I thought the events would take place during five years of Sammy’s life while he attended Dragamas (the dragon school). However, as I introduced more characters, they also had their own past, present and future, some of which intertwined with Sammy and influenced his choices and decisions within the books. To add depth and credibility to the story, I needed to create layers of fictional history, spanning hundreds of fictional years.

These are some ideas for choosing when things might happen in your story:

  • Is your story set in the present, the past or the future?
  • If it is set in the past, how far back? Pre-Internet, pre-TV, pre-Cars, pre-Electricity?
  • If it is set in the future, what has changed since the present? How are things different?
  • In your story, does something have to happen at a certain time, e.g. at midnight or full moon?
  • Do the events in your story take place in minutes, an hour, a day or longer?
  • Is your story happening on a linear or chronological basis?
  • Do your characters have visions of the future, or flashbacks to the past?
  • Does your story start at the end and work backwards?
  • How will the timing affect your characters and their way of life?

Whether your story happens over a short period of time or over many years, it can be helpful to draw a timeline and add marker points for characters and key events that you can refer to, as your story grows. In the Sammy Rambles books, there are over 100 characters to keep track of, plus all the dragons and multiple locations! I have kept some notes but many of the details are stored in my head.

Next month, the writing tips will cover why things happen in your story. What are the underlying reasons for events? What motivates your characters to say what they say and do what they do?