Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time Line Definition

Time Line Definition

I haven’t found much difficulty with this one. If there is a time lap at the beginning of the story I begin with a prologue, always a useful tool for scene setting.

Generally, my suspense and romantic novels are set over a short period of time, so time line definition is not needed. However, a couple did need a prologue otherwise the story would be bogged down with explanations. Never a good thing. Where it has been necessary, generally, is in the historical novels where there are definite “time” problems. It really is as Pauline indicated the writers, have to be aware that we are scriptwriters as well as camera people. We must guide our readers and ensure they are not confused.

Fortune’s Folly has a prologue, as does A Fatal Flaw. In both cases it was necessary to “set” the scene but I needed the novel to move along swiftly. The prologue must also whet the appetite and encourage the writer to read on.

There is nothing worse than reading a book and then becoming confused because you don’t know where the story has gone! It has happened to me, I do plod on but I am feeling quite irritated. Hardly the mood you want the reader to experience.


  1. Margaret, I read so often that prologues are forbidden any more, that the information / backstory should be woven into or revealed through the narrative. A film has visuals and music, but the story moves forward from the opening credits with possiblly a few lines telling date, time, place, a la the opening to Star Wars.
    Have you--or anyone else--written a prologue that you've been told should be incorporated into the narrative?

  2. Never had a negative comment about a prologue, and actually I do recall now I also had one in A Poisoned Legacy one of my Hale books.I can't imagine who told you that prologues are forbidden. That sounds much too dictatorial to me!

  3. Hi Margaret,

    I think prologues are useful tools, too. After all, prologues were at one time common within novels, but like all new trends (that come and go)prologues are now frowned upon by the most prolific romance publisher of all time.

    I love that you viewed "forbidden" as too dictatorial. ;) But then, I think the most prolific romantic publisher of all time has a dictatorial approach to authors, in fact I think most of the editors at that publishing house enjoy putting their underlings through hell and love watching them jump through flaming hoops. There is a word for such cruelty, but I might get sued for saying it.

    Sadly, of late, the "how to write romance gurus from within same publishing house" all decry prologues as tools for lazy authors, which makes new writers shy away from them. So too, American literary agents (the online blogging lit agents)all seem to say prologues are dead in the water, and that publishers hate prologues.

    It's a strange world we writers are faced with today, where most of the editors are barely out of college and with little life experience behind them, where once they would have had to have been with good publishing company for years as underdogs, perhaps made up to assistants if really good at their job (not for a good few years, though)and finally making it to editorship if considered outstanding.

    When I first had novels published I never met an editor under forty-years of age, and asistant editors were usually in their mid to late thirties. Back then, age and experience in the business was right of passage to an editorship, not just a uni degree, pretty face and ambitious streak.

    To be honest, I don't like books where dialogue as good as drives the plot, which is becoming the norm in category romance. I prefer something I can get my reading teeth in to. If I want purely dialogue I'll switch on a radio play.

    Keep right on writing your prologues Margaret, and sock it to 'em. :o


  4. In the end, it's all down to the likes and dislikes (and rules, in some cases) of each publishing house. One doesn't like prologues (and forbids them!), another accepts them without a qualm. Same goes for a lot of other things - e.g. we're told we shouldn't use anything other than 'said' but I've just read a published excerpt where muttered, whispered, replied and quizzed were used in quick succession.
    The best advice I read recently was to take notice of what works for you, and disregard the rest!

  5. Absolutely right, Paula. If the story flows then the editor is interested.
    Francine, I do things my way, I am the writer but I am happy to listen to ideas from editors and when necessary act on them. Had I not had a prologue in A Fatal Flaw it would have taken pages to explain what had happened. By that time, I and my reader would have fallen asleep.
    I've written twenty four novels and always been amenable, as any editor I've worked with will testify, but silly rules just anger me. The story drives the plot, or should that be the plot drives the story?

  6. Margaret,

    My stories usually take place within shorter period of time as well. My problem doesn't usually stem from long periods of time going by, but those small things, like when they're riding in the car to get somewhere and I don't want to include meaningless small talk. I guess the old "when they got there" type of transition works well here. LOL

  7. Debra, that's exactly what I'm going to talk about in my blog tomorrow! Watch this space!

  8. Sometimes in the intimacy of a car you can get a little sexual tension going but I do agree, Debra, that chat to pass the time is tedious.
    In my novel, with prologue, Fortune's Folly, Helena, divorced from Andreas, rides in the back of a car and gets quite heated by watchng the back of his head! I so enjoyed writing that scene. I might put it in the Lark Journals this week. Thanks for the inspiration!