View Full Version : Chapters as Date and Time

09-27-2009, 06:09 PM
Hi everyone,

This is my first post on here, so if this question has already been answered, I apologize.

I have two questions related to time and date, but I'll ask the other in the basic writing section.

My question is about formatting Chapters. I read a book once that had the Date and Time at the start of each new chapter. Ex. "December 3 11:47 PM Tuesday" instead of a "Chapter 1", etc.

My novel takes place over a period of time, and I am thinking that such a format would be helpful to keep track of when things are occuring in the book.

I am wondering if this is common in novels and if there are any issues with using such a format? For instance, do publishers frown upon using this format?

I appreciate any help to the newbie.. ;)

09-27-2009, 07:24 PM
Can not remember the titles now....but I have read books like this. I find as a reader I would have to go back to the chapter I just read and see what the time difference was so I could tell how much had passed. (Low retention here....lol)

Write it and see how it works for you. You can always go back and change the style if your betas don't like it.

09-28-2009, 05:47 AM
I've seen this a lot in military books, where the small events in each chapter are leading up to a major incident. It works best when the timeframe is crucially important to the story - downed pilots in the Gulf with a certain amount of rations and ammunition need to be rescued before they run out of their supplies, that kind of thing.

kct webber
09-28-2009, 09:42 AM
I've seen this in a few different thrillers, and like Big said, a bunch of different military books. Unfortunately, I can't remember any of them off hand, and I'm away from home and my library for a year or so... so... yeah. What matters is, sure, why the hell not? If it works, do it. And i see no reason why it wouldn't work. (I was actually going to suggest this in another thread you started, but forgot. :tongue)

09-29-2009, 10:48 AM
This is totally just my preference, but I hate the date and time thing.
Not knowing what chapter it really is, worrying that knowing the exact date and time are somehow really important and stressing over trying to remember them... just blah lol

09-29-2009, 12:06 PM
That is definately a concern of mine with using this format. Readers losing track of what chapter they were on. It's definately much easier to remember "Chapter 21" than "October 31st Friday 11:40 AM".

Some have mentioned that this format is used in Military books. In a way, this book requires a bit of miltary precision. Without giving away too much about the book, there is a pattern to the numbers that the Main Character eventually discovers, and the reader suddenly realizes the significance of.

Time and Date are integral to the plot. My book has a numerology scheme. That is, there is an importance to Flight numbers, Dates, Times, Addresses.

If I choose not to use the Time/Date format, I will need to inform the reader of the time and date for the relevant chapters. ex. "Ryan looked at the time, it was 12:34 PM. He felt a strange feeling come over him." etc. This isn't really a problem. But there will be many such instances where the reader will need to be informed of an important date/time.

My concerns are that this could lead to some confusion for the reader, that publishers look down upon using the format, or that this is a faux pas generally.

This is totally just my preference, but I hate the date and time thing.
Not knowing what chapter it really is, worrying that knowing the exact date and time are somehow really important and stressing over trying to remember them... just blah lol

Karen Junker
09-30-2009, 12:08 AM
What I'm doing in my current WIP is writing the chapter number, then under it, in italics, I write the day/phase of the moon/time or whatever.

11-01-2009, 06:11 AM
Well they have the date and time thing under the insert tab in word. i know that much. but i had rather say Chapter 20 or whatever. This isnt my problem, though. mine is adding the page to each one, and not the header part. Everytime I try to add the last name and page and title to the second page in the header area, it deletes everything on 1st page. this is very much time consuming. can anyone help? someone else tried to help me, but i am not seeing that little black book to open up in the second window in the header. I can add the page number but it ends up in the middle of the page.

11-01-2009, 07:02 AM
How about writing both?

Chapter 20

Or something like that. :P

I once read a book that put a news feed at the beginning of every chapter. The main characters were cut off from the real world, but important events were happening there that the reader would benefit from knowing about. The news feeds showed what was going on from the media's perspective. It was quite an interesting way of approaching the issue, and suited the sci-fi genre.

Put what details you feel are important. Having the characters constantly 'notice' the time or date or whatever seems clunky. I don't see the issue with putting time and date stamps along with the chapter heading. But remember, if you want to make some revelation about the importance of these details towards the end of the book, you should probably explain it in the text, for us people who don't remember things that great. It stops the reader from going 'wha?' and having to sift through the preceding chapters.

11-07-2009, 07:25 PM
Well, I don't remember the dates and times, but I don't remember chapter numbers, either. I just use a bookmark.

However, the dates and times can be useful for those like cactuswendy and I, who have to go back to check.

I saw a book that headed each chapter, under the chapter number, with "four years earlier" or "three months later." That was sort of helpful, with a book that skipped around in time a lot.