View Full Version : Story Chronology

09-18-2004, 11:18 PM
I had a pressing issue regarding my story and the timeline in it.

Okay, right now, I'm writing about the "Future era" of my story. It has spaceships and other cool sci-fi things in it (and yes they will have a purpose, so they're not just neccessarily there just for the sake of having it). Once the heroes defeat the bad guys, then more events will occur.

However, as I was writing this, I began to wonder something. Events that occurred in the past will have a significant impact (as in it's part of the larger overall plot) on the "future era".

Right now, I still want to write the "future era" books first, but after I finish those, would it be okay if I went back in time and wrote about some of the events that took place in the past? In the "future" books, there will be hints about events that took place in the past which has greatly affected events in the future (the biggest one being a major war). Several of the main characters (esp the hero) will at first doubt that anything that took place in the past that long ago will have any impact on "today", but as the story goes on they'll discover that things that took place in the past will indeed imapct what's going on in their time.

I also have ideas for what will happen to the characters shortly after the "future" setting (which in this case will take place maybe a few months after the "future" events). And I will eventually write the sequels to the "future" setting books (to answer those of you wondering if I had any ideas for events after the "future" stuff). However, I would also like to write about some of the significant past events afterwards, to give people more of a "history" of the story's universe.

So I guess I'm asking, can I write about the "space age", then later write about the "medieval" era (of the story)? Or do I need to start with the "medieval" stuff first, then go into the "space age" (there's another war that occurs thousands of years before even the "medieval" stuff, but if its best for me to start in chronological order, then I'll go with that story first).

I'm probably answering my own question here, but I would really like to write about the future setting first, since it will establish many things, as well as provide a cool story to read (well, if you're into sci-fi/fantasy stories). While the past will be harder to write (since I won't have spaceships and laser guns to work with), I think it will be fun to write too (since it'll be fun to make a "wannabe" LOTR story hehe).

And I know I could just simply split the past and future and write 2 completely different book series with the ideas, but for now I would like to leave them combined so that it can have a sense of history in it when people view it as a whole (and I do have other ideas for other stories, so I'm not neccessarily just obsessing over this one project. But it is my biggest project to date, which is why I was curious about all these questions).

09-19-2004, 01:43 AM
If I'm hearing you correctly, you're seperating these "eras" into different novels. The "future" would be the last installment chronologically, but written first.

Okay. I don't see a problem with that at all. You would just be writing prequels rather than sequels. It's fairly common.

However, one thing is to consider that if the "future" novel never publishes, you don't really have the grounds to publish the other two. So, start with whichever is the most exciting, most important... which sounds like the "future" era, since it's what you're the most excited about.

09-19-2004, 02:31 AM
I agree. George Lucas is doing it with STAR WARS. The Star Trek francise is doing it with the TV series ENTERPRISE.

You only have to make sure you don't put something in the 'past' stories that would invalidate anything you have already written in the 'future' stories.

09-19-2004, 02:52 AM
I've seen that kind of thing a lot in sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars and Enterprise are doing it, and Babylon 5 did it a lot. It isn't unusual for an author to start a series in a certain point and go back and "fill in the backstories." Marion Zimmer Bradley did it in her Darkover series, and Mercedes Lackey started in the "present time" in her Heralds of Valdemar series. In the very first book, her protagonist is reading a tale based on the "Last Herald Mage". Later, Lackey went back and based a whole trilogy on that Mage.

I do agree with Chunky...you need to make sure your details are straight and don't conflict with your "original" future stories. One minor goof-up can change the world...and believe me, your readers will notice.

09-19-2004, 09:04 AM
Thanks for the replies! Yeah, I'm making very sure to check the ideas and making sure that they all flow well and will indeed connect with each other.

While I realize that my first novel will have to sell before I should even start doing this, I just wanted to make sure it was "okay/acceptable" to do this.

And yeah, it'll probably be kind of like Star Wars, but I'm going to make sure mine won't be as contradicting as the prequels for those were (I'm sure most of you can agree with me on that hehe). If something happened a certain way, I'm going to make sure it happens that way in the past/future eras, since I hate inconsistent stories myself (I dont' remember midochlorians having something to do with the Force in SW hehe).

09-20-2004, 01:50 AM
Having never seen Star Wars, I can't attest to their chronologies. But I can state at least 10 instances (but there are much, mure more) where throughout the seasons of Friends the writers got storylines wrong.

And see, this is why they should hire fans as consultants.... we know all the random trivia everyone else forgot about...

09-20-2004, 06:01 AM
The other thing to remember, when you're writing prequels, is that you don't give away too much in the chronologically-later books. Like, if you say definitely that so-and-so won the Battle of Wherever and became king and reigned for fifty years, there'll be no suspense when you come to write about it. Just leave the reader with enough doubt that things might not turn out the way they expect.

I'm working on a fantasy novel at the moment (in revision stage) that's set in multiple time-frames across 3000 years (the protagonist is immortal). That's quite complex, because an event that happens in the penultimate chapter is actually the motivation for a good deal of the story, but I can't reveal it till it actually happens. I just hope it's as much fun to read as it is to write.

Terra Aeterna
09-21-2004, 03:53 AM
I'm doing something very much like this -- I wrote one novel and then got interested in a "historical character" in the novel and decided to write his story too. This has been more difficult than I thought it would be in many ways. As I revise, I'm noticing that I've skimped somewhat on the worldbuilding, because I already know this world inside and out. Only I don't, really, because this is an entirely different era. Fortunately I only have tiny bits about this guy or the history in the first "future era" novel, but there's still some issues of continuity to be dealt with.

It is fun to do though!!

Flawed Creation
09-24-2004, 05:31 AM
prequels are an established form of novel, and i plan on writing one. I have it pertially outlined.

there are a few difficulties in prequels that do not exist in sequels.

the single biggest proiblem i forsee in writing a sequel is that you are limited by the already existing "future" events. you mustb write the prequel in such a way that the original can come to pass.

furthermore, depending on how separate the time frames are, people who read the original may already know what happens. for instance, viewers star wars 1-3 already know that anakin becomes Vader, the republic falls, and the chancellor becomes the emperor. this reduces the suspense that would ordinarily be present.

consistency is a little more difficult to achieve in a prequel than a sequel, IMO.

however, not all prequels suffer this problem.

my prequel. for instance, is set a thousand years or so before the original work. few records survive of the period, and they are rather garbled. the people in the present don't really know what went on, and so neither does the reader. furthermore, i've added extra dimensions that weren't even mentioned in the original book, so that there's more at stake than one realized from the first. i plan on writing a large number of books in this world, until i get bored with it, developing the history and future of the world together, and the present grows aware of it's past, anfd the past grows aware of it's future.

similarly, there's enough separation between a space age and middle ages setting that you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want in your prequel.

my 2 cents.

09-24-2004, 08:29 AM
Knowing what happens doesn't automatically have to reduce the tension, it can hinge on how it happened. Before the idea came in a few centuries ago of inventing new stories, that was how most storytelling and drama worked.

Flawed Creation
09-30-2004, 06:37 AM
true. but with a little care, you can avoid the problem altogether. my prequel is about a well-known historical event of my world- only, "history" was wrong. that is immediately obvious, but what really happened isn't.

10-05-2004, 06:26 AM
I have been planning out my outlines right now, so that anything I write won't reveal too much info (yeah, I will have to show the winners of a major war in the past, since they're the "rulers" of the future still, but I won't say how they won or what they did, because they didn't just simply turn on god mode and win automatically).

I will probably have to reveal some major plot points in the future era books though, that will potentially reveal something major from the past (it'd be like already knowing that Anakin Skywalker is going to become Darth Vader, or that Palpatine is going to become the Emperor in Star Wars), but I will try to keep it to a minimum, and will only reveal it because it will link events that occurred in the past, and how it has affected the future (and yes, it's a pretty significant impact. For example, if 100 nuclear warheads were to go off today, you can bet that it would affect the future 100 years from now).

I think that overall, the future books will be the hardest overall to write, since there will be so many things to worry about that the past books won't have (such as the space ships, and multiple planets). However, it will probably also be the most fun one to write too, since I get to come up with some cool things too (like cool space ships hehe). And whatever I do write, I'll make sure that it's coherent and consistent with each other (I do have a "Force" concept, but it won't be powered by midi-chlorians or anything like that lol. I'll make sure that everything fits together, and adapt changes I make between now and when I finalize the rules for this universe).

10-06-2004, 07:39 AM
Thank you for this discussion. It's given me an idea that I'm going to try to use in a work that's in progress. Not sure if I can pull it off, but the idea is to have one side lose a significant battle, yet be declared the winner. That ought to cause some interesting problems for the good guys since they'll have been the actual winners of that battle.

Yes, I know someone else might use this idea, too. So what? They might use it better.

10-06-2004, 08:01 AM
There have been actual historical cases of "pyrrhic victories" (battles where one side wins, but suffers so many casualties that it probably wasn't worth the victory), look at them for inspiration (that's what i've been doing for some of my battles).

I guess one good example would be just about any battle the Soviets fought during WW2, since they basically just kept throwing men at the Germans (if you watch "Enemy at the Gates", then you can see a good example of this at the beginning of the movie).

Now that I think about this, I think that at least three of the major battles in my "medieval story" fits that definition, and I'm going to make them quite memorable when I get down to writing them.

10-10-2004, 06:33 AM
The original "pyrrhic victory" was the campaign waged by Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, against the Romans in the 3rd Century BC.

Most of the battles of WW1 were fought on this basis - one of the British generals (Haig, I think) is actually recorded as having said that, since we had more men than the Germans, they'd run out first, so that was all right. There's a fragment of a WW1 poem (which various members of my family have been trying to identify for ages) - "The day we lost a thousand men/ And captured two latrines."