Blast from the Past: What Time Is It?

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A text-only version of this post appeared in my GoodReads blog on June 22, 2009.  The trilogy I reference eventually became two books and a short story collection, the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series.  Enjoy!


For today’s entry, I want to focus on the importance of timelines. As a historical fiction author, I find that it’s important to know what happens when.

Timelines matter for more than just world events, of course. You want to make sure you know where your characters fall into the scheme of things as well. If your character is four years old in 1895, she can’t very well be 5 years old in 1902, for example.

Timelines are crucial for continuity. I’m working on the second book of a trilogy, and the main character from my first book will be in all three of them. I need to know how old Claire will be during the events that I’ve planned for the third book so that I can figure out realistically what actions she can take. In other words, I can’t have a 79-year-old lady doing the same kinds of things she did at 29 in many cases. It’s just not reasonable.

One author friend keeps a notebook with her timeline written in it, as well as various details about what is in a given room, etc., so that her continuity is flawless from chapter to chapter. I’m not nearly that formalized, but that’s what works for her.

How do you keep track of time for your stories? Please feel free to share your comments.

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