TIMELINE-BASED WRITING: THE CRITICAL AXIS
By Steven Savage
Archives available at The Way With Worlds Home Page
A few columns ago, I wrote about "Timeline Based Writing, which works in the following way:
Well, I've been streamlining my technique of timeline based writing, and found cases where I had all "clumps" but no story. So, I figured I'd share my experiences and my solution with you.
ALL CLUMPED UP AND
NOWHERE TO GO:
As mentioned above, I recommended keeping a timeline of events in your world, and locating places where major events and ideas "clump" together, and developing these as stories. But having "clumps" that don't make a story is a real pain.
Even if you don't use Timeline-based writing, you've probably had an experience like this - ideas, ideas within similar timeframes and settings, but nothing brought them together.
At first, your option may be to tell several stories. After all, sometimes things work better that way, and you can focus on extra detail. However, sometimes you may wish to cover the events together, or you can't get a story from one event. Worse, there may be that irritating feel that there's some way to tell all your "clumps" together.
So, when facing this, I found myself looking for what I've nicknamed the "Critical Axis."
In examining the elements of the timeline you wish to tell together look for one with some (if not all) of the following traits:
This "clump" becomes what I call the "Critical Axis", and the Critical Axis is going to help you get some order in this story without compromising the importance of keeping your reader informed as to what is going on.
USING THE CRITICAL
The Critical Axis becomes the core of your story. It may not even be anything epic. For instance, one critical axis for me became a character needing to learn a particular skill.
The Critical Axis becomes the theme to launch your story, a certal reference point to which the other "clumps" of events can refer. It can be used to:
The Critical Axis, in short, becomes your way to tell a coherent story around, or lauched by a specific "clump."
I've also found that being aware of Critical Axes may help you find ones you'd missed, noticing points and plots and elements that intersected events that you hadn't seen.
Be aware that you can tell tales of seemingly discordant events if you find a thread that will help people follow them and relate. You're likely doing something like this already, but being aware of it can be quite helpful.
When you've got clumps of events you need in one story, find one that's a "Critical Axis" to tie them tighter to produce a coherent story that still show important events.
CAN YOU FIND A
BETTER WORD THAN "CLUMPS"
I'm open to suggestions, because I really haven't found anything more appropriate without sounding pretentious.
Yes, "Steve's Sites" is back for the important reason that I located some resources worth discussing. Remember to send me sites that you'd like to share with your fellow writers and worldbuilders.
Retrofuture - Get a look at what people in the past thought the future (and today) would be like. Very, very informative.
Religion Selector - A quick and dirty way to find out what religions fit what ideas. Good for character design.