Friday, July 2, 2010

Shoot! I forgot the 4th!

IMAGINE!

You're reading a really good book. The tension is building with the characters, and you can barely put the book down to go to the bathroom. It's the end of June in your literary world, and the heat is blazing on the pages about as much as it is in the weather. To add a little to the stakes (see Pepper's Monday post) the A/C goes out and your characters are miserable. You smile, because you know that author had a good laugh over that.

The chapter leaves off on a hook that makes you want to scream, especially since you REALLY have to pee now, but there is no way you are putting down that book. Then the next chapter starts, and it's the beginning of July. The days go by, and suddenly it hits you.

Where did the 4th of July go? No fireworks, besides of course the ones between your hero and heroine. No picnic, no mention of a celebration. So what ... are the characters anti-USA or something? Geez!

No, more likely, the author was so immersed in the story that they completely forgot about it. Now, as a reader, I personally forgive it. Especially if the story is awesome.

But other readers, not so much. Most likely, this pretend-author would get a bunch of mail pointing out the error, and some would even put it down in disgust. I guess I'm more forgiving.

I DO understand though, how easy it is to forget something like this.

Example: A few months ago, I was editing one of my books and realized how big of an idiot I was. Now, I remembered the holiday, which in this case, was Labor Day, however I also sent my character INTO the bank... and what's worse, I did it later in the afternoon around 5 or so, when a bank wouldn't be open regardless of the holiday.

I felt like such an idiot. How could I do something so stupid, so obvious?

And a better question, what could I do to help prevent this?

Answer:

A TIMELINE!

We've talked about this numerous times in my local writer's group, and given the holiday weekend, I thought it'd be a timely topic here as well!

What I personally do is use a current calendar and map out my days given the season/time-frame my book is written. This helps me know when I've hit major holidays, when weekends come up, etc.
  • Do you have a pregnant woman in your novel? Make sure her pregnancy progresses at the right rate.
  • Do you have a child of school age? Make sure they are in school when they should be.
  • Do your characters go to church? Make sure you don't have them sleeping in on Sunday for no good reason.
  • Does your character work? Keep track of their work schedule so they aren't playing hooky.
There are a ton of other things to keep track of. Find a system that works for you. It might be good ol' pencil and paper. It might be in MS Excel. I've been known to use my MS Outlook and set up "appointments" at the given intervals to track happenings. It's quite funny months later when something pops up to remind me something that Jack and Jenny are doing that day. Ha!

Whatever the way, stick to it and be consistent to the calendar.

Your readers will thank you!

Oh, and watch the clock too. Your character shouldn't go from lunch to dinner with zero time having lapsed, and your character shouldn't eat their first bite of food, then put down their fork and say how full they are, unless of course they have an eating disorder!

So, anyone else have an awesome method for keeping time in your novels?

OH! And everyone... have a WONDERFUL 4th of July weekend!!!! ENJOY the fireworks!

11 comments:

Sherrinda said...

Oh goodness, I've found of couple of these issues as I have been editing. It makes me feel like such a fool. :) A timeline is an excellent idea. My problem has been figuring out travel time on horseback (medieval) and making it believable. Maybe I need to write contemporary next. lol

Sidney W. Frost said...

Interesting. I love your idea of using Microsoft Outlook calendars. It allows you to have multiple calendars so you could have your personal one plus a separate one for your WIP.

I used MS Excel to keep track of dates for scenes. I set it up so you enter the date for the first scene and the following scenes are numbered with the number of days past the first scene. So if you want your novel to cover a one-year period, the last scene would be 365. Then, Excel formulas would display the date and the day of week.

Krista Phillips said...

Sidney, that's VERY similar to what I do:-) I use MS outlook for the visual effect, but excel is where my heart is (is that a bad thing?? LOL)

Sherrinda, time travel, wow! I'd say excel would be the way to go on that one too:-)

Beth K. Vogt said...

Hi, Sherrinda! You just dropped by The Ponderers blog--I hope this isn't too early for me to pay a get-to-know-you visit to your blog.
Great post, but now you've given me one more thing to think about as I edit my WIP before I hand it off to my agent! :O)

Sherrinda said...

Hi Beth! Actually, Krista Phillips wrote this post today. The Writer's Alley is our group blog...like The Ponderers (which is fabulous, btw). Krista always makes me think and helps my writing tremendously!

Krista, don't let your head swell with that compliment. You don't need that on top of your swelling feet! buwahahaha! ;)

Krista Phillips said...

I will try to keep the swelling down to a minimum!! (can't say the same with my poor feet though...)

Beth, welcome! Glad you enjoyed the post:-)

Pepper Basham said...

Great post, Krista. And - of course - I laughed and learned. Like all of your posts.
Btw, did you have to add the phrase 'have to pee' because that's foremost in your thoughts at this time in pregnancy? ;-)

Krista Phillips said...

Pepper, yes, I did:-) let me tell you, it's HIGHLY frustrating when you have to "go" every 30 minutes and you're in the middle of a good book! I'd take said good book WITH me, however i'm also highly clumpsy in my big ol' prego state, so knowing my luck I'd drop it in:-)

Ahhh, it's Friday, what can I say!

Sherrinda said...

Krista....may I just say....

BUWAHAHAHHA!

You are going to make ME need to go to the bathroom with all this Friday humor!

Fortunately, I am home today, catching up on blogs when I should really be editing.

Pepper Basham said...

There Sherrinda goes with that laugh again. LOL.
Well, Krista, I'd blame my clumsiness on pregnancy, but everyone who knows me not pregnant (which isn't often, btw), would say I'm just as clumsy. Sigh.

So...I write fiction. At least SOMEWHERE I can describe people who are graceful :-)

Mary Vee said...

I like the idea of using outlook for a time line. The program features are great. Thanks

Then again, I see the benefits to what Sidney said about Excel.

hmmmmmmm which to do?

Great post Krista...Ohhhh to have your humor and Sherrinda's laugh:)