Use a Timeline to Develop Your Story
It reminded me why, when I taught composition and even creative writing to high school students, I would use a timeline handout, like the one in the photo. In order for a story to be consistent, discrepancies in time (or setting or character growth) cannot be present.
Here's how it works:
- Make a timeline of events from the time period. I'm not talking within the story, I'm talking about a timeline of what was happening in the world during the time period include in your piece. When I wrote a one-act play for my students to perform for competition this year, which was based on 9/11, I wanted to include the number one song in the U.S., and within each vignette, I planned to feature a bit of pop culture. I made a timeline for how the events of that day unfolded and researched pop culture tidbits. It added a great sense of place to the plot.
- Make a timeline for a character. How does a specific character get from point A to point B? It doesn't matter if you're talking about specific movement, the timeline can show events that cause a change in personality or a moment that leads to character growth.
- Start plotting. I like to mesh the two timelines together and create a scene. It's a handy tool that shows where pacing needs to increase, action needs a jolt of energy, and characters need a healthy dose of conflict to create a stronger story.
Have you used a timeline to help define your storyline?
by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website.