WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
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Have you heard of the timeline of a story? This very important step in creating a good story must be given the time it deserves. When I have taken the time to build a timeline, using research, and the outline, the first draft goes much better. With a good timeline, you can see where your characters are going, and just as important, what time they arrive at the next obstacle. So, let's get into it. This is what my hand-written list looks like from The Munich Deployment, Book II in The Ancestor Time Travel Series:
I'm a scribbler. I hope you can overlook the messy quality of this page which came out of my sketchbook. On the left, you are looking at a list of possible obstacles: Boss, Susan Arrives at Police Station, Oliver and Susan go to BTM, etc... If you follow the line down you find a time starting at 8:15. Moving to the right you see dates: 17, 18, etc... Those are the "deployment" days that my characters are back in time during 1919. My plot required the MC to get from a submarine in the North Atlantic to Munich, Germany, and stop an assassination in 3 days. I didn't know if you could get that far, traveling across Germany after WWI, so I plotted it out. This was an early chart and only has Oliver's experience up to the 19th where he meets Susan.
I learned about making a timeline at the Realm Makers conference last year, which was very helpful. The "How to Make a Timeline" workshop was all about this, and the author had a system of bar graphs in a computer program. I could have done that, but it seemed faster to scribble it out since I always have my sketchbook nearby. In hindsight, it might be better to make a template in Illustrator.
You need a timeline if your plot is tight with a looming deadline. And especially if you are weaving two journeys together in one novel, as I was. A clear timeline will help your main character overcome the obstacles. Remember the verse from Rev. 3? "To those who overcome" - will be rewarded with many things: sit with Jesus on the throne, given white mana, authority over the Nations... Christians are directed to overcome the obstacles of a sinful world, so pattern that act of overcoming in your story using an outline and a timeline.
In The Munich Deployment, I built two stories: Oliver's and Susan's. He lands in 1919 as a sub-commander in the German Navy, and she lands as a college student traveling with two girlfriends in Barcelona, Spain. It is a journey story since they both must get to Munich within three days. So both have a list of what happens built on resolution/conflict that pushes toward getting to Munich. As I made the lists, I imagined the next thing that happened, keeping in mind that they are in a hurry to get moving toward Munich.
When Oliver suddenly wakes up as a sub-commander, what would you imagine could happen? For me, it was: Oliver wakes up in the North Atlantic standing on a submarine conning tower with the Executive Officer and Chief Petty Officer scanning the horizon with binoculars. Now, if it is quiet around you, (the TV is off, the music is off, Facebook is off) things begin to suggest themself. Would his knees buckle? Does he look around? What does he see? What is his next move? It all will begin to happen for you if you let your mind imagine the possibilities.
If you want to look at The Perth Incident or The Munich Deployment here it is.
Make a timeline of Christ's Passion Week from the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.
"Iron sharpens Iron as one sharpens another"Proverbs 27:17