importance of sequence

by April Macadam
(Bombay)

Question: So I'm writing for the first time ever, and I want to know if what I'm doing is acceptable or not.


I started off at the birth of the protagonist. The next chapter is happening now. Then the story goes back a decade and a half and comes back to the present again. I'm playing around with time a lot. Provided I make sure the reader isn't confused, is this style really ok?

Also, is it important to write the book in a way that it can be internationally understood and enjoyed?

Answer: You can certainly tell a story in a non-chronological order. However, you should have a good reason for doing so.

Some possible reasons...

* If the first event chronologically is a little dull, you might want to start at a more interesting event in the story and then flash back later.

* To create a little mystery by concealing some of the background information or events until later in the story.

* To create some suspense, by delaying the conclusion of an event until later (and jumping to a flashback in the meantime).

* For thematic reasons. For instance, if you want your reader to judge a situation one way at first, then show some background events that make the reader see the situation differently when you return to it.

Just make sure you don't confuse your reader. Readers should always know where they are in the timeline.

Re: writing for an international readership, I think you write first for yourself and second for your reader -- and that might be one other reader, even if they are someone you haven't met. Try to imagine a particular person you are writing the story for, someone who needs the message it conveys.

If you succeed, a great story that is honest about the human experience usually works in any language and culture. You wouldn't want to compromise the authenticity of your story to chase someone's idea of what an international audience wants. Because readers in all countries want authentic stories, not something that tries to appeal to a generic reader.

Trying to appeal to everyone, everywhere usually makes for a bland story.

The exception may be if there are incidental cultural references that someone in another country would not understand. In that case, you would want an editor's help with this because you cannot be an expert in all cultures. But don't worry about this until you are looking for publication.

Best of luck.

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