importance of sequence

by April Macadam

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.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero