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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Time Maps - Coordinating character movements

I had an interesting and challenging piece of feedback from my editor during the week. She is currently doing the final edit of Mine to Avenge and we are down to the final few chapters where a lot of things are happening with different characters at the same time in the move towards the story’s climax. In Mine to Avenge, all of this particular action takes place in a large house and the surrounding gardens, over the course of a single day, involving the movements of and 4 key characters and 3 minor characters. 
My editor told me that she thought that two of the major events of that final day, were placed too close together for them to be able to realistically occur within the written time frame. I had allowed 45 minutes between both events, and on closer examination, I agreed with the editor and thought that the timeframe might be a bit ‘tight’.
However, as all more experienced writers out there will know, such a problem can’t be fixed by simply allocating a longer timeframe, because other events with other characters have been written already, and changing this one thing can have a roll-on effect with other events, making it necessary to adjust their timeframes as well.
In my case, I had to closely assess 4 chapters concerned with the chain of events on the day of concern. Fortunately, I found it not too complicated to sort out. The two events of concern happened around midday, so all I had to do was to start the events of the day about an hour earlier than they originally had done. This meant that I only had to adjust the times for the events that took place prior to midday.
I don’t know how other writers keep tabs on these things but in my case, I worked through this issue by designing what I called a Time Map - see below (I have removed potential plot spoilers from the Time Map and it won’t make much sense anyway without the story). I then went through the four chapters of concern, writing down the movements of the characters concerned at the time they happened, adjusting the times and movements prior to the midday events. The completed map enabled me to see at a glance where all the characters were at any given time for consistency. I found this a very useful exercise and will use it again for future work involving complicated character movement. I’m keen to know how other writers manage this sort of thing.


Wakes, showers, dresses



Goes to courtyard to smoke


(8.50) Phones Linus

Talking to Alethea on phone (in foyer)
Goes outside when Spyridon comes upon him

(c. 8.52) Comes in from courtyard
Sees Linus in foyer (on phone to Alethea)
Goes to library



Decides it’s time to act


Passes kitchen - housekeeper and manservant inside talking
To library looking for Spyridon
Checks on gardener
In library


Sees housekeeper taking food to Spyridon in library
Enters kitchen for snack & to switch monitor off
In library


Enters Spyridon’s suite
In library with housekeeper


Leaves Spyridon’s room, returns plate to kitchen
(Housekeeper there)
Switches monitor back on.
Back to own room


In his room



Contacted by Parker on intercom (still in library)
Goes to gatehouse
Asks Spyridon to join him at gatehouse

Garage scene - Calls employees - tells them to leave immediately
Goes to ask gardener to leave
In garage with Spyridon

In garden - Talks to gardener
Hiding in bushes

Waiting in gatehouse with Parker for employees to leave
Waiting in gatehouse with Spyridon

Goes to window - sees employees leaving
Changes clothes
Spyridon calls on intercom - asks him to courtyard
Calls Linus on intercom


Meets Spyridon in courtyard
Meets Linus in courtyard
In lean-to

Back into house and to his room
Looks out of window to courtyard
Listens outside suite from top of stairs (hears voices)

Enters house with Parker - near kitchen
To library to wait for Linus to appear

Enters house with Spyridon - near kitchen
Goes to library

Waiting in library - bound to chair
Waiting in library

Leaves his room


Arrives at library

Hiding behind library door

Reveals the truth to Linus

Alethea arrives at Spyridon’s house

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