The Future Before The Present

Posted on February 1st, 2006 @ 20:27
Filed Under Planning, Scenes, Writing | 1 Comment

Today’s the first day of the month, and as planned, I’ve started writing down the plan for The Wall of Silence (first volume in the trilogy). While doing so, and while referring to previous writings I had done for this project–which I’ll keep, but only if they fit the new plan–I came to wonder about the way I had been introducing the story and the universe. I think I’ve in fact started by a technique that may be better in movies. However, I’m not sure about that; perhaps it can work in this novel all the same.

The technique I have in mind may be close to the flashback one, except that it’s not a character remembering an element of the past, but an element of the future placed before the present. Back when I started writing this, I intended my first chapter to be an action scene introducing the place my characters are from, but only briefly–they’re running away, and the end of the chapter would see them thrown into the other main setting of the world (there are two main geographic settings, but let’s not enter into this too much). Later on, I came to wonder if I shouldn’t add some more to this, a few other scenes happening before this one.

There is an element in this first chapter that is quite important (it explains the reason why the action scene is taking place), and although I’m not going to reveal what it is from the start, let’s say that the antagonists behind this reason will play a large role later on, in the second and third volumes. I was thus left with two possibilities: either jumping to the part happening in the second setting, with the risk of seeing the reader wondering about the first one that wouldn’t be shown for long enough, or adding a few chapters that would give more clues and description about what the character’s life and world were before. Would the first solution be good enough? Would the descriptions coming in the next volumes be enough? Wouldn’t the reader want to know about it a little earlier than right before the ending, and not be placed in fornt of it like in front of some deux ex machina (how I hate this technique)?

The thing is, in many stories where the heroes “go to another world”, most of the time, said heroes are from our world: the author doesn’t need to go over his/her leg to describe it, since the readers already know it. In the case of my story, it’s a little trickier–both “worlds” (well, continents) are different enough from our own to deserve more than only a few lines of description.

Another thing, though, is that I like this first chapter as it is. After all, it introduces the characters through action and not description, and I made it so that it starts with enough strength to be a hook for the readers. As a result, for the moment, I’ve left it as the first chapter, which technically makes it a forewarning of what will end the following 3-4 chapters. I’ve seen this “technique” used in more than one movie–Pulp Fiction comes to mind–and I think it’s in fact a different organization of the events, rather than a flashback.

However, does this work in books? I can’t remember any right now, although I’m sure I must already have seen it used in writing. Would any of you know of one or two, so that I can see how it is presented, if it works, and if it makes the story enjoyable? Because I have it in mind doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to pull it off right, nor that it’s a good way of doing, and I’d like to be able to compare.

In any case, this time, I’m writing the plan before the novel. This leaves me some more time to think about it.

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One Response to “The Future Before The Present”

  1. Benjamin Solah on February 2nd, 2006 5:16 am

    I’m using flash backs in my novel. But if I you right, you want to use a ‘flash forward’?

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