Checklist for Chronology

Your story’s structure can leap back and forth in time, but a scene rolls forward like a movie. The items on this checklist seem obvious, yet we often write them backward, inadvertently making readers back up to make sense of things, which saps tension. Chronological writing creates and accumulates tension.

Glossary (my jargon)

Movie (in the mind) = Stories we read
Film = Stories we watch on a screen.
Povcha = Point of view character/s (the head/s we inhabit in a story).
(note: if you are writing in a distant POV – in nobody’s head – you will have no Povcha

The Checklist

  • Check that a scene’s action unfolds chronologically
  • Check that narrative summary is written chronologically
  • Put evidence before conclusion
  • Put motivation before action
  • Tell the plan before acting on it (so readers can enjoy watching it go wrong)
  • Put event before reaction
  • Put setup before payoff.
  • Set up all your payoffs.
  • Pay off all your setups (aka “Tie up loose ends”).

Happy self-editing!