Writing Books/timeline gap


First things first,thank you all for your volunteered time in helping those of us aspiring to write. I am beginning my first attempt at writing a fictional story. It involves a prophecy from hundreds of years ago,circa 13th century, and the protag in the story ends up being the hero of that prophecy. The protag would 33 years of age in the year 2006. My story involves the events that occur in the early 1900's, begin the countdown to the day of the prophecy, when my antagonist will rule the world. 6-6-06.
     The protags bloodline was discovered and kept sacred so the protag would be born to fulfill the prophecy. I want the bad people gone good to help the protag understand he is the one but through spirit.
     I guess my question is this. Should you write your story in two parts? First half, as of right now, is going in the direction of only early 1900's. Is it too long to wait to meet protag? He is mentioned multiple times.
     Towards the end I want the protag to meet his spirit guides before he battles evil giving him the ego boost needed to save the day. You probably understand my dilemma by now but this is my list:
      1. old days first half; present day; both unite
      2. old days-present day-old days-present day
      3. start at end and reflect back through history(protag is an archaeologist)

    If there is any advice any of you could offer, I would greatfully appreciated.

         Thanks again,


Hi, Scooter!

This is a tricky question. You'll find a lot of people who absolutely LOATHE prologues and some who really like them. A prologue is what you're describing as scenario #1 in your question. You start with the old and then jump to the new. It's tricky to pull that off because what's happening (from the reader's perspective) is they're getting involved with the old characters and start to want those characters to succeed or fail. But then poof! Suddenly, they're simply gone and new characters appear. The reader says, "Huh? What the heck?!" and throws the book against the wall. Clive Cussler, however, has made a name for himself by including a prologue that's very rich and detailed. You fall in love with the characters but they all die tragically and leave something of value (or danger) behind for the primary protagonist, Dirk Pitt, to uncover in our present time. Pick one up and take a look at how he does it. "Sahara" was made into a movie recently but the book is quite interesting in how it does just what you're suggesting here.

If you do it wrong, though, it can go very wrong. If the prologue makes the reader throw the book against the wall it can be a bad thing for the author, because the first reader to do that might well be an agent or editor. See where I'm going with that?

Now, with Scenario #2, old days present for one chapter, present for one chapter, etc., I've seen examples where this could work well, and it's likewise an archaeology concept. The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose did this to good effect so you might take a look at that to see how she did it. The nice thing with this book is that you got interested in both sets of characters and the story progressed at about the same speed.

Scenario #3 is the most common method of writing, but not the only as shown above. There are many examples of this type of storytelling. Only you are going to be able to decide what works the best for you. Give each a try and see what "feels" right and please do pick up the other books to see how some of the masters of the genre do it.

Hope that helps a little and good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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