‘Time jumps’ in Up and up

When I set out to write Up and up I did not expect it to be a time-jump novel. Instead, I was walking along to work through the woods and just started wondering what happened to the main characters afterwards. Somehow I got the idea that Rake never achieved his dream of being an actor, but was instead sucked into the City and worked one of the few jobs where success did not require schooling or a middle-class accent: finance.

This then gave me an interesting challenge. I set out to write a book where the story was revealed via ‘jump cuts’ between two ‘time zones’: the poor reprobate teens in 1996 and the rich, (grasping) materialistic adults in 2008. I used portentous endings to chapters in the future to drive the action onwards. For example, when one of the characters in 2008 says ‘we gotta a history, and that counts for a lot‘, and then we go back to 1996 and that history.

But I also wanted the story to make sense and be readable, if the reader decided to read the story in date order. Instead of the action being slowly revealed over time, you know the characters’ secrets and instead watch things unfold. This is quite intense for the reader, as to some extent, the future parts relieve the misery of the characters lives in 1996. Reading it in the time-order, the story still makes sense, but Rake’s arc in 2008 is then very much about his love (obsession?) and follows on from the story of his (rather brutal) upbringing, and the whole is less balanced.

It was also hard to format. The very original version was headed with ‘book 1’ for the scenes 1996, and ‘book 2’ for the scenes in 2008. My editor was of the opinion that this would confuse the readers, so I just went for putting the dates at the top–but not everyone actually notices the titles. I recently re-read Stephen King’s IT, and noticed that he used italics for the two different ‘time-zones’ (the characters as children, then as adults), so I’ve been pondering switching to that format (one of the advantages of self-publishing an ebook, you can make changes after publication). However, then half the book would be in italics, which I thought people might find irritating to read. Currently, most readers have been fine without italics, but at least one has been confused, so I might be switching to italics in the future.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: