Making sense of the world: the importance of timeline - Ordentop

One of the main reasons we read is to make sense of the world. A timeline suggests a past, present, and future. Using one for plotting allows us to see a beginning, middle, and ending.

A timeline helps us choose what to include in our story. It also gives us a map to follow. It is the big picture of a novel – a place where we get the chance to see the overarching storylines and how they intersect.

Seven questions that will help create a timeline

  1. How old are your characters when the story begins?
  2. Where are the characters in the story?
  3. Why does the story start?
  4. What are your main characters’ story goals?
  5. Who are their co-stars?
  6. How old are your characters when the story ends?
  7. Where will it end?

Beginnings and endings

  • Try not to bore the reader with a factual re-telling of their first years. We are not writing our characters’ biographies.
  • A timeline can help us remove unnecessary backstory. It can be used as a tool to help us work through where we should start our stories.
  • Start when the reason for writing the story begins.  The reader will immediately want to know what happened before and after that point.
  • Stop when the main character reaches his or her story goal.


Thanks, Amanda Patterson, for good pieces of advice.