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In a father/son novel, there are two parts to the story: half the book follows the protagonist for a few years. Part two is twenty five years later. The story transitions with a 10 - 12 page narrative section giving a sense of what happened with the relationships of the main character during that time. The main character is now seventy and wants to fix the relationship with his son.

I'd like to see how authors have dealt with a big jump in time from one section to the next. Thanks

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  • Hi, are you looking for examples of books following this theme? That's not really suitable for this site, so you should reword your question to ask about what you should do in your own writing.
    – Laurel
    Nov 28, 2021 at 16:12
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    I doubt the 10-12 pages are necessary. If they end up re-hashing their relationship / estrangement in the 2nd half, we will learn everything that happened anyway. Just pick up 25yrs later. Father has changed, but the son (and readers) haven't seen it and will be skeptical. Each will have different memories/impressions of the past, and because the reader has not explicitly been told what happened through a 25yr exposition dump they will make up their own minds what is the truth.
    – wetcircuit
    Nov 29, 2021 at 15:37

2 Answers 2

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I'd say, don't cheat.

I consider 10-12 pages of exposition to be a cheat. The maxim "Show, don't tell" comes to mind.

It originates in stage plays, the idea is quite literal there: Don't write dialogue that tells people Larry is a heavy smoker, show Larry smoking heavily, chain smoking, Larry has a cigarette in his hand or mouth every scene -- Until that crucial scene where he does not, for whatever reason.

But the same idea applies in novels.

The time skip is not the problem. Use your imagination and find the key scenes, the turning points in which the relationship sours.

End with a big one. Start the next chapter,

Jim had not spoken to his father in three years. Then Aunt Margaret died. Upon hearing Angela relate this news, he flushed red, even though alone in the room; embarrassed at himself. He choked up. He loved Aunt Margaret, and now he'd let this stupid feud with his father rob him of the last three years of her life.

Angela asked him, "Are you coming? To the funeral?"

Jim's voice broke. "I thought she was beating it."

"She had another seizure. They couldn't revive her."

Jim said, "Okay. Yes. I'll be there."

Angela was silent for a moment. "You have to control yourself, Jim."

Then skip to the funeral, and how the relationship gets worse, or better.

Then skip more years to the next turning point. Don't gloss over any of them, dig in and write the drama. Readers are very poor at memorizing claims; which is what you are talking about doing with your exposition. Reciting facts for them to memorize.

Don't do that. You need to confront the worst points, you can't just gloss over them with a sentence or two. When writing these kinds of scenes I choke up, I cry, but this is what readers are looking for, human emotion. THAT is what they remember.

Readers read so the author can assist their imagination. They want to see the movie in their head, they want to empathize and sympathize with the emotions of your characters; they want to be outraged like your hero, frightened like your hero, saddened and guilty like your hero.

When you watch a movie, you'd be pissed if at the crucial point, 007 doesn't fight, or dive off the cliff, or leap out of the airplane without a chute. What if it just put white lettering on a black screen, "007 fights and kills all five of these bad guys. Next: Barcelona!" And they show you 007 walking into a shop in Barcelona.

The novel is the same. Dramatize scenes for the things you want to say in those 10-12 pages. Or condense all that into one scene, if you can.

Time skips over non-dramatic periods is a good thing to do; stories are built around emotional change points. And for that reason, time-skips over the emotionally fraught scenes when relationships are changing is a bad thing to do, and can ruin your story.

Show, don't tell. Bring a scene to life in our imagination, don't give us a list of facts to remember.

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    I heard that "show don't tell" originated in silent films, where "telling" was literally putting up a big card with words, and "showing" was entirely visual. Dec 5, 2021 at 3:40
  • That's possible. I read it was early stage plays, before film at all, but I can't recall where I read it.
    – Amadeus
    Dec 6, 2021 at 10:54
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Flash back, can work.

John is sitting at the breakfast table looking at the empty plate.

He remembers back, to when His dad was alive.

Second version is just to make two parts. In the second part You write:

Ten years later.

Now I am sitting and remembering back, to when my dad, and I was ...

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