Sandra Gerth - author of the Writers' Guide Series

Writing in chronological order

If a readers tells me she was up all night, reading, because she couldn’t put down my book, it puts a big grin on my face. Because that’s exactly what I want: for readers to become totally immersed in my fictional worlds.

So, how can we achieve that?

One things that helps is to make sure you write in chronological order by putting the cause before the effect. cause

Let me give you an example to explain what I mean.

Startled, she jumped when the doorbell rang.

While the sentence isn’t grammatically incorrect, it puts the character’s response (she jumped) before the stimulus (the doorbell rang).

Sentences like that can cause your readers to become confused and have to re-read, which rips them right out of your fictional world. If that happens too often, readers might become irritated and stop reading altogether, especially if you’re writing fast-paced action scenes in which a lot is happening.

So, rewrite sentences like the one above.

When the doorbell rang, she jumped.

Notice that this stimulus-before-response order also makes the telling startled unnecessary. The order of the sentence elements makes it clear that the character is startled.

Another example:

“You’re late,” she said, opening the door.

Since she probably opens the door first and then starts talking, you should rewrite in that order:

She opened the door. “You’re late.”

Make it a habit to write in chronological order. Describe the cause first, then the effect. Have something happen, then let your characters react to it, not the other way around.

It’ll make for a much more pleasant reading experience!

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