When writing my book, To Tell the Truth, there was one of many elements I forgot to include. It was the hardest for me to correct, my efforts at best mediocre. So as a result, I've become rather conscientious about lining up the timeline.
Differentiating between day and night was the last thing I thought of; and when I did, I realized I needed a timeline. It would help my book to make sense in the reader's mind, plus it helped me keep up with things and where I was in the story. But most of all it was for my reader's sake.
Why is a timeline important? As I mentioned before, it helps keep things straight and prevents confusing your reader. You should orient your reader to whether or not it is day or night or whether or not it is Monday or Saturday. You don't have to be too specific. Subtle hints can be given or it can be mentioned in a dialogue. But however you do it, your reader needs to know or they could get lost and stop reading your book.
Some writers choose to put it at the start of each chapter. Example: Monday, 8:05 a.m. This method can be used to build suspense. You can also use this method to set a location for that chapter. Example: Monday morning, Lambay Park.
A timeline can also help your reader to add visual clues about the changes in light throughout the course of the day. Your character could search for sunglasses to put on, letting the reader know it is daytime. Or you could mention the lengthening shadows of dusk. Your character could find it difficult to read street names or house numbers. Smells can also be used such as the aroma of bacon and eggs being cooked, indicating it is breakfast time. These points should be mentioned briefly. It is not necessary to get too detailed. This could bore your reader.
Little things do matter and can also be used to orient your reader to the timeline. Not allowing your character to meet human needs can make your character seem less real. So allow him/her to take a shower in the morning before starting work, or take a bathroom break, or stop for a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast. In my second book, The Bible Murders, John meets Detective Tony Reeves for a quick lunch and talk about the case at a favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
It is a good idea to keep a record of the story's timeline. Just make sure it is a means of recording that will work for you. I believe in keeping it as simple as possible. This leaves less room for messing it up.
Faye M. Tollison, Author
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters In Crime