My story is divided into three parts. The first part takes place during my main character’s younger years. The second part jumps ahead several years. I’m worried that making such a large jump will make the reader feel as though they’ve missed out on a bunch of things. Do you have any advice on how to get around this?
Great question! Whether your time skip will be an issue depends on what happens offscreen between the first part and the second part. Readers won’t care that they didn’t watch your protagonist grow up or live out their normal life. However, they’ll care if you skip past important events that they feel they should have witnessed.
Things I don’t recommend putting between time periods:
- Any event that has such a big impact on the main character that their personality changes or it otherwise shapes who they are. If they slowly change over time, you could show some instigators of that change and then make your time jump, as long as the slow change in personality is predictable and readers understand how it happened. For instance, a naïve character could have an event that takes some of their innocence away, and then you can jump to the future after more stuff like that happened and they are completely disillusioned.
- Any event that will be frequently alluded to because it’s relevant to what happens in the later time period. If it’s alluded to just for laughs, that’s fine.
For instance, if a parent dies between time periods because of a normal illness or accident, and the protagonist grieved per normal for a while and then recovered, it’s fine if that happens offscreen. But if the parent dies under mysterious plot-relevant circumstances and the main character thinks the death is their fault, you definitely want to show that in a scene instead skipping past it.
Most of all, don’t use the time jump to leave an important part of the main character’s experience mysterious so you can reveal it later. The point of a main character is to give readers someone to bond with, and for that to work, they need to understand where your character is coming from. As fun as reveals can be, a reveal would do more harm than good in this instance.
So overall, the best way to avoid readers feeling like they missed out is simply not to skip over anything they’d miss.