For questions relating to the sequence of events of a novel, also known as its plot.
In any work of fiction, there are three critical elements that must always exist:
- The setting (the place in which the story happens; the scope of the setting can change but ultimately broadens to a span of time within a "universe" in which certain things are accepted as fact which may or may not differ from the "real" universe),
- The characters (fictional or fictionalized people who populate the setting), and
- The plot or storyline (the sequence of events that happens to the characters in the setting).
The plot of a story constitutes the bulk of most fiction-writing efforts; it is essentially everything that happens, whether known or unknown, internal or external to a character's mind, between the earliest time period documented by the novel and the latest. The structure of a novel or other work of fiction may involve skipping backwards or forwards in place or time for dramatic purposes, but there generally should be a single linear timeline along which all events occur (unless the subject matter itself deals with making changes to the timeline such as time travel).