1. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two Timelines running parallel?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by GuardianWynn, Feb 13, 2015.

    So I got this story. To counter act information dumping I have tons of flashbacks. In a sense it is a story about 1 person and it is her occasionally remembering how she got to this point as she moves forward.

    Now I am not expecting easy answers. I know it takes a lot of time and thought but I am wondering if there is any sort of tool or concept or rule you guys use when in a similar situation.

    Situation being 2 questions.

    1 How can you tell if a memory shouldn't make the cut?

    2. How do you decide which order to show these kind of scenes?
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is difficult to know with the limited information here, but I would say the most important thing is clarity. Answering the specific questions: -

    1. I would only include things that move the plot forward, for example, memories which set up the conflict in your novel.
    2. If you have two different timelines I would generally treat them both chronologically or it risks becoming very confusing very quickly. I would also identify the different timelines by section breaks, or preferably, new chapters.
     
  3. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. What about things important to the character but not plot. Like She remembers her dead husband. I was thinking of doing a "how they met" but not sure if worth space? It is a character driven plot though.

    2. Normally that would be my rule but the is just no way to do that. I think. I mean she goes around meeting people and people she met reminds of her of her life. Like if that happened with you probably not gonna be chonological order. Someone may remind you of highschool then grade school and then maybe college. Know what I mean?
     
  4. I Am Vague
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    I Am Vague Active Member

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    Okay, so I imagine that you want to have only a few flashbacks. Not a whole story line, just intervals. A few chapters every once in a while to give the reader something else to pay attention to for a while, or something as a short break from the main plot. I would make a chapter for a flashback, but have a point be proven, or something be told/ explained in that single chapter. However many you put in is up to you, but I personally wouldn't have two equally sized story lines throughout the whole story.

    What I would do... every once in a while, say every 3 - 4 chapters or so, add another that contains a flashback. I wouldn't have them try and run together. So, if your character is driving to LA in the flashback, I wouldn't actively continue it into the next flashback. I also wouldn't bind these flashbacks to a specific timeline, just bring them up as they're needed. I hope this makes sense.
     
  5. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. If the "meeting her husband" scene was more than a brief flashback, and was unrelated to the plot (even if used for character building) and occurred before the current events- then I would honestly wonder why the hell I am reading about it as a reader. That said, if you were to introduce your characters with an overview of the gradual decline and death of her husband, thus providing a significant change in her life which may dictate her future actions, then I wouldn't have a problem with it.
    2. It depends. If the memories are just random snippets from her life then this should be fine, but if they follow a specific arc then this probably won't work.
     
  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    My current writing sort of has a 1 to 1 ratio. On reflection the story isn't just using flashbacks but is about flashbacks. Does that make it any better? Example it opens with her in jail waiting to be judged. No context of why our who she is at first. Chapter two is a flashback of why.It happens while the judges are discussing her fate.

    Yeah he does not motivate anything. Just seemed like it might be weird not to bring it up after introducing him. Even though it is character building you don't think it should be seen?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry was writing on a tablet. It went psycho on me. lol
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  8. Yume No Okami
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    Watch Once Upon a Time- great show, love it to bits-

    Then use that as an example of what not to do.

    Once has the crucial flaw (overall, not just the flashbacks, really) of often only portraying events relevant to that episode, causing what seems like Deus Ex Machinas and the impression they're writing by the seat of their pants. Casually use throwaway lines to foreshadow later events, instead of being completely up front two seconds before necessary.

    EDIT: Also, foreshadow what happens in the flashbacks by showing some of their repercussions before the cause is identified, when possible. It gives the story a well knitted feeling in my eyes.
     
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  9. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never seen this show, but I have seen this flaw in so many US dramas that make them almost unwatchable.
     
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  10. Caeben
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    I've got two works you can look at for some inspiration. The Lies of Locke Lamorra has flash-back chapters that fill in details about the main character's life up to the present situation. It sounds similar to the framework you're toying with. You could look Iain Banks' Use of Weapons, which has two time-lines running through the book, alternating chapters (I won't say any more than this because spoilers).
     
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  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    From the Guardian's review of Use of Weapons:
    I like the idea the two timelines work together in the mind of the reader. I'm going to have to read that book. There may be some ideas I can pull from it for my own novel. Perhaps I should take a key thing out that I revealed early on in my 'now' and instead have it revealed more slowly in the 'then'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  12. Mckk
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    I'm doing a similar thing right now actually - it's not snippets of memory though. It's literally alternate chapters where one storyline deals with the present screwed up world, and the other storyline deals with the blossoming romance of the main characters. In essence, the romance storyline is the past, thus could be considered "flashback chapters". The present is always taken from Will's POV and the past chapters taken from Arlia's POV. (and obv they are the 2 main characters)

    Not got a clue if it works...
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like the idea of two different POVs in the different timelines. It sounds like it should work.
     
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  14. Caeben
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    @GingerCoffee That review is so spoiler-y. Use of Weapons is one of those books that a new reader should really have no idea what it's about. It works much better that way.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    Sorry. It was straight out of The Guardian's review of the book, it's not my fault.:oops:
     

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