Thursday, March 2, 2023

Writing Novels with Two Timelines

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

 In a weird coincidence, I'm currently writing two books which have more than one timeline. Honestly, I usually write quite linearly, with only one or two brief flashbacks, so this is new ground for me.

Project One is a paranormal romance that I'm heavily revising called THE DISTANT BEATING OF WINGS. It has a traditional double timeline of the present day romance and events from 25 years before when the hero was kidnapped as a child. The kidnapping not only had a traumatic effect on both main characters, but one of the kidnappers was never apprehended and has come back for round two in the present timeline. The flashbacks are essential not only to understand the characters, but also to the investigation that the hero is making into the present day troubles.

However, this is far from the only way to do a double timeline. My Project Two works quite differently, employing a flashforward instead of a flashback.

Project Two is a Teen fairytale retelling of Cinderealla, working title THE REDEMPTION OF PRINCE CHARMING.  The bulk of the novel  tells the story of how Ellie and Prince Charming (its a nickname) meet and fall in love. However, the book actually starts with a flashforward section on the night of the ball. Afterward there are occasional brief scenes counting down until midnight at the ball when of course the magic wears off. Then the story continues from there.

I had a couple of reasons for doing it this way. First, to  orient the reader and reassure them that it is Cinderella by starting with a classic element, since the rest of my story diverges quite a lot from the traditional folktale. (In a good way, I hope!)  Second, there is a two year gap between the end of part one of the story and the part two on the night of the ball. The flashforward bits are a way to bridge that gap so that when the reader reaches that section instead of stopping dead at the sudden separation between the two main characters, they will be up to speed and ready to race onward to the exciting conclusion. It should, hopefully, save me from a ton of deadly slow summarization of what happened during those two years between.

Do you like books with double timelines? I recommend V.E. Schwab's Vicious which has a very good double timeline. Ever run into the flashforward double timeline before?

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