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  • Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by funnyvalentine at 10:21 on 13 April 2015
    I might have this term wrong, but I am wondering what people think of books with two timelines, both of them happening to the same person (and from the same pov).  I am guessing that both stories need to have their own arc before they tie up at the end.  Can anyone think of any books like this?  Do people write them, or is it just too hard and therefore better to incorporate the other strand as backstory in the usual way, which I can see keeps everything linear.  Am I just being lazy?  I worry that doing this might make the reader enjoy one strand more than the other and is a little distracting.   I have read books like this and remember thinking ' oh I wish they'd stick to this strand as I like it more', but of course can't now think of any.  I know why I'd like to write it - am just not sure readers like them like that.  Thank you for reading the Monday morning worry!!!!!
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by EmmaD at 12:07 on 13 April 2015
    Lots to say about this, but v busy this morning. Will be back - and will be interested to hear what others think in the meanwhile!
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by Freebird at 15:18 on 13 April 2015
    two timelines - do you mean it's happening to the same person, but one it in the present and one is in the past?
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by Freebird at 15:19 on 13 April 2015

    'White Horse' by Alex Adams does this. Two strands, one in the present and one showing everything that led up to that present.
    You do need quite a strong stomach for the book, but don't let that put you off. I never normally read gruesome stuff, but I found the plot really intriguing and even the very last letter of the very final word added a twist!

    I have to admit that I found the 'past' thread a lot more compelling than the 'present' thread, perhaps because it was revealing secrets and explanations.

    Edited by Freebird at 15:20:00 on 13 April 2015
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by funnyvalentine at 18:20 on 13 April 2015
    Thanks so much Emma and FB.  Yes, that's it absolutely.  One past, one present.  Thank you for recommendation and will get now.  Yes, isn't that the whole problem, one strand more exciting?  Sorry, on phone, but I think I might feel like I'm writing two books.  How does one make sure both strands standalone.  Thank you for book though, very helpful! Might do some googling. X
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by funnyvalentine at 18:22 on 13 April 2015
    Might also be time for tactical retreat to the drawing board...
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by Freebird at 17:45 on 14 April 2015
    but I found that wanting to press onto the 'past' strand did make me carry on reading the 'present' strand, even if only to get it out of the way so I could get back to the more interesting bit.
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by EmmaD at 18:22 on 14 April 2015
    Both The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy are like this. Others include Barry Unsworth's Stone Virgin, Tobias Hill's The Love of Stones, and others of his I think, A S Byatt's Possession is sort-of, and virtually anything by Peter Ackroyd, ever since Hawksmoor... Novels with a more direct connection between the two include things like Faulks/Birdsong, Boyd/Restless.

    It's a marmite thing. Readers who love it, REALLY love it, because they find the two threads enrich each other with the connections in ways that no single narrative can be rich on its own. Readers who don't, really don't - they do tend to like one thread more than the other, and resent the one they don't like coming bouncing back in.

    Some of my favourite reviews of TMOL said things like "At first I found the switching really annoying but by the end I'd fallen in love with the other strand, and loved them both more"...
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by EmmaD at 18:28 on 14 April 2015
    Oh, and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain is sort-of like this, in that the two protagonists' narratives are separate, because they're separated, and only actually join up right at the end.
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by Freebird at 13:10 on 15 April 2015
    there's also Jo Baker's 'The Telling', which is about two protagonists - one in the past and one in the present - living in the same house. Again, I found the 'past' thread a lot more compelling. The present one seemed superfluous to the story and I actually barely remember any of it, whereas the 'past' thread stuck in my mind
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by alexhazel at 21:48 on 16 April 2015
    It can make for a compelling story, when there are two timelines, but only if they connect in some way and add something to each other. I can think of occasions, especially in films, when this has been done for no good reason, with the result that one of the timelines weakens the entire story. A good example of what I mean (in film) is The Lone Ranger, where the scenes with the kid talking to the Indian in the funfair constantly took you out of the real story into some weird, pointless conversation which only had the effect of reminding you that you were watching a film.

    I've toyed with the idea of doing this sort of thing with two related plots that I came up with for novels. However, I decided against doing it as a two-threaded narrative simply because I felt it would work better as two separate novels. Doing the stories as a two-threaded narrative would be distracting for the reader, and either give too much away about how one of the threads would end, or else be too repetitive if I didn't get it right.
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by funnyvalentine at 11:37 on 19 April 2015
    Thank you so much for the responses and sorry to be late to this.  I've got TMOL Emma, so will look at that - I think I remember you talking about this years ago.  Cold Mountain too - very helpful, thank you so much.  I think I am worried I can't do both strands well enough.  I can definitely join them up, but I feel one narrative would be shorter (as is an emergency situation) and introduced at the beginning of each chapter, but would actually only be a third of the length of the other (main) strand and I'm worried that's not enough.  I do think it would completment the other strand, though.  Just not sure I can pull it off.

    Am going to do some pencil-chewing.  

    Thank you so much for all your help.  Very much appreciated, as always.
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by EmmaD at 18:02 on 24 April 2015
    FV, I think it can work very well to have one slim story forming a frame or counterpoint to the main one. Readers are very used to that. In some ways it's maybe a safer option: readers are more likely to know instinctively that one matters more than the other. And in terms of the risk of readers liking one strand more than another, it's perhaps safer too: the reader's less likely to fall in love with the slim story and want/expect to be able to buy into it as a full-scale story.
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by willsonjohn at 13:21 on 01 May 2015
    I like to watch such kind of Movies but till now I have not read such kind of books but I think it will be fun to read dual narrative novels. If you have read some please do refer me some...
  • Re: Novels written with a dual narrative?
    by Philip Birch at 00:54 on 18 June 2015
    I am writing a story at the moment which deals with the present and the character's past history leading up to the present. I'm really unsure whether to just alternate chapters or use the past references as flashbacks - which can easily be done. I think putting the whole thing chronologically would be the wrong thing to do as the main plot of the story is actually the smallest part of it. 

    Flashbacks may not be in chronological order. There are subtle clues in the flashbacks.

    Readers of it so far have commented that they like the story but have no preferences about the structure. That's not good feedback.

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