Questionable: How do you make two timelines work?

CateM wrote: “I’m trying to do one of those dual timelines in a story, where Plot A is the protagonist’s current story, and Plot B is a story from their past. I’ve watch this structure go bad many, many times (*cough* Arrow *cough*), but I also know I’ve seen it work really well before (Big Fish, Second Hand Lions). The problem is, in my favorite examples, the past storyline either features a different protagonist than the present storyline, or the past storyline is the main story, and the present is just a framing device (The Notebook, for all its problems).  Anyone have any thoughts about what makes this structure work, and what makes it not work? Or examples of ones that work for you, even if you can’t put your finger on why?”

The big problem with running two story lines is that readers/viewers will like one better and see the other as an intrusion, aka the parts people skip. Arrow is an excellent example of that; anytime I’ve gone back to watch again, I’ve fast forwarded through the flashbacks and never missed them.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read or seen a narrative that does make that work, and then they tend not to be traditional linear stories (the present story with flashbacks) but more framed stories or patterned plots.  So assuming you want. linear structure with flashbacks, I think you have to ask yourself some questions.

  1. Why do you need both stories?
  2. Which one is more important?
  3. Can you do memory instead of flashback?

 

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Happiness is Making Somebody Else Happy

I had a doctor’s appointment last week.  My cardiac doc is very serious, very low key–well, he would be considering his specialty–very practical.  He gave me my latest test results.  Then he high-fived me.  He actually said said, “High five!” and beamed at me.  Still makes me happy a week later.   If I can make a cardiac doctor giddy–my heart is back to normal function and normal size–then I am The Woman.  

How did you make someone happy (include yourself in “someone”) this week?

This is a Good Book Thursday, August 8, 2019

I’ve been doing so much re-reading lately that I began to wonder: is reading an old favorite a safety issue?  That is, I know I’m going to love it, so there’s no risk involved?  Is this the belt-and-suspenders, keep-the-training-wheels-on, don’t-go-out-after-dark version of entertainment?  Because I’m rewatching movies, too (Red never disappoints) and TV (David Tennant’s Doctor Who, I’d forgotten how great he was), so I’m thinking yes on this.  Which means I must become more adventurous.  New stuff, Jenny, try new stuff.  

How adventurous was your reading this week?

Working Wednesday, August 7, 2019

I knew I was feeling better when I started to crochet again; I’m almost done with the ginormous Secret Paths I started in July, done in Aran wool because who doesn’t want to work with heavy wool in a heat wave?  Then Krissie told me about the Gypsy Wife Quilt and I want to make that, so now I just have to decide if I want to start quilting again or do it in crochet.  And then she sent me pictures of the Bookcase Quilt, which has titles embroidered on strips of fabric to look like book spines.  She’s going to make one with all her titles–that’s gonna be a task, over 100 books–but mine would go faster because I’ve only written twenty.  And I’d definitely do that as a quilt.  Plus I have to turn her walking thing into a [deleted] caravan.  So I’m good on crafts, even before I get to hanging all the storage stuff in my kitchen.

What are you up to?

So Let’s Define a “Darling”

It’s 3:50 on Tuesday afternoon, August 6, I have gone out and stocked up on Diet Coke (and bok choy and mushrooms, but that’s another story) and I still haven’t cut much from Act One because even though I know that complication sequence with the 8000 words must be cut back savagely, I like everything in it.  Well, I’m a big fan of my writing, so I would.  So accepting that I’m going to be cutting things I like, the next step is to winnow darlings, aka The Parts I Like That People Will Probably Skip.

 

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I Can’t Quit This

Executioner from Arthur Rackam’s 1007 illustration for Alice, and my spiritual editor.

August 5, 2019, 1:19
So I got all ready to cut the home invasion scene and chickened out.  There’s stuff in there that I don’t know how to do elsewhere–the first horrified mention of Button, the entrance of Joyce the Cat, Nita taking the fall for Button and beginning their relationship, Frank as an important character–plus without this I have pages of Talk.  I like Talk.  I’ll spend my entire story just doing Talk if nobody stops me, but Talk Kills Story, so I need action, bodies in motion, Aristotle insists on it, so . . . 

Damn.  I know Faulkner said to kill your darlings, but have you read Faulkner?  Darlings all over the place.  

So today, I find something else to cut in that damn first act, so I can do the second act tomorrow.  Think of this as a live blog of the Reduction of Act One.  Not that that’s not what the whole blog has been about for weeks.  Argh.  But first I have to eat lunch and take the dogs for their Carl Moment. (Carl is the neighbor who lives two doors down who has a darling Yorkie named Jackson and who gives them cookies and pats and tells them they’re Good Dogs.  It’s the high point of their day.). But then, we’re cutting Act One. BRB.

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Cherry Saturday, August 3, 2019

August is Romance Awareness Month which is supposedly about being more romantically aware of your partner but of course for me is about romance writing and being aware of what the hell I’m doing so I get it right on the page.  In the spirit of the month, however, and to inspire me on this damn book, what’s the most romantic thing anybody ever did for you?  Yeah, that thing.  Tell us about it.