Back To the Future: Stories with Dual Timelines



Lately, in an attempt to stretch my pantser self, I have been trying to outline my new WIP before writing it.  I made it to chapter six before getting itchy and starting to write a bit, but that's okay, right?  Right?  Alright, so I cheated a bit, but it's progress at least.  :)


So anyway, part of this process involved fleshing out the characters' backstories.  Backstory is one of my favorite things to come up with.  It may be because of my psychology background, but digging deep into what makes a character who he/she is fascinates me.  So I'm used to having a pretty extensive backstory and accept that only about 10% will make it into the actual story.

However, this time, the backstory started to take on a life of its own.  My story is going to have a major suspense/mystery thread, and I found that the crime that happened in the past ties to the crime that happens in the present.  My romance thread also has story in both times because my hero and heroine had a relationship ten years before and now are thrown back together in the present.  SO, I started to get this urge to write a story with a dual time line.

This means I would have "two nows" as author Charlotte Rains describes it.  I would have chapters take place in the year 2000 and then chapters that happen in the present.  All would be told in real time--meaning, the past chapters would not have that hindsight perspective coloring it.

I've read a few books that use this structure, including Deeper by Megan Hart, which I reviewed a while back, and I've enjoyed the style.  However, I have to say I'm a bit intimidated by it.  I'd basically have to have two complete stories that eventually weave together.

Each storyline has a distinct narrative arc, with its own conflicts, disasters, and troubles for the characters, and its own forward movement and mounting action.--Charlotte Rains

That seems like a lot to keep a handle on, especially when this is my virgin attempt at suspense.  But what good is being a pantser if you don't take a risk every now and again?  And I kinda love the idea of writing my character as an 18-year-old and then as a 28-year-old because I can play with the voice a bit.  So, as of right now, I'm going to give it a shot and see how it goes.


But I wanted to ask you guys.  What do you think of books with dual timelines/story lines?  Have you read any that used this structure?  Is it distracting?  Should I just suck it up and try to figure out how to slip in this vital backstory in flashbacks? Let me know your thoughts.


*Today's Theme Song**
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" - Green Day
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