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View Full Version : Stories that are told out of temporal sequence



Dennis E. Taylor
05-31-2015, 03:08 AM
I have a story that takes place in space, over a span of about 50 years (so far). It involves sublight travel, so things get kind of spread out in time as well as space. I have four main storylines going, light-years apart, and interaction between them is minimal in this volume. Aaaaaanyway, for dramatic purposes, I'm telling the stories in a non-temporal sequence. Because there's little interaction, I don't get into logical issues, but it's kind of obvious (I think) that the last section of the book happens at an earlier date than some of the prior sections, for instance.

I know the standard response is "if it works, it's ok", but what I'm wondering is if anyone can name other books where this has been done successfully.

Understand, these aren't flashbacks, and it isn't a case where you're jumping back and forth between the present and some historical period. If that makes a difference.

Bolero
06-01-2015, 05:29 PM
Replay by Ken Grimwood has something of that element.

There is one I read from the library in the last year or so, and have utterly forgotten the name so that is a bit unhelpful, where the story is told in reverse. It isn't immediately obvious at the start that is what is going on.

I would also comment as a reader, that I am someone who is not that good at reading chapter headings - so having Stardate 2015 or whatever as a chapter heading doesn't work for me. :)
Having TEN YEARS EARLIER - that I might notice :D. I pick up on where/when from the first paragraph of the chapter.

shortstorymachinist
06-01-2015, 05:55 PM
Hey Angry Guy,

The Gentlemen Bastards series are all told somewhat non-sequentially. They feature a past storyline and a present, which occasionally stumble upon one another, i.e. the ending of the past storyline will sometimes overlap with the present. It works quite well and Lynch always manages to sneak some foreshadowing in that I feel I should catch, but never do. I'm trying to work out a non-sequential telling in my own WIP, so I get the uncertainty.

EDIT: That probably wasn't quite what you were looking for, seeing as you specified they aren't flashbacks, although in the second book the timeline is so close that they run into one another, as I mentioned.

Maryn
06-01-2015, 06:40 PM
I'm nearing the end of Girl on the Train, which is told from multiple POVs, one a classic unreliable narrator, that don't start at the same time but come together just before the climax. While I don't like having to pay attention to the date, in this novel it's worked quite well.

(And for once Mr. Maryn has read the same book so I have someone to talk to about it.)

Maryn, whose husband reads little fiction

Dennis E. Taylor
06-01-2015, 06:48 PM
Thanks, ppl. Replay is actually one of my all-time favorite novels.

I don't think either example really covers what I'm looking for, but honestly, I think I'm looking for affirmation or encouragement more than anything else. My book is what it is, and I don't think it works as four "parts", told separately. And TBH, as I've worked through the final details, I'm finding that there is some interaction, so the interleaving makes more sense now. Weird how the book somehow got organic at the late stages and started dictating to me what was going to happen.

dirtsider
06-01-2015, 07:08 PM
I think the Lies of Locke Lamora is told out of temporal sequence. I tried reading it but I got annoyed. The plot tended to jump right out of the middle of an action sequence to another scene that happened in the past and then right back into the interrupted action sequence.

shortstorymachinist
06-01-2015, 07:14 PM
I think the Lies of Locke Lamora is told out of temporal sequence. I tried reading it but I got annoyed. The plot tended to jump right out of the middle of an action sequence to another scene that happened in the past and then right back into the interrupted action sequence.

Yeah, Lynch does that in all the Gentlemen Bastard books. It sets up some good moments in the end, but it can be annoying throughout. Especially in the second one, where he opens up with a cliff hanger and then cuts to AND THEN THREE WEEKS AGO for the next half of the book. Jeez Louise.

Old Hack
06-01-2015, 08:12 PM
Would The Shining Girls be a good example here? I'm not entirely sure.

OJCade
06-02-2015, 10:32 AM
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Vonnegut does this, I think. And maybe V, by Pynchon? It's been so long since I've read it; I can't remember.