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RADerdeyn

Opinions On Split Narratives?

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I am in the process of writing a fantasy series for middle grade and up. The first story is linear. The protagonist, Bethany, and the story go from start to finish through the various adventures. For the second story, the new protagonist, Sarah, and her friend (the old protagonist, Bethany) get separated. The narrative alternates between them for the next 10 chapters or so, on a chapter by chapter basis. I think I was able to keep the story flowing, and miraculously, they both wound up at the right spot for the finale.

 

The third book (in process) has the potential to be another split narrative. My questions are these:

 

Do you think split narratives work, or do they just annoy you?

 

If they do work, does a chapter by chapter alternation (bet you haven't seen that word in a sentence recently) of the story work, or is it better to do like Tolkien did and put the different lines into "books" until the characters finally meet at the resolution?

 

Will "splitting" throw off younger readers?

 

 

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As someone who reads split narrative, and the mother of many kids, I say that I think it is fine if done properly.  Chapter by chapter is good. Especially for the younger readers.  However, if you break it in the middle of a chapter, young readers need more than a good voice to tell them the POV has changed.  Maybe the dotted line, or some kind of space.  Maybe you have an animal like a snake that separates the POVs.  Whatever the case, make sure that you stop at a logical place.  If you stop mid-topic, or mid-scene it will throw the kids off.  Does this help?  

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Alley,

Thanks for the "mom level" feedback. :) 

 

It does help. I don't anticipate changing threads in the middle of a chapter as the chapters are fairly short anyway. The chapter by chapter seemed to flow pretty well for the second story, though I did have to make a timeline so I could remember where everyone was at any given time. I wanted to make sure they all wound up where they needed to be at the end of the story.

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Since I have two millennia separating the narrative threads, my WIP has no problem except possible spoilers in the Gulf War portion stemming from access to the earlier narrative as a "found manuscript." I can make mis-translation, missing text, and lack of context act as red herrings.

 

"...If done well..." Make mine medium-rare.

 

My current read is second person alternating three separate points of view. Very post-modern. Hugo and Nebula winning authors can bend any rule they want. (This book wasn't nominated.)

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31 minutes ago, EClayRowe said:

Since I have two millennia separating the narrative threads, my WIP has no problem except possible spoilers in the Gulf War portion stemming from access to the earlier narrative as a "found manuscript." I can make mis-translation, missing text, and lack of context act as red herrings

Sounds interesting.

 

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Sometimes a split narrative is the most practical way to tell a story. Also, it adds something when you intentionally cause the reader to shift perspective. As a child, when my Grandmother read to me, she would change her voice to match the shift. It was never annoying. It made the experience even more enjoyable. 

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V. Eln,

Since "fun to read" is right at the top of my list as to what I try to make my stories when I write, I'll take your comments as a positive. Thanks for weighing in.

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I read split narratives a lot, and my current WIP is actually a split narrative!  To add on to the excellent advice already provided, I would say that it's important to make sure each character has a distinct voice; they notice different things in the environment or one of them is more introspective, or something like that. You know your characters best, so just make sure the reader can distinguish between them when the perspective jumps back and forth.

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My friend just "read/heard" a book with a split narrative, both splits in the first person. I was concerned at first for her, but the author wrote them both more as a diary and labeled each character with dates at each change in POV. It worked quite well.

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12 hours ago, JubaSuperman said:

I read split narratives a lot, and my current WIP is actually a split narrative!  To add on to the excellent advice already provided, I would say that it's important to make sure each character has a distinct voice; they notice different things in the environment or one of them is more introspective, or something like that. You know your characters best, so just make sure the reader can distinguish between them when the perspective jumps back and forth.

Juba,

Thanks for the good advice. I had a bit of trouble in my first split narrative (Sarah's Tale) keeping the Sarah and Bethany characters distinct. I had to go back a few times to add little clues as to their differences in personality and POV. And this will be an issue with the third story I am now working on, so again, thanks for the timely reminder. 

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6 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

My friend just "read/heard" a book with a split narrative, both splits in the first person. I was concerned at first for her, but the author wrote them both more as a diary and labeled each character with dates at each change in POV. It worked quite well.

Caroline,

Thanks you for the feedback. I'm not really good enough to write in first person, so I tend to default to third person. But your comment on "labeling with info" at each POV change is interesting. I'll give some thought to whether I can incorporate such a device in the story.

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