17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd continues to lead our exploration of sub- and micro-structures by taking us into the scaffolding of in media res, flashbacks, and other tools for structuring a story by telling it out of chronological order. We also cover how to do this without breaking the flow of the story.

Liner Notes: The “trousers of time” book Howard referenced was Jingo, by Terry Pratchett.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson


Consider what adding a second timeline to your current WIP would enhance about the story. Which characters’ motivations might be better illuminated, or which plot points or mysteries might be able to be given additional depth?

The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

3 thoughts on “17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines”

  1. Interesting episode! Gave me some new thoughts about why people use multiple timelines.
    The Dispossessed and Who Is Vera Kelly do some cool stuff with multiple timelines for the same POV character. In The Dispossessed, it’s because the mc is a physicist doing timey wimey stuff and in Vera Kelly, it’s about how her life experiences made her into a spy.
    I’m kind of confused why you listed Julie and Julia as a good example of multiple timelines. The Julia Child storyline is just so much more interesting. To me, that movie is a warning: if you’re doing multiple timelines, make sure the person in the present is as interesting as the person in the past.

  2. This week, Dan, Mary Robinette, Peng, and Howard, talked about using multiple timelines. Backstory and flashbacks, mostly, although they also talk about more complex structures. Things that happened once upon a time are automatically more believable, too. Plenty of examples, and you can read all about them in the transcript now available in the archives.

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