Time as a Literary Device: Unpacking the Parallel Timeline

I love how Scott Lynch uses parallel timelines in his ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series. Kristen Lamb explains how to work flashbacks into your story.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image from "True Detective" Image from HBO’s “True Detective”

One reason we might be tempted to use a flashback is to explain or to expound to artificially prop up weak characterization or a weak plot (the training wheel flashback). This is what good editors will cut. Then there is the other way to use time and that is time as a literary device. This is when our going back in time is used intelligently to serve the forward momentum of the story.

Last time, we delved into the idea of a loop around (one form of flashback as a literary device). Sometimes we see a story that is smack in the action and then after the inciting incident the story shifts back in time until it catches up where we began then continues real-time.

I used the example of Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Live Nun. This is looping back in time as a literary…

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