It’s kind of like time travel, but not. But it kind of is. My current project is a half historical fiction/half contemporary/women’s fiction hodge podge that is currently untitled. I’ve tried doing dual timeline stories before, but they didn’t click.
Not to jinx anything–I may very well still be in the honeymoon phase with this one–but this time, it’s going pretty well.
Here are some of the things I like about interweaving two time periods:
1. Expansiveness. I have a tendency to write a little too big picture sometimes. With two time periods, it naturally lends itself to being kind of a sweeping saga without too much clutter or characters.
2. You Never Get Bored. So far, I’m switching between Present Day and 1893 by chapter–Nicole’s chapters are odd, Victoria’s are even. What this means is that not only will a reader get a contrast between the girls, but I don’t feel like I’m getting bogged down in a particular scene or sequence because in the next chapter, I have Nicole amused at how her dad can only text in one or two word messages at a time and in the one after that, Victoria will be seething about her cousin’s continued betrayal.
3. Limits The Research. I had–and am having–to do bits of spot research on late Victorian times as I go, since I don’t have the ten-plus-years of reading Regency romances to give me an idea of what the Regency might have been like as a background. So while I’ve read the autobiography of an English stage actress, read the autobiography of Consuelo Vanderbilt, and am reading bits and pieces about Victorian theater, I don’t feel that I need to dive all the way back to 1895 because…well, it’s only half the story.
4. Diversity. As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I’m passionate about depicting diverse characters in literature, particular of the mixed race or mixed culture variety because, like, hey, that’s me! On the other hand, I’m really into historical fiction and costume dramas, which often have a lack of diversity. My last book was about a white Englishman with one white daughter and one black daughter living in 1790s Barbados and moving to 1800 England. But with the two timelines, I can have diversity in a variety of ways–whether in Victoria’s memories of her childhood in the British Raj or her later interactions with fellow actors, including working class and homosexuals–or in Nicole’s modern day New York world, where her own family are of different cultures, her students are a mosaic of races and ethnicities, and her childhood best friend, a lesbian, is a newlywed.
5. Relaxing the Voice. Goes along with Never Gets Bored. The way I write when I’m Victoria’s head is not the way I write in Nicole’s. Nicole’s first person narrative is closer to the way I would actually speak, but not my natural writing voice. Victoria’s third person narrative is closer to the way I would write a historical fiction story, but it’s also more controlled and restrained than Nicole’s stuff.
6. Keep The Story Going. When I’m writing an early draft of a story especially, I have a problem skipping the boring or unimportant parts because I’m still trying to find my way or really, really want to get my point across. But when I know that I’ll dip back into Victoria’s pov in the next chapter, I don’t want to write about how glorious the long, fancy dinner was–I want to get to the drama.