Three Weeks Later
Last night, I finished the WWII book Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. The story was fantastic, but the format was not linear. Each chapter was out of (time) sequence regarding the historical events. I found the result annoying, but the author used this nonlinear format for an important reason. His story had a dull beginning, and he uplifted readers by introducing dramatic parts earlier in the book. The result was a mix of exciting combat and dull background. Unfortunately, I found the compromise difficult to follow.
Authors have several techniques in their toolbelt to spice up boring stories. This includes adding humor, engaging (unrelated) facts, or a dramatic writing style. However, this is akin to applying lipstick on a pig. Not all stories have exciting beginnings, but this does not make such stories bad or unimportant.
Is there a benefit to presenting a nonlinear format? The book received high reviews, so I cannot argue with success. However, several reviews pointed out flaws, which included the nonlinear timeline.
In my writing, I avoid spicing up stories with writing tricks. Writing is challenging enough without having an out-of-sequence plot, injected humor, or crazy writing techniques. The farthest nonlinear place I will take a story is parallel timelines. This helps focus the story on one character. Jumping back three weeks is out of the question. Can people in real life jump back in time? If they could, the stock market would be a mess.
Yet, I have read a few stories that had multiple timelines. The book Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson successfully maintained four timelines, and it was an incredible read. However, writing this book must have been super complex, and reviewers have pointed out issues.
My advice to other authors is not to peruse nonlinear events. A good story will always hook readers, even if it has a boring beginning. Hopefully, my future blogs will not have boring origins.
You’re the best -Bill
March 09, 2022
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