Have you ever seen a mother with several children on an outing, say to the zoo? Despite each wanting to view their favourite animal first, a clever parent will organize the trip so that everyone is satisfied. In a similar fashion, sometimes a writer finds that more than one  character appears who insist on having their stories told.  Giving each of these personalities their own narrative strand is one way of telling those other tales.

We’re quite used to seeing this in film, where first we follow one individual, then another; Babel, Crash and Traffic are but three which spring to mind. However, splicing strands is a technique which appeared first in novels. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, being the earliest example I found, and William Faulkner (As I lay Dying)and Virginia Woolf  (The Waves) taking the technique further by writing chapters from different points of view.

There are several ways writers can use multiple strands.
The first is to introduce the characters, and allow the reader to follow them separately for a while. Once the storylines connect, a writer can, if they want, combine the strands into one narrative. Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey expertly plays with the expectation that because the two protagonists are a man and a woman both seeking love, the story will end in a romantic liaison.
Another way to use multiple strands is to have separate stories with an item, or a theme, in common. The Hours by Michael Cunningham employs this technique brilliantly by linking the stories of three unconnected women through their relationship to Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway.
Genre writers bend the multiple strand form to meet their own requirements. In Lord of the Rings, J. R. Tolkien starts his characters on their journey together, but in the second book of the trilogy, The Two Towers, he separates the group, sending them in different directions. Books Two and Three follow these strands as the various characters encounter a number of challenges before the story is tied neatly together at the end. Many fantasy quest novels successfully follow this template.

Multiple strands may, or may not, have multiple narrators. Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient uses an omniscient narrator for the four characters, whereas A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby has four narrators all using the first person POV.

Writing a novel with spliced strands could be considered similar to writing several novellas, but the skill lies in connecting and linking the stories. Each strand has to carry the story forward and, to avoid confusion, must be clearly signposted. Nonetheless, these stories have their rewards. For readers, looking for connections as the various stories develop and come together is a real pleasure. For writers, shifting the focus from one storyline to another allows for variety in the narrative pacing, creates tension and heightens, through postponement, reader satisfaction.

Writing Update

This week I’m living up to the title of my blog – writing my novel, no working title yet – as I’ve scrapped my previous title. Yes, it was sad to see that particular arrangement of words depart, but if your darling isn’t up to scratch – it has to go. So, coming up with a new title is a priority as the length will have an impact on the cover. In the meantime, I’m incubating, meditating, free associating and instructing my subconscious to come up with the goods, as I’m sure that while I worry at it, the Eureka moment isn’t going to happen.

I'm going to take a look at how other indie writers launch their books, because non-stop buy my book tweets isn’t the way to go! So I’ve plenty to keep me busy while I rest the novel for a week – if I can manage to leave it for a whole week!

Today’s Haiku
purple red pink white
rhododendron blooms create
splashes of summer

Useful links:
A great list of resources from books to boost your writing skills to brain food for writers!
Anne’s post contains a comprehensive list of resources and tools available to writers. 

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories... just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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