When Stories Run Alongside Each Other

The last two Legends of Windemere volumes will be stories that are running alongside each other.  While Trinity and her team are searching for the crests, the champions will be recovering from their previous adventure and heading out to their final battle.  The timelines are parallel and that’s not an easy thing to make clear, especially since they aren’t in the same book.  So, what are some ways to work with two stories that are happening at the same time and in different locations?

  1. If neither story is big enough to fill a full book then you can switch between them.  I did this with Tribe of the Snow Tiger.  Now, you can have the main one and a secondary that you return to every few chapters.  This is similar to working a single story where the heroes have split up.  You need to use a few cliffhangers and not stay away from the other story for so long that it gets forgotten, so pacing is very important.  Another aspect of this option is having time pass or making it clear that chapters/sections happen at the same moment.
  2. If the stories have their own books then you can have the characters contact each other at some point.  This can be a one-sided conversation at first and then readers get the other side in the next volume.  You just have to make sure the reactions can explain what is happening on the other side.  Otherwise, it just seems odd.  There isn’t a full need for the other side too.  Say a character contacts another one, but it’s only to find out if they have reached a certain point instead of sharing information.  It could also be the side that is being followed is reporting.  The following volume can denote this by having the heroes know what is going on.
  3. Some stories can overlap by hitting the same location at different times. Whoever shows up later can see the result of the previous story.  You can also get a sense if something happened after the previous story ended. For example, the 2nd group comes to the site of a large battle that hasn’t been cleaned up yet.  Readers remember the fight, but now they see that the bodies have been arranged in a bizarre manner.  It makes one wonder what is going on, especially if people know that the 1st group left the area right after the battle.  So, you can gain some mystery and tension that will lead up to a reunion.
  4. Shared supporting cast is another option because it can help share information between the stories.  One of the hardest things is to keep the groups aware of the others to some extent without making their knowledge a mystery.  A shared character can work better than stumbling onto prints or other signs that can’t talk.  This can bring up the question on if the 2nd group continues on their way or tries to unite with the other one to finish both quests quicker.  Of course, you need to make sure there isn’t a time issue and that the reunion makes sense.
  5. There is always the option of not connecting the stories until the end.  It’s a big risk, but not uncommon.  The heroes meet up after their adventures and decide on the next step since their individual goals have either been met or become too impossible to achieve.  It’s tough to do this in the middle of a series without warning, but it can work to freshen things up.  This method tends to work better with short stories or a series designed around multiple heroes going off alone then reuniting for the finale.  Doing it in the middle of a series can get clunky and draw things out to the point where some characters and their adventures are forgotten.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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26 Responses to When Stories Run Alongside Each Other

  1. Neat presentation. Something many of us haven’t dealt with, and you provide a good set of notes if we decide to try it.

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  2. I think Craig is right. Nice primer with good notes. Thanks.

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  3. Olivia Stocum says:

    Interesting. I’m working on a book like that right now. My characters are across the globe from each other so I’m switching back and forth.

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  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Read and learn 👍😎

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  5. L. Marie says:

    Wow! I agree with others who say this is a great presentation. Glad you mentioned LOTR.

    I have to deal with this somewhat in a book with three protagonists who all have their own stories, but meet up in the last third of the book. I switch between the protagonists each chapter. Many times I’ll have a scene from two different protagonists in the same chapter.

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