• Carmen Milligan

A little historical fiction fatigue

I was reading reviews of an upcoming historical fiction book and noted the reviewer stated that she was tiring of dual/multiple timelines in historical fiction. I had not really considered how pervasive this writing style has become until I read this. And pervasive, it is. A few examples:


Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner


And that's just a very small number of titles from a very large list.


I guess that, with historical fiction in particular, it is beneficial to write this way because the history is being told as part of the story of how it impacts the present. This makes it both a learning experience, and an application in today's life based on that experience.


But writing two timelines has its challenges. One, they both have to be interesting. Two, you need to give them the same amount of attention. Three, they need to work together and have smooth transitions to avoid confusion. Finally, four, and where we are now, avoid over-usage.


It is an interesting writing method, and particularly suited for historical fiction. How do you feel about multiple timelines in a novel? Do you think it is currently overused?

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