I am beginning to outline a new book. The overall structure that's emerging seems to be fairly non-traditional, with the timeline cut into bits and rearranged. It's been hard for me to describe it to people, so I'll attempt it with the assistance of HTML font color tags!
Imagine that the following row of letters represents a continuous, linear timeline that tells the entire story of my novel. It starts at A1 and ends at D4. You can think of each letter/number pair as a chapter, if that makes it easier:
Time, as in calendar time, moves from left-to-right, like this:
so that if A1 was January 1st, D4 would be December 31st. More-or-less.
You can also think of the As as being the story of preparing for a journey. The Bs will be the story of the journey. The Cs will be the story of the adventure at the end of the journey. The Ds will be the state of the world after the adventure has finished. With me so far?
So my near-brilliant idea was to take this linear story and cut it up into four big chunks, like the acts in a play, and each chunk of the book, or act, will contain part of each of the colored sections of the story. All the 1s will be in the same act, all the 2s, etc.
The first act would look like this:
The second act would look like this:
Et cetera. So the entire structure of timelines would be this:
Yes, it starts at the end. The "D" sections are sort of the big structural markers that recur throughout the narrative. Anyway, that all seemed kind of cool to me, and there were going to be parallels between the action in each section. You'd see how the way things were at the start of preparing for the journey affected the actual start of the journey which affected the start of the adventure, etc.
I realized, however, that I didn't want to actually be foreshadowing things like this. I wanted realization to dawn on the reader instead, by giving confusing information and then showing how things were destined to happen that way (this is going to be at one level, I think, a book about mistakes). Which means that I have to show the results first, and then the events that foreshadow them. In other words, I don't want to (for example) have a couple fight, he says something harsh, she slaps him, they break up. I want to have the breakup scene first, then her slapping him, him saying something harsh, then the couple fighting. So I have to reverse all the time-sections within each act of my book, like this:
As you see, at the very end of the book, you get the last bit of the "preparing for the journey" state right before you get the last bit of the aftermath of the entire story. Which I think will be pretty cool. If I can bring this off. My plan is to simply write out the entire story, in chronological order, and then cut it up into sections and put them into my possibly-near-brilliant almost-backwards narrative structure, and then see how it goes from there. This will either be great or just a huge mess. I have no idea what revisions will be like. But it looks difficult and interesting and so, you know, I can't resist. I am also toying with the idea of having the 4s come first and the 1s come last. I remain undecided.
Anyway, that's what I think I'll be doing with my winter and spring.
Also! Happy Halloween! Also-also! I am once again not doing NaNoWriMo! But good luck to any of you who are! You're braver than me.