I love working with threads. A thread is one line of plot, an individual story separate from but interspersed with other lines, other stories of the plot. I like to break my books into two or three main storylines, further divided into threads and weave them throughout the book.
Like anything else, writing with threads has advantages and a disadvantage. I say “a disadvantage” because I can only see one, so let’s get that one out of the way straight off. The disadvantage is that some people don’t like a storyline to leave the character they’ve met, and move on to another they don’t know about yet. I am, of course, talking about that first break away – and I must admit, I’m a bit like that myself as a reader. Usually, though, I’m like that if the first part of the first thread is lengthy and I figured I was there to stay. The thread is always broken at an interesting point, and the first time you’re tossed out of that and into “somewhere else”, I – as a reader – don’t want to go there.
However, a short first section works because you – as a reader – haven’t invested too much as yet to be unshiftable, and it announces that jumping from one group of characters to another is what to expect. That makes it easier from the reader’s point of view. Speaking from my own experiences as a reader, once I’ve become familiar with that new section, I’m fine, it’s just that initial “Oh, no, I don’t want to leave this bit yet!” that makes me wish it would stay put.
So… some people don’t like it. That’s it. They want a story to unfold with one character and to stay with that character, and that’s fair enough. It’s a style thing.
Advantages of running with threads are many. It keeps the pace up. You can ditch all the boring bits, such as when a character is forced to wait for something or otherwise has time to fill, and jump from action scene to action scene. Balanced right, you can keep reader interest up: “NOW what’s going to happen? Can’t wait to find out!”
If you’ve got one thread that just has to take its time, the surrounding ones can help the pace by keeping the excitement up in their parts of the story. Likewise, if you’ve got a very heavy section, a different thread alongside might lift it up a bit by being light.
In The King’s Sacrifice (book two in the science fiction The Khekarian Series), at a certain section there were two quite heavy threads working side-by-side, making the whole quite bleak. I had a third thread in with them, but I wondered if, being frivolous, the third thread would clash rather than lift the two. It turned out to be exactly what was needed and stopped those chapters from becoming too heavy to be endured. So, as well as tell its own tale, a thread can help another.
Using threads also allows a writer to tell the tale from many angles. You can have more than one hero, more than one perspective. You can be in more than one head and present more than one attitude to your readers, allowing them to choose their own favorites rather than forcing upon them only one character to follow.
From my point of view as a writer, checking over the nuts and bolts of my own stories, I like to read just one thread, skipping over all others in order to feel the weight and flow of that one side of the story. I do the same with all of them, and the whole as well, of course.
Writing with threads has become my style and is essentially what gives my books added depth and complexity. I really love that – because when I’m in there, exploring and developing those threads, I feel like I’m the one having the adventure, that I’m the first one through the gate, as it were.
So, I have a blast and find all sorts of interesting things, twists and turns and surprises. Then I just can’t wait to tell you about it – and another book is born…
Cheers everybody! 😀
This post was so timely — I’ve been trying to perfect my own threads/breakaways. Great post; thanks for the helpful tips!
Thank you, Robin – I’m thrilled to be able to help. Cheers! 🙂