Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Fashion in Fiction-writing I don't like

Google image from the TV series

It's the literary device of telling your story by going backwards and forwards in time. Yes, there are some writers who do it very well, but I've got tired of this particular style of writing.  I can just about stomach a mysterious Prologue (that of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a case in point - remember all those flower pictures on the wall?) But preferably, give me a good story that starts at the beginning and carries on to a satisfactory end, with some good plotting and characterisation and easy enough to read so that I don't keep having to go back to a previous chapter to clarify the situation (possibly 50 years in the future or the past in the next).  The same applies to film.  I've been watching "The Honorable Woman", starring Maggie Gyllenhall, which currently airs on one of our satellite channels.  The credits which roll at the beginning of the first episode flash tiny bits of the entire story-to-come, which at a guess will probably be about 8 x 1  1/2 hour parts. They are so confusing though clearly meant to be tantalising - the same technique is applied during the actual episodes - that several of my friends gave up watching altogether after the first or second episode. I have stuck it out until the 5th part and am finally sorting out who is who and what is really going on.  Still, I have watched with a constant feeling of frustration throughout. Anyone agree?


  1. I actually like a back and forth in books. I don't know why, but I seldom find jumping around irritating. Many people do. It is a common complaint in my book club on Goodreads.

    Now to qualify my statement, I believe myself to be somewhat impaired in my tastes of literature. I have absolutely no sense for good characters, good plots, literary devices and so forth. I either like something or I don't and I can't tell you much about why.

    I am not familiar with the examples you cite, but we have a show in the US called Forever. Something happened to this guy and he is immortal. He can die but quickly returns bodily in the same condition, but naked and in a body of water. No time has elapsed. He doesn't age. His adopted son is now older than he is. He is a medical examiner and the story is very good Sherlock Holmes like mysteries in modern New York. Most of the episode remains current time, but he will have flashbacks of something that happened in his past (up to 200 years back) that is somehow a lesson for what is happening in the story. I love the it probably stinks and will not get renewed. The guy is a dashing Brit. I have a thing (non-sexual) for dashing Brits. I like his elegance, intellect, and manner of speaking.

    My wife is a first generation Johnny Bull on both sides, so I do have a sexual thing for Brits of the female persuasion as well. I am an Irish slob, so I tell her that English subjugation of the Irish continues.

    Here is a trailer:

    They have got away from the dying in the episodes, which I think is a bit of an improvement.

  2. When I saw the movie Pulp Fiction at the theater I didn't know anything about it, had no clue. My girl friend and I had wanted to see a different movie but kept missing the first half hour at each of the three cinemas we went to. Finally said lets just go see the next movie playing.
    When we walked out of the theater we had no idea what had just happened but new we'd never forget it either.
    In books I can go either way but its a lot easier to keep track if they are in order.

    1. Perhaps I must admit to being lazy and learn to apply my mind. I had the same experience as you with Pulp Fiction.