I’m looking for recommendations based on two features of narrative structure.
Which book do you think does the best job at telling a story in both the present and the past? By “best job” I mean coherently transitions between past and present without losing the reader or becoming confusing. How about the worst?
My pick for the worst is The Weight Of Water by Anita Shreve. I’ve read thousands of student writing samples (that’s a big part of what I do for a living) and I’ve read pieces written by middle school kids whose transitions between present and flashbacks were far less jarring, and far more logical.
Thinking about first person stories, which do you feel do a seamless job incorporating the backstory - through scenes with dialogue - into the narrative?
So…all books suck at flashbacks and/or weaving in the backstory?
I liked how Fannie Flagg did it in Fried Green Tomatoes.
The first book that came to my mind was It by Stephen King. The narrative hops back and forth from the fifties to the present day, and the shifts come more and more rapidly as the story reaches its climax. Toward the end of the book, the narrative frequently shifts from present to past or vice versa in the middle of a sentence of dialogue.
I didn’t have any trouble following it.
Is the backstory told to someone else like in the movie?
My favorite book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I think does a marvelous job of telling the tale of young Frances Nolan, then moving back to her parents’ courtship, then to the present, then back again to her birth, and then again forward to watch her grow up. The POV changes throughout each time period help create a great deal of empathy for Francie, her alcoholic dreamer of a father Johnny, and her strong, rigid and sometimes cold mom Katie.