This is related to a previous question of mine: Convergent, parallel plotlines okay?. It has been suggested that this is might be too closely related to that question, however whereas that question was my concern that I was falling into some over-plotting pit fall, this question is about my implementation.


First I'll explain the situation. I have a story with three plot-lines (A, B, and C) with their own cast, settings, and conflict. Meanwhile there is also an over arcing conflict which reveals itself as the story progresses. Eventually, in the middle, the three plot-lines converge in twos (first B vs C then C vs A) before diverging again. In the second half of the book they are all moving forward to the conclusion where the lines converge for a tragic ending.

The characters in A have only misleading information, and it is unrelated to the larger picture. Characters in B immediately---at the start of the book---know of this deception and are following the movements of characters in A. Characters in C also know what is going on. The characters in B and C do not share information with the reader for the sake of telling a more interesting story (they pretty much know everything). The information is slowly shown instead of told.

It was originally conceived that I would write short arcs---two to six chapters of 4-8k words focusing on one plot-line with their own short-lived conflict which is revealed and then resolved. Through these small conflicts we learn of the over arcing conflict as well as move the characters closer towards their confrontations. Before I write them I make sure each chapter and arc are advancing something central to the main plot, so these arcs aren't just subplots for the sake of subplots. With the exception of plot-line A, which is the protagonist's plot-lines, the characters in B and C will be acting and reacting with awareness to the other plot-lines.

After outlining and summarizing these arcs, I then arranged them in chronological order.


And therein lies the one problem. Some arcs can't be broken up in such a way as to allow this. One in particular B arc spans three other plot-lines' arcs, but with funny overlap so I can't absorb it into another arc. One solution is to completely scrap that arc and rework it so that it can be concluded and then restarted in the middle. This is imperfect, but doable.

Another problem is that I fear I might confuse the reader, or make it harder for them to connect to characters they might not see again for another 5 chapters. Personally, I would be intrigued as I think about how the information we're learning in one line impacts others, how the characters work in opposition to another, and how the protagonist is struggling onward as the unwitting tool of other. But that's me; I'm weird.

The previous solution I mentioned does not fix this.


Earlier today I was thinking about my favorite Sci-fi books, among them being Dan Simon's Hyperion duology. In the first book of his, he presents the tale in framed stories. Each of six tell their own tale as the over arcing plot moves on. The second book is then more the norm, and what I am going for currently. You have the pilgrims (plot A), Miriam (plot C), and Keats (plot B).

I'm not sure a framed story would work in my case, however I am considering writing out one plot in its entirety before moving on to another, writing each of out before moving on. I would then call that one book. Considering the projected length (which I always underestimate) this will be about 400k+ words when finished (before cutting). Even after cutting, its likely to be just shy of 300k words so breaking it into two books has its own advantages, and I do have a natural way of executing the divide.

The specific way I am considering arranging the first book is to write out plot B which has the most "reveals" or "plot bombs", then writing plot C which is both the antithesis to B, and the chief target of the reveals in B. Finally, I would write the plot A out, which is the protagonist's line. We see her struggle under false assumptions and also finally get to see the conclusion of the first book. The plan is that at the end of book 1 those in B arrive late, C arrives early, and A contains the protagonist who drives that particular cluster (her first show of real agency).

The question, then, is whether or not this is okay, or if I should find some other solution.

When I looked this up online, it seems as if the advice was to interleave the plots, however that is what I've been doing, and am not sure that is the best way to proceed. I've so far written up to what would be the middle of the first book (should I split them) and have outlined the rest of the first book and nearly all of the second (parts of the middle are missing), writing log-lines and summaries.

  • 1
    It’s what Tolkien did in the Lord of the Rings, so it’s a technique that can work when done well.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 7:29
  • This feels pretty miuch the same as the question you asked in your previous question. And the answer is: yes it is okey to do. But the answer if the other way of telling your story is okey is also yes. The point is that you need to plan ahead and plot your story so you know the order in which you will tell things. You can be as creative as you want. You will find out by yourself if things work out or not by just trying them out and see the strengths and weaknesses. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 7:44
  • 2
    @nick012000 Honestly, I prefer how Peter Jackson handled The Two Towers. Having "all one plot" and then "all the other" left me bored and wondering what was happening with the other heroes. When I read the book now, I keep two bookmarks, and I usually read two chapters of Part 3 and two chapters of Part 4, interleaving them manually. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 9:57
  • @TotumusMaximus In the previous one I was asking if I was making a mistake by having multiple plot-lines after reading some other stuff on this stack exchange which was reminiscent of what I was doing. Now I'm asking about implementation.
    – Nero gris
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 12:42
  • Do I understand it correctly that you want to present the most informed POV B to the reader first, and least informed POV A the last?
    – Alexander
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


This works really well if it's done in Rashamon style (named after the famous Akira Kurosawa film which made the concept famous). Keep in mind though that Rashamon worked because all four (there's actually a sneakily done fifth version) versions of the events were incompatible with each other. Specifically, in the case, the first three versions of the story have the storyteller admit to killing the Samurai... and that includes the Samurai himself (maybe)!

In this story, it works because all four characters present their story as the definitive truth, but they all have motive to lie about the story.

It's famously over adapted in US media as the nature of the story is great for saving budget. You basically are doing one scene three times, change a few events. X-files has a good one where Mulder and Scully both tell their side of the story, but they weren't together when critical events happen. Both have minor misremeberings (such as how good looking was the local sheriff), and both have reasons for being frustrated with the other and we know them well enough to know how they view the others. In this case, the third act isn't a correction as is often done, but a follow-up that validates both stories as working together generally well.

Another option is a sort of approach that was done very well in Season One of "Heroes". Here there are multiple unrelated characters who's own adventures will intersect briefly and then separate and reconnect later.


You can get away with this I can think of a couple of novels that do it well and Lord of the Rings does it as well though less gracefully. The best example I can think of off the top of my head used a setting from the future as concerned the events being retold, a tavern in the aftermath of the completion of three separate adventures, and a retelling format where the three groups involved "caught each other up" and then the piece went on from there in step. That's from the middle of S.M. Stirling's The Protectors War if you were wondering.

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