The Rise of the Split Time Novel

Currently, split time novels are some of the most popular in the fiction market. These novels usually pair a historical protagonist with a contemporary one, connecting their stories across time through similar themes and motifs or sometimes a significant object or event. For instance, one protagonist might have lived through World War I or II, and the other might be that protagonist’s grandchild or great-grandchild looking for answers regarding what happened to that grandparent during the war years, but the other family members never talk about.

Despite the popularity of these stories, they’re arguably becoming formulaic. Some time periods and plotlines are becoming overdone. For instance, it is no longer uncommon for World War II to be the featured historical period. A contemporary protagonist is often drawn to care about the past only if he or she "gets something out of it," such as a promotion at work or a "last chance" to connect with a grandparent dealing with dementia (the question becomes, why didn’t the grandchild ever attempt to connect before)?

Discuss some of the more popular split time novels and what sets them apart from their myriad counterparts. Discuss what historical time periods aren’t being taken advantage of right now that could be, or what plotlines contemporary characters could experience. For instance, could time travel be a possibility? Body or identity switches? Historical and future timelines?

  • I suggest including good examples of split-time novels to give authors a basis to work from. – noahspud 1 year ago
  • I agree with noahspud, some examples would be perfect. – Beatrix Kondo 1 year ago
  • I think something that could break the formulaic nature of the trope would be to have an integration of two different cultures and timelines that are neither modern nor Eurocentric. As you have mentioned the contemporary counterpart is usually the default, acting as the representative of the modern audience, however as an example, if someone from 18th-century Japan met someone from Ancient Egypt or 14th-century Brazil, there can be more chances for complexity. The downside would be introducing the viewer to too many unknown systems. The benefit of the eurocentric and modern counterpart is that it acts as a blank slate. Could this potentially work? – LadyAcademia 1 year ago

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