I’m sure a more sophisticated writer has a fancy definition for what I’m about to expound upon, but I enjoy a good box of wine so … yeah.
Parallels are where a particular story theme is repeated in more than one character’s story arc. In my book, The Paladin (book 2 of The Nome Chronicles series), my two main characters experienced a sense of betrayal from the ‘fathers’ in their life. In the case of Neith, she learned her father took a gamble that put her life at risk. Invier was equally betrayed by Karax, who revealed he was using Invier for his devious designs.
I was reminded of the importance of parallels as a storytelling technique when I watched Season 3 of the Showtime series, Billions.
This show is a favorite of mine. Its an interesting look into the minds of the super rich and their quest to maintain their dominion over others.
One recurring theme in Season 3 was the conflict between father and son. A main character, Chuck, is at odds with his father for most of the season. He even goes as far as to take a stance simply to change the power dynamic in their relationship. Similarly, Axe and Taylor constantly butt heads in an effort to steer the firm.
Another theme is ‘parricide’, that is the act of a child murdering his/her parent. In Billions, Chuck gets hammered by not one but two of his proverbial children. That plot point is mirrored in Axe’s story-line when Taylor makes a significant move against him.
Now, why is any of this important?
Parallel stories allow for a richer reveal of a character’s flaws and needs. It’s a way of making a story more complex and thereby interesting. By examining the parallels in two character’s lives, the author also highlights the similarities between two distinct individuals. It can give your reader an aha moment of sorts when they recognize a particular failing or issue in the life of a character as one in their own life. Or that of someone they know.
That’s what author’s do – shine a light on the human condition by using their characters to to tell readers a great story. Using parallel narratives is a great way to do that and it’s something I hope to use to good effect.
Got an example of parallel storytelling in a book of yours or someone else’s? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d like to know.