Saturday, April 23, 2011

Past Lives as a genre

I'm currently reading two books: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. I noticed they shared a plot feature with my own novel Motherless Soul which started me thinking about aspects of a book that connect it with other books. In this case all three novels switch the readers back and forth between multiple plots.

In the case of The Doomsday Book there is a young historian named Kivrin who is sent back in time to observe the middle ages. Things go wrong on both sides of the time divide so readers are left wondering how the team in modern times (2054 AD) will deal with their problems while we're also following Kivrin's adventures in the 1300's.

In The Madonnas of Leningrad Marina, Debra Dean's main character suffers with Alzheimer's so she spends her time switching back and forth between the life going on in the current time and the memories of the life she led during World War II. Nicholas Sparks used a similar device in the The Notebook although he was writing for a very different audience.

In my own novel, Motherless Soul, the characters experience multiple lives through regressions into their past life memories. There is a plot going on during the American Civil War while there is also a plot going on in modern times. Each one of my characters has a presence in both plots, with different roles. The past influences the course of the future.

There are many other cases of novels with this plot feature. The first one that comes to my mind is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, but there are many others. Sometimes in novels such as The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje the plot exists almost entirely in the second life, but the idea is the same.

Although I like to call my book a “Past Lives Mystery,” there is no official title for this genre. Since most books I enjoy mix mystery, adventure and romance rather than existing exclusively in one category, I believe “plot features” would be a better system for categorizing fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment