The other day I was reading about the unusual story structure of the upcoming book-turned-movie, Cloud Atlas. The description of the plotlines struck me as being very original at least in terms of their presentation across time. In fact, it reminded me of numerous ideas I have been gathering together over the years that I think would be fun to try in short fiction, and, if the structure idea is strong enough, in longer, novel-length works.
Maybe I'm bored with the norm, but I'm determined to push the limits of story structure in all sorts of weird, but purposeful directions. I don't have a lot of difficulty conceptualizing non-linear story structures, but where it gets challenging is in the execution stage. It's one thing to draw out on a piece of posterboard how a character's story plays out, how it interacts with those around them, and where it all ends up. Putting into a readable format is another issue, however.
Perhaps I should post a disclaimer in the description of the next book or even on the cover. Something like:
Warning: Crazy Structure Experiments Ahead!
Fiction reading tends to be a very linear activity, and although some books delve into flashbacks and historical sequences from time to time, in general, most fiction travels in straight line forward in time. This is not a bad thing, but it is so common that it becomes a challenge to read a book that jumps back and forth in time or even one that has too many characters.
For example, I have a meandering story sitting around titled "The Mathmatician's Lawn". The story needs some work, but it just begs to have some kind of mathmatical structure tied into the flow of the story. Something like the Fibonacci sequence, fractals, or whatnot that would play off the theme of the story.
Another thought: what about a story whose character interactions create ripples that travel forwards and backwards in time? Is that even possible? I don't know, but it would be fun to try.
Structure experiments aside, at the end of the day each story will have to pass at least pass one test: is it readable? Time will tell...