Structure is an important part of any story, especially a novel. In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Butler uses structure cleverly to create tension and manage her character’s episodes of time travel.
Prologues are most often used to provide previous or background information that the reader may need to understand the situation or the character’s motives. Unfortunately, readers sometimes skip over the prologue in order to get to the action of the story. Butler, however, uses a prologue as a hook to throw you immediately into the action of the story. Rather than providing background, this prologue covers events from late in the story and gives you a tantalizing taste of what is to come.
The main body of Kindred is episodic with numbered chapters within each named episode. As this is a time travel story, each named section relates to the main character’s time jumps, generally ending with a sudden jump back from the past to the present. This serves as a cliff-hanger, since the jumps back to the main character’s own time coincide with the main character’s life being threatened. The next section begins with the character’s arrival back in her present and serves as a transition until she jumps again.
Butler also uses an epilogue. This short chapter covers some unfinished business, answers some questions, and provides closure (a phrase I hate) on the main character’s journey.
The structure keeps the story moving, creates suspense, and provides great breaks for reading assignments, which as a teacher, I appreciate!