I was about to ask a question about "hiding information in plain sight" on the main site when I realised that it could be too open ended. I looked into the help centre and couldn't find anything mentioning my problem in there. (It said that questions about using writing techniques are acceptable, but I don't think that my question falls into this)

I also looked at Are “How Could” questions on topic?

My question would have been this:

How can I hide a second narrative within my story? (using time travel)

For simplicity, let's assume that I wrote a short story which ends in the main character going back in time to the beginning of the story, becoming a background character.

The reader would have no knowledge of this until they reached the end of the story, and upon reading it for a second time they would pick up small, previously unnoticed details that somehow reveal a second narrative in "what happens next", effectively making the story its own sequel.

How can I ensure that the majority of readers won't notice these details, so that they come as something new upon re-reading it?

If I could word my question to yield specific answers, perhaps it would better fit the style of a SE. Is my question acceptable as it is, or should I re-word it (or not ask)?

1 Answer 1


Yes, such questions are on-topic

For example you could look at some questions that go in similar direction, such as:

Both use examples from their own writing and show what exactly they are worried about, but try to ask more general questions that apply to the genre they are writing in. This way answers can answer the general case and quickly comment on the specific example that the OP is wondering about to showcase this general technique.

You are worried about making your question too broad, but here on Writing.SE the problem quite often is that a question is not broad enough and that the person asking only wants to know about their specific case and ideally want a "What you should write." guide from people answering their question. The goal of StackExchange is to be able to provide questions and answers for future readers with similar questions, so you have to abstract from your specific case.

See also the close reason for "Off-topic - 'What to write?' request":

While questions that use your writing to illustrate a point in the question are fine, requests for writing critiques are off-topic here. For more information, see Does Writers.SE accept critique requests?

Asking about how short stories involving time travel handle hiding a second narrative hidden in plain sight is perfectly on-topic.

You should think about making your question a bit clearer though - for example you could mention some works you have read that tried something similar or what you are missing from them. That may make it easier to identify the genre standard techniques.

  • Thank you. I'll try to make the question more general and focus on writing techniques. Also, I have an example from an existing book which I drew inspiration from. Also, hi! I seem to run into you a lot on SE sites, secespitus :)
    – Aric
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 19:05
  • I'll just wait till tomorrow, in case anyone else sees this and wants to have a say
    – Aric
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 19:07
  • 1
    @AricFowler Waiting is probably a good idea - there are not even a dozen views on this question so far and two of those are from you and me. I'd even say that you should wait until Tuesday as weekends tend to be slower on all sites and there really is not that much activity here on Writing.SE. Also, hi - I remember seeing your username a few times on WorldBuilding. Not on a lot of other sites that I regularly frequent though.
    – Secespitus
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:16

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