Two related stories or one combined?
I've started pulling my ideas together for a historical fiction novel about a girl who grows up in Germany during WWII. At the same time, I also have material for a story about her husband's childhood. My question is, should I combine these two stories into one book and have them play out, parallel to each other until their paths cross? Or should I write them as separate books?
There are several ways in which their experiences contrast nicely:
She grows up as the third girl of six and lives in extreme poverty.
He grows up as an only child and lives in comparative wealth.
Her father drives a militaty supply train for a living, though he hates the Third Reich and later is imprisoned.
His father chauffeurs German officials and agrees with the Third Reich's cause. He ends up dying on the Russian front because of a "promotion."
She is sent away to live with strangers because of the bombings. The family is kind to her and treats her like their own child.
He is sent away to a Hitler Youth camp to train as a child soldier. He is mistreated and suffers from starvation during his time there.
I'm torn over whether or not to combine them into a single work or to leave them separate. What are some aspects I should keep in mind about merging two paths into one?
Of course, I can't tell you what story to write. But I think you have to ask yourself if there is some meaningful thing they will do when they get together.
What, for example, is the story goal? I think you could make a very interesting story if the two of them accomplish something remarkable when united - something that affects the overall story world.
Of course, there's always the temptation to write this as a romance, and perhaps that will be the substance of the Relationship throughline. However, having them accomplish something together, something that neither could have done alone, could be the thing that gets them together. (Nothing breeds affection like facing danger together.)
Of course, if you don't see any purpose in getting them together, then you've answered your question the other way.
If you choose to write two stories, do think about what the story goal for each will be. What will your main character achieve in either story?