The main characters in Alice Munro's stories are considered different than normal people in their community. However the main character is usually the narrator telling the story from the future. The characters judge themselves and think about past events. Sometimes this is illustrated with statements of secondary characters. All of the stories include a past incident before the time of the main plot, but sometimes not in order. The reader is also given a piece of some future event. The stories seem like chapters in some novel that has been written in addition to the story. Alice Munro has talked about how her stories sometimes start as novels but they end up as short stories:
I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel.
But when I was younger, it was simply a matter of expediency. I had small children, I didn't have any help. Some of this was before the days of automatic washing machines, if you can actually believe it. There was no way I could get that kind of time. I couldn't look ahead and say, this is going to take me a year, because I thought every moment something might happen that would take all time away from me. So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot. But I still didn't write a novel, in spite of good intentions(Feinberg).