Kindred ‘s plot is non linear; rather, it begins in the middle of its end and contains several flashbacks that connect events in the present and past. In an interview, Butler acknowledged that she split the ending into a “Prologue” and an “Epilogue” so as to “involve the reader and make him or her ask a lot of questions” that could not be answered until the end of the story. Missy Dehn Kubitschek sees this framing of Dana’s adventures as Butler’s way to highlight the significance of slavery to what Americans consider their contemporary identity. Because “Prologue” occurs before Dana travels in time and “Epilogue” concludes with a message on the necessity to confront the past, we experience the story as Dana’s understanding of what we have yet to understand ourselves, while the “Epilogue” speaks about the importance of this understanding. Roslyn Nicole Smith proposes that Butler’s framing of the story places Dana literally and figuratively in media res so as to take her out of that in media res; that is, to indicate Dana’s movement from “a historically fragmented Black woman, who defines herself solely on her contemporary experiences” to “a historically integrated identity” who has knowledge of and a connection to her history.
Kindred ’s story is further fragmented by Dana’s report of her time traveling, which uses flashbacks to connect the present to the past. Robert Crossley sees this “foreshortening” of the past and present as a “lesson in historical realities.” Because the story is told from the first-person point of view of Dana, readers feel they are witnessing firsthand the cruelty and hardships that many slaves faced every day in the South and so identify with Dana’s gut-wrenching reactions to the past. This autobiographical voice, along with Dana’s harrowing recollection of the brutality of slavery and her narrow escape from it, is one of the key elements that have made critics classify Kindred as a neo-slave narrative.
Another strategy Butler uses to add dramatic interest to Kindred’s story is the deliberate delay of the description of Dana and Kevin’s ethnicities. Butler has stated in an interview she did not want to give their "race" away yet since it would have less of an impact and the reader would not react the way that she wanted them to. Dana’s ethnicity becomes revealed in chapter two, “The Fire,” while Kevin’s ethnicity becomes clear to the reader in chapter three, “The Fall,” which also includes the history of Dana’s and Kevin’s interracial relationship.
Butler also uses Alice as Dana’s doppelgänger to compare how their decisions are a reflection of their environment. According to Missy Dehn Kubitschek, each woman seems to see a reflection of herself in the other; each is the vision of what could be (could have been) the possible fate of the other given different circumstances. According to Bedore, Butler’s use of repetition blurs the lines between the past and present relationships. As time goes on, Alice and Rufus’ relationship begins to seem more like a miserable married couple while Dana and Kevin become somewhat distant.