Non-Linear Storytelling: Studying the Art of Sharing Stories by@onyawoibi

Non-Linear Storytelling: Studying the Art of Sharing Stories

This article addresses and answers: What is a non-linear narrative? Advantages of a non-linear narrative? Linear vs. Non-Linear Narrative? Why use a non-linear narrative? Examples of Non-Linear Writing? Non-linear Writing Tips
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Celine “Oibiee” Aju

By 2032 I want to educate 100 out of school children in Nigeria using music, literacy and technology.

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Stories told in reverse, a narrative method where events are portrayed out of chronological order or in other ways where the narrative does not follow a linear pattern, is known as a disruptive narrative, also known as a disjointed narrative.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is a non-linear narrative?

    1. Advantages of a non-linear narrative
    2. Linear vs. Non-Linear Narrative
    3. Why use a non-linear narrative?
  2. Examples of Non-Linear Writing in Shows

  3. Non-linear Writing Tips

  4. A note to storytellers

What is a non-linear narrative?

In a non-linear storytelling style, the plot is told out of order chronologically. This narrative technique, which uses temporal shifts back and forth, enables you to give your story dimension. It begins at the beginning and unveils each detail as it happens in location and time. Linear narratives follow a predetermined, chronological pattern.

Advantages of Non-Linear Narrative

It can be difficult to achieve non-linearity in a narrative framework because everything must still be presented in a logical, if not chronological, order, but when done properly, it enables the development of a more complex, masterful story.


Some advantages of employing a non-linear narrative include;


  1. Worldbuilding

Using a momentarily different point of view can give the reader more understanding of other aspects of the setting. For example, consider subplots playing out on the other side of the world that will eventually become significant, or perhaps historical events that have an impact on the lives of your characters.


  1. Flow

Your narrative form becomes more akin to art through the use of non-linear storytelling. Humans may have an innate preference for order, especially chronological order, but they are fascinated by complexity. You can capture more of what it means to be human by substituting the primary narrative for a non-linear one.


  1. Depth of Character

The reader will be better able to understand the decisions your main character makes during the novel the more background information they have. Send the reader back to the point when your character first became a killer instead of just telling them that they are one. As the novel progresses, the reader continues to be affected by those encounters.


  1. Intrigue

A non-linear structure makes the reader feel out of place and turns the story into a riddle that demands extra attention from the reader. The reader can construct their own logic because cause and effect are no longer obvious or foreseeable.

Why use non-linear narrative?

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  • To inspire story-related inquiries.

In order to keep your reader interested in your story, a story question is a plot point that prompts a question in their head. By skipping around in time to reveal an audience-unknown cause's consequence, non-linear tales can raise interesting story questions.


  • To draw attention to the theme and character.

By contrasting several individuals, the non-linear story can emphasize character development. Usually, a big idea is served by this contrast.


  • To support various character arcs.

When describing a story with multiple characters or protagonists, a non-linear narrative is beneficial. Naturally, different scenes involving your characters will be taking place at the same time. When going from one perspective character to another in a story that is balancing various character arcs, you will inevitably need to go back in time.


  • To describe a character's past.

In many ways, our memories resemble an irregular story. Often moving about from many points in time and space, they are fractured and out of order. Communication of memories can be difficult due to their fragmented character.

Linear vs. Non-Linear Storytelling

A story has a linear narrative structure when it moves from one circumstance to the next in a more or less organized manner. In contrast to a tapestry, time is shown as a line. In a linear framework, there is no foreshadowing of future events in the narrative. The narrative focuses on what is occurring right now, in the now. While a story with a non-linear structure, the plot moves back and forth between several points in time. Either the narrative doesn't follow the events in a causal fashion, or the story's events aren't presented in chronological sequence.

Examples of Non-Linear Writing

Lost (the Series)

In a more conventional sense than Lost, the show jumps back and forth in time, but it also does it unexpectedly. We experience adoptions, births, and deaths all at a feverish rate. And all of them with seamless changes from a typical narrative.


Catch-22  by Josephy Heller (Book)

John Yossarian, a US Air Force officer, tried to avoid being sent into battle during World War II by traveling back and forth in time twice in this book. The book plays with time as well as telling the same story from various viewpoints. It's enjoyable to read and simultaneously heartbreaking and funny.


Pulp Fiction, from Quentin Tarantino (Film)

a crime movie starring Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, two hit men who turn on mob leader Marsellus Wallace, his wife Mia, and other key players. With a non-linear storyline that doesn't show events in sequence chronologically, the movie cuts back and forth between scenes from the present and the past. Following Vincent's earlier death at the hands of boxer Butch, one of the most significant time leaps occurs when Jules and Vincent miraculously escape a firefight.

Non-Linear Writing Tips

  1. Stay organized with your narrative.
  2. On the page, precisely define jumps.
  3. Theme-based connections between the stories
  4. One excellent strategy is to open the narrative in the midst of the action.
  5. Give your non-linear plot a purpose.
  6. Utilize both flashbacks and forwards.
  7. Construct several character arcs
  8. Build tension.

A note to Storytellers

Avoid the temptation of writing in a straight line by experimenting with the non-linear narrative style, which will deepen the emotional content of your writing. You'll also learn how to use the show, don't tell technique.

More in Storytelling

  1. Non-Linear Storytelling
  2. Exploring Non-linear Narratives


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