12.49: Non-linear Narratives

We begin the final month of our year on structure with a discussion of non-linear structures. These include flashbacks, POVs that are out of chronological order,  and a host of other storytelling techniques.

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson



Watch fan edits of non-linear stories that put them in order. Also, put your outline on index cards, then shuffle them randomly.

The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells

The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (defaced edition), by Howard Tayler

Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mulholland Homebrews Sinister Shop of Secret Pets, which will have been written by Brandon Sanderson

8 thoughts on “12.49: Non-linear Narratives”

  1. My favorite non-linear narrative book is The Handmaid’s Tale. I love how it’s explained in the epilogue why it’s non-linear, too. It really makes a whole lot of sense. Gotta love Margaret Atwood. <3

  2. Please tell me Sanderson is actually going to write this because I want a magic system around legumes

  3. I really applaud your dedication to theme in this episode. :D

    One of the most epically masterful examples of nonlinear storytelling I know of is the manga series 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa. In the first half-dozen or so pages alone he jumps between at least 4 points in the timeline that ranges from the 1960s to the very near future (at least at time of publication), which sets up the reader’s expectations for the series from the get-go. Throughout the series he uses flashbacks, prophecies, and other scene changes to create suspense and foreshadowing, reveal and promote character development, set up and then subvert expectations, and even explore the unreliability of human memory, as the heroes try to figure out who is using ideas from their childhood to create the cult bent on world domination. There’s only one tool he uses that I’d consider ‘gimmicky’, near the very end of the series, but overall it’s brilliant, satisfying from beginning to end, and would have been infinitely less interesting if told from a basic linear structure.

  4. Hold onto your hats! The original four, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, take us on a nonlinear podcast about… nonlinear storytelling, and other variations on a theme (and off it!). Watch for the books of the weeks, past, present, and possibly future! Keep shaking it up, because the best is still to come, except maybe it did already? Transcript available in the archives, and over here


    Real soon now? No, already? Maybe. Take a look and tell us what you see?

  5. This was a great episode as I have been working on a series of novels that feature a lot of flashbacks. Very helpful points in this one on ways I can work with that.

Comments are closed.