As stated in Non-linear narrative, Wiki, non-linear means displaying content not necessarily in chronological order, for example parallel timelines, dreams, plot inside plot.

Now, Hyperlink-cinema, Wiki states that Hyperlink-cinema is a complex or multi-linear narrative structure. It cites a movie "The Devil All The Time" which I have seen and know that the movie shows plots of different groups of people and later pieces the puzzles with the central character. According to my understanding this is indicating more of non-linear narrative ('side plots in parallel' kind of thing).

Here is a graphical presentation (done in Desmos):

Notion of time-> time moves from left to right.

Linear in one character 'y':

Linearin one variable

Linear in two characters 'x' & 'y' [Multi-linear] :




Non-linear (with reference to The Devil All The Time):

Non-linear 2

(Years above are not exact, but just to give notion of time and MC=Main Character; C1= Character 1)

From my understanding, non-linear means something that is not linear (in timeline it might be parallel or back to past and then to future [as in 3rd graph], or a storyline like 'The Devil All The Time' [as in 4th graph]) while multi-linear means something which has multiple variables but is linear in all those variables (for example multiple characters start together, diverge and meet at the end). I do understand that mathematical non-linear and multi-linear might not be same as the narrative styles of the same name. So, I am not able to understand how both can tend to the same thing as in above example. What is the core difference between the two narratives (if they are different at all) or are those one and the same thing?

  • 1
    Personally I would say that your “non-linear” graph IS linear - just not a straight line. For me “non-linear” would be where there is not a continuous line - such as the “modulo” (or “remainder”) function, or the Mandelbrot set. In these cases, the function at (x,y) is not continuous to the next point - the “line” has a gap.
    – racraman
    Oct 18, 2020 at 8:05
  • Nonlinear is literally not linear...but to be more accurate, this is better defined as nonchronological vs strictly chronological, rather than using math terms to movies structures. Oct 21, 2020 at 10:48


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