In this video Q&A Robert McKee describes how screenwriters should write a non-linear story.

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Madison Paige

I’m, glad he clarified what the questioner meant by non-linear. I also got the impression that the questioner meant multiple, interweaving plots more so than non-linear.

Anyway, every writer is different. I thought his mention of the edit was odd because obviously the editing is going to be done the way its done however that eventuates.

I think the real question this questioner wanted answered (and which, in my opinion, wasn’t really answered) was HOW does one create a story that is more complex than a straight line from Point A to Point B. It’s a tough question to answer and there’s probably no real “right” answer. Every writer is different.

Me, i like to create the story mostly before putting finger to keyboard. I generally lay out my main A-to-B first then figure out how I can complicate the situation at various places along the way using character’s relationships, motivations and other complicating factors.

As far as writing a first draft, I’m usually pretty clear on it all before starting the writing, which doesn’t mean changes don’t happen. They do. However, I often will write a random scene that is particularly strong for me regardless of whether I know where or how (or whether) it ultimately will fit in. I work very closely with my Muse when writing and I find that doing that gives her “toys” to play with that often result in “golden nuggets” later on. It’s very much a a left brain/right brain collaborative effort.

Linda Aronson

Regarding the way to write non-linear screenplays, surprisingly, successful films in these forms all work to patterns, splitting, duplicating, truncating and reassembling a number of three act structures in predictable ways.. Unsuccessful films don’t I’ve written a book giving practical guidelines for writing six major categories, each with subcategories, of multiple storyline films, including non linear films. Frankly, I think any writer who wants a career in ten years time needs to get their heads around these forms. My book, is called The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson. For a quick overview, go to For a quick introduction, go to You Tube
And for comments on Flashback films

raymond dimayuga

i think that a more organic way to have a nonlinear story is to write it nonlinear at first writing than writing it linear with multiple stories. the weaving and the magic, i think, happens there. the writing of the transition for shoot, not the transition for edit, i think should happen there.


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