Let us say you have several different characters and each one has their own separate journey
for at least a portion of the story. These characters may or may not meet up with one another later on
, but for now they are all on their own and their journeys, while they may be related, are independent of one another at least for the time being. There are two ways of handling this: One way would be to tell every single event in chronological order, frequently cutting from one character to the next, and then to the next as each event plays out. This first method would be known as Two Lines, No Waiting
. For obvious reasons, stories told in Real Time
would have to do it this way.
For stories that are not told in Real Time
, however, there is another option. That option is known as Simultaneous Arcs
Lets say you have two different characters: Alice and Bob, and these characters are separated from one another and are doing their own thing for a while, but each one is doing it at exactly the same time as the other one. It would work something like this:
- Chapter 1 takes place between 1:00pm and 2:00pm and includes everything that happens to Alice during that time period without regard to what Bob is going through.
- Chapter 2 also takes place between 1:00pm and 2:00pm, except it is told from Bob's point of view and has absolutely nothing to do with Alice
This process would be repeated until Alice and Bob meet up.
This differs from Rotating Arcs
because Rotating Arcs
is a method of dealing with Loads and Loads of Characters
and the arcs occuring in Rotating Arcs
don't have to occur at the same time.
This is similar to Anachronic Order
, except the events in each arc of Simultaneous Arcs
are probably told in the order that they occur from the point of view of the character and it is the arcs themselves that are not in chronological order.
This can sometimes result in a Mind Screw
, but it usually won't.
Compare Hyperlink Story
. Can be related to Rashomon Style
and P.O.V. Sequel
. TV episode variant is Synchronous Episodes
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Anime and Manga
- The Hueco Mundo and Fake Karakura arcs for Bleach. One is a Rescue Arc, the other is a Big Badass Battle Sequence.
- Boogiepop Phantom is a possible example. In general, the whole anime is a complete Mind Screw and it's extremely difficult to determine when exactly certain events took place or even to get a decent grasp on what is actually going on. There are several events that are shown multiple times, however, and each time it is shown, it is from a different perspective.
- The first two episodes of Speed Grapher occur at roughly the same time. Episode One is told from the point of view of Saiga, while the second being from the point of view of Kagura, and both have roughly the same climax. The rest of the series is mostly told in Chronological order, with the exception of a few flashback episodes here and there.
- The fourth and fifth episodes of K-On!'s second season respectively focus on the third year students going on a class trip and the rest of the group staying at home during a rainy day, with events crossing over slightly when Yui sends Ui pictures during the trip with her cellphone.
- On at least two occasions, One Piece has switched between this and Two Lines, No Waiting, depending on the exact point in the story. When the Straw Hat Pirates get separated, we see Luffy's story reach its conclusion, then the other eight Straw Hat crewmembers, each with his or her own small arc, rapidly switching between each other. It happens again in the Dressrosa story, only the reader (or viewer) gets introduced to each of the five separate stories taking place, where it then proceeds to tell each simultaneous story until the necessary plot points come up before backing up and moving to another one where that information is necessary.
- Sin City's characters often run into each other in the middle of their respective stories at Kadie's Bar.
- Invincible has the Sequid arc (starring Invincible, the Immortal, Atom Eve, Robot, and Bulletproof) simultaneously occurring with the Lizard League arc (starring Rex Splode, Dupli Kate, and Shrinking Ray).
- Uncanny X-Men had a example of this trope in #274 and #275 with the Savage Land arc with Magneto and Rogue and the whole Shi'ar arc with the current team roster at the time trying to fight Skrulls. To be fair, this is during Claremont's 1st run which fits with his style.
- Some of the first few issues of the The Incredible Hulk that first featured the Hulk's merged personality (A taller green Hulk with Bruce Banner's mind, aka "The Professor") involved this: After the the issue which features Banner's personalities merging the following one focused on what Rick Jones was doing (which in turn formed the framing sequence for a Flashback story with the Grey Hulk that made up the bulk of the issue). Then the next issue switched things back to the Hulk, and ended with him getting abducted by an organization titled the Patheon. Then the next issue after that focused on Doc Samson getting sidetracked when he visited an assassin he once knew that was currently on death row, with the next two issues then going back and showing what the Hulk was doing with the Patheon.
- The 1997 annuals for The Batman Adventures and The Superman Adventures featured different stories that took place at the same time, involving both Batman and Superman protecting a pair of mystical amulets from different threats. Even the flashbacks in both issues overlapped, showing that Bruce and Clark happened to both be studying under the magician Zatara during the same period.
- As you expect, taking in consideration the source, Paper Mario X 2 and Paper Luigi X take place at the same time. Team Mario and Team Luigi even meet each other at various points (not to mention Team Luigi meeting with Team BEG at one point). Team Luigi even gives support to Team Mario in the climax of Paper Mario X 2.
- Turnabout Storm's third part is divided in two episodes: One shows the second day of investigation from Phoenix's eyes, and the other one from Twilight's. Both episodes cross twice, showing the same events from a different point of view.
- Post Nuptials, first story in The Nuptialverse: Except for the first, second-to-last, and last chapters, every chapter happens at roughly the same time (this allows us to get a sneak peek of Spike's chapter in Pinkie's).
- Families follows three major, mostly separate story arcs focusing on the familial relationships of three groups of characters: Twilight and Spike's mother-son relationship; Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo's sisterly relationship, plus Scootaloo's relationship with her abusive parents; and Pinkie Pie's relationship with her estranged family.
- The Rainbow Double Dashs Lunaverse stories Family Matters and Helping…Hands? occur around the same time, or at least share a scene where Dinky asks Trixie for help while she has problems of her own.
- Horseshoes and Hand Grenades has at least three different stories trying to make sense as to what's going on and they all make references to one another. Most notably, while the majority of Horseshoes takes place in Kyoto, we have three different sets of protagonists doing different things. Month of Sundays has many minor Amanogawa High characters getting involved with Foundation X. SplitxEnd has Yayoi researching what caused Horseshoes to go crazy and subsequently meeting up with Haruto Souma, and Wheel of Fortune is based around Mei's struggles by interpreting fate of different characters and uncovering the story behind Yamada Tatsumori.
- The Dashverse: Hot Heads, Cold Hearts, and Nerves of Steel briefly follows two different Story Arcs occurring at the same time — the Mane Six, Shining Armor, and Cadence on their way to the Crystal Empire to save the foals kidnapped by King Sombra, and Pipsqueak, Alula, and Dinky Doo (later joined by Zecora) in the tunnels underneath Equestria and the Empire. The two groups eventually meet up just before the climax.
- One particular scene in Looper has Young Joe failing to kill his older self then returning to his apartment to find Gat Men looking for him. He hears a gunshot then traps Boy Blue in his silver vault. Then after a shoot out he ends up falling from the fire escape where he blacks out The scene then flashed to Young Joe actually succeeding in killing his older self, then to a short montage that flashes through 30 years until where Old Joe returns to his past at the point where he escapes in the exact scene that Young Joe fails to kill him. The scene is shot from a different point of view and focuses on Old Joe. Old Joe finds his younger self at his apartment and kills one of The Gat Men (This is the gunshot Young Joe heard) after young Joe falls from the fire escape Old Joe drags him to safety.
- The events of Saw III and Saw IV occur simultaneously.
- Each of the characters stories in Hoodwinked. Red and the Wolf appear to have the most journey overlap. For instance, both of them go through the exact same section of the coal mine, which is one time where they are technically both on screen at the same time but they never see each other (though a Freeze-Frame Bonus will show the Wolf and Twitchy in the front POV shot from Red's cart going down the drop, and Red's cart dropping in the background when the Wolf and Twitchy are traveling along the mountainside).
- The plots of the four main characters in 188.8.131.52 are told this way, with onscreen captions telling us what time and day it is so the audience can keep track.
- Go employs four simultaneous storylines: one with a group of club kids, one with a drug dealer enjoying a weekend in Las Vegas, one with a pair of soap opera actors, and one with a narcotics officer. Some stories start earlier, and others finish later, but they overlap and intersect in several places.
- The money drop scene in Jackie Brown.
- Likewise, the scenes at the diner that bookend Pulp Fiction.
- During the racetrack robbery in The Killing the perspective of the characters involved in setting up the robbery are shown.
- This is the main conceit of the 2000 drama Timecode. The film (presented as four separate unbroken takes in a single screen) follows several different people, including an actress, her lesbian lover, a casting director and his wife as they go about various activities over the course of the day, and occasionally intersect with one or more of the other arcs.
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the events of Thor, Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk take place during the same week. The tie-in comic Fury's Big Week also takes place at this time.
- Stephen King's The Stand is mostly told in chronological order and most of the chapters are relatively short. However, in the first half of Book Two, after the Superflu has wiped out 99% of the population, each one of the main characters or group of characters gets their own large chapter all to themselves, detailing their own journey as they cross the United States.
- The Piers Anthony Incarnations of Immortality books use this trope. The most complete version of this trope is in the book For The Love Of Evil which shows Satan's view on the events.
- Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers portion of the novel is divided up into two segments (as the other two are), the second one detailing the journey of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum to Mordor, and the first segment is about Aragorn and everyone else in the book. The Return of the King does the same thing as well, though not to the extent of The Two Towers. The movie adaptation does away with this and instead uses Two Lines, No Waiting.
- A Song of Ice and Fire - Many chapters occur at the same time as other chapters, and the first 800 pages of A Dance With Dragons will take place during the same time period as A Feast for Crows.
- In Jean Auel's Valley of the Horses, the chapters alternatively tell the story of, on one hand, Ayla, and on the other, Jondalar and his brother Thonolan as they travel across Europe. Only near the end do they merge as the brothers reach said valley.
- Lemony Snicket Book the Twelfth. The Penultimate Peril has simultaneous arcs with each of the three siblings, which is especially confusing when they each meet one of the twins at exactly the same time.
- In Treasure Island, while Jim Hawkins is on the island witnessing Silver's murder of one of the last loyal crewmen, and then meeting Ben Gunn, three chapters are narrated by Doctor Livesey detailing the departure of the officers from the Hispaniola, the setting of camp in the old stockade, and the death of Tom Redruth. Just as Captain Smollett is setting down to write his log, Hawkins returns and resumes the narrative for the remainder of the book.
- Forgotten Realms novels of Double Diamond Triangle Saga are even supposed to be read in different order to look at the plots in different ways. Which probably could add a lot given Gambit Pileup side of the setting — if writing of the books was not absurdly hasted by the publisher, that is.
Live Action TV
- Season 4 of Arrested Development breathes this trope. The original run did dabble in this, most notably involving multiple Bluths in different cars. In Season 4, each episode follows a specific character through part or all of the period 2006-2013 with several of the same events where everyone's paths crossed covered repeatedly, slowly revealing more of what went on at them.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? did this in the episode "The Tale of the Silver Sight." The Midnight Society was looking for pieces of an old record to solve a mystery, and each member had one piece to find. It would then show one character's arc at a time, and would loop back to the same scene of everybody meeting up in Gary's dorm room, before going back to another person's scenes.
- Coupling does this in a few episodes. 9 1/2 minutes (The first of season 4) is probably the most obvious example.
- LOST has done this in increasing amounts since season three. Episode 3x01 tells what's happening to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer after the season 2 finale. Episode 3x02 shows what's happening to Sun, Jin, and Sayid. Episode 3x03 shows what's happening back at the beach camp with Locke and others. Season five has delved into this style even further, with some episodes focusing only on those still on the island and others focusing entirely on those who left (though "simultaneous" is somewhat a relative term when time travel is happening.)
- Battlestar Galactica did this in Season four with Sine Qua Non and The Hub, which first showed the Fleet's story, and in the next episode the base star's simultaneous adventures.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation "4 x 4" depicts four seperate cases being worked by different members of the cast at the same time. Each segment has a scene connecting it to another case (where its characters are seen in the background), with the first such intersection doubling as It Makes Sense in Context.
- Dollhouse "A Spy In A House Of Love"
- Some of the events depicted from Spike's perspective in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fool For Love" are shown from Darla's in the Angel episode "Darla" (which originally aired back-to-back with it).
- Also done in "Same Time, Same Place", when Willow returns to Sunnydale but is invisible to her friends (and vice versa). All scenes in which She, Buffy, and Xander are in the same place is first shown from one perspective, then the other (usually with a clock or section of third party dialogue to orient the viewer)
- This happens in the Smallville episode "Promise" (season 6, episode 16), which shows the same day from the perspectives of Clark, Lex and Lana, all of which converge near the end of the episode.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today", the episode where the protagonists finally succeed in destroying Cromartie's chip. One of the more well-done episodes of the series.
- A season 3 episode of Alias did this: the first half followed Sydney and Vaughn around, while the second half repeated the first half's events from Sark and Lauren's POV.
- New Zealand's Outrageous Fortune and probably Scoundrels.
- Frequent device on How I Met Your Mother. It was first done in the season 1 episode "Cupcake" with two threads as the group is split between Marshall at a tailor and Lily shopping for a wedding dress. The technique's been used several times since but its more common form in the show was first exhibited in the early season 2 episode "Brunch". In this episode there are three groups rather than two and the contact points before the last one are actually different parts of the same event, as well.
- One of the most memorable usages of this trope appears in "The Burning Beekeeper" where Ted tells the story of Lily and Marshall's party room by room, with the title character running screaming through the house at the end of each one. This remains unexplained until the end of the kitchen segment.'
- The Malcolm in the Middle episode: "Blackout" uses this as the episode consists of everyone lying to each other about something and repeats the events several times from a different perspective.
- BlazBlue: Continuum Shift has the characters' story routes operate like this.
- The Siren games follow this trope nicely, each game consists of around ten different characters experiencing the apocalyptic events simultaneously over the course of a few days and the story is told through snippets of the story told out of chronological order via a little timetable style level selector. Being told like this the story is very hard to follow at times and very disjointing when one minute your playing Kai on 'day 3, 10:00am' then suddenly your back to day 1 morning. Once you do have a dencent handle on the story though it is pretty rewarding.
- Half-Life and its two expansions, Blue Shift and Opposing Force, all take place during the same incident, with different heroes. Opposing Force has Shepherd's story beginning partway through the original game, but we do get to see what happens at Black Mesa after Freeman is transported to Xen. In Half-Life: Decay you play as two characters during the events of Half-Life.
- Resident Evil 2 was popular for its two-disc "zapping" system. You'd play through the game with one character, then you could start a New Game+ with the other. The game treats the two playthroughs as simultaneous, intertwining stories, and the things you did on the first playthrough affect the world in the second. In addition to this, the events of Resident Evil 3 take place in the same general area, with the events of the second game taking place within the timeframe of the third.
- Most iterations in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, especially from the Dreamcast forward. The original Sonic Adventure is the most fundamental, straight version of the trope, but Sonic Adventure 2 is particularly notable in that the two stories are actually the opposing sides, not just different shades of heroism.
- Front Mission 4 is played in chapters alternating between two different teams of pilots in completely different locations. The story occurs chronologically, but the characters don't meet until the very final chapter.
- 11eyes has Cross Vision mode, where the same stretch of time can be revisited from the perspective of another character. Sometimes the events overlap, but a lot of the time a completely different side of the story is being shown. Heroes and villains alike let the player see their side of the story.
- Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days takes place at the same time as Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories from Roxas's point of view. It starts at the end of Kingdom Hearts and not long before the events of Chain of Memories and continues until just before Kingdom Hearts II when Roxas fights Riku and loses, which then kicks off the prologue of KHII''.
- Chain of Memories also has a mode where you play as Riku in the castle basement instead of Sora.
- Birth By Sleep features three storylines of the three main protagonists all taking place at the same time with paths of the three converging at times. The final chapter of the story can only be played when all three branches have been completed.
- The first mission of the first Medal of Honor occurred at the same time as the mission "Rendezvous With The Resistance" in Allied Assault.
- Pretty much the entirety of Treasure of the Rudra.
- The initial part of Suikoden III is told in chronological chapters from the perspectives of three lead characters who begin in separate locations but frequently interact. Each set of chapters covers roughly the same period of time, allowing you to view some events from multiple perspectives.
- Events in Grand Theft Auto IV and its episode packs are all meant to occur parallel with each other and feature intersecting plot points in different points of view. Examples include Elizabeta's drug deal involving Niko and Johnny, Johnny's theft of the diamonds from a deal involving Luis, Gay Tony and the Cook, and the ambushed deal at The Libertonian involving all three main characters of the games.
- The narrative of GTA IV and its episodes inspired Rockstar North to expand on the concept of Simultaneous Arcs in the development of Grand Theft Auto V.
- Alien vs. Predator 2: The Alien causes infestation of the main Mega Corp. base. Marine comes to investigate and inadvertently disables the other base's security, causing the Alien to attack it. The Marine gets captured by the Mega Corp., escapes, and unwittingly frees the Predator who you got captured as earlier.
- in the 2010 game, the Marine character watches the Predator character's ship blow away the USS Marlowe and fights to the colony, following a distress signal triggered by the Xenomorph character's escape. The stories diverge until the Marine character kills the Xenomorph Matriarch, upon when the Xenomorph character develops into another Matriarch. The Marine then fights Karl Bishop Weyland, while the Predator kills a Predalien and rigs the temple to self-destruct.
- Operation Flashpoint's Cold War Crisis campaign covers the same conflict from four different character's perspectives, in chronological order. There is a lot of overlap in the events, particularly towards the end. For example, in one mission, where you play as a special forces saboteur, the number of enemy tanks you manage to sabotage is directly linked to how many tanks you face in battle the next day, where you play as the tank commander character.
- Remember11 uses this, with the entire story being told first from the perspective of Kokoro, and then restarting from the beginning, seen through Satoru's eyes.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey shifts its narrative between three main protagonists, Zoe Castillo, April Ryan, the protagonist of the first game, and the elite Azadi soldier Kian. The three characters cross paths several times throughout the game and end up all coming together to some extent towards the climax.
- Some of the Tortage quests in Age of Conan work like this, where different class archetypes do quests giving different perspectives on the story.
- The second Tenchu game operates like this. Only by playing through multiple times can you get the full story.
- Odin Sphere has all of the characters' stories take place in roughly the same time. There's even a handy timeline showing all cutscenes and levels together for orientation. All of the arcs lead up to the final epic battle involving every playable character.
- Fahrenheit has three protagonists that can come into conflict with each other depending on your choices.
- Several of the character arcs in MapleStory are clearly happening at the same time as each other. Evan and Aran in particular have very closely related storylines as Evan is tricked into working for the Black Wings while Aran has to clean up some of the messes caused by this.
- The Law of Purple has a short side arc, focusing on a minor character, set during a major battle. As seen here.
- Usually happens in Sluggy Freelance whenever a main character is trapped in Another Dimension, or back in time, or in an underground Egyptian tomb (this sorta stuff happens to them a lot).
- The Order of the Stick did a story in which Nale switched places with Elan; after the switch, Elan and Thog were put in jail, after which the comic followed Nale's infiltration of the Order over about four days of in-story time, leading up to an attempt to murder Haley - at which point Sabine rushes in, and then Elan and Thog crash through the window. The very next strip rewinds to when the twins switched places, but this time follows Elan and Thog as they escape from jail, Elan literally takes a level in badass, and they track down Nale, culminating in them jumping though that window.
- A storyline of College Roomies from Hell!!!! does this, following one character at a time over the course of the same week. It's kind of confusing until the end, but awesome nevertheless.
- Book Eleven of Schlock Mercenary involves the crew splitting up to raise money for repairs, but early on, the Lemony Narrator informs us that in seven hundred or so hours, they will be summoned back following an ominous call from Petey to Kerchak. Each of the Toughs' groups then have their own story, with the Narrator frequently butting in to inform us the exact time until the fateful call occurs.
- The last part of the Grace's Birthday Party arc of El Goonish Shive does this, splitting up the characters into pairs and telling their stories one at a time.
- Sinfest often delves into this, most notably the recent separate arcs regarding the Patriarchy, and the developing love story between Criminy and Fuschia.
- Happens a few times in the Sly Cooper series in the area climax heist missions of Sly 2: Band Of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, with multiple playable characters rotating through the same part of a mission.
- Chowder "The Wrong Address/The Wrong Customer": During "The Wrong Address" Chowder and Mung see a seemingly insignificant police chase and go about their business. At the end they return home to find it destroyed and Truffles being arrested. In "The Wrong Customer" we find out that the police were chasing an old owl, who causes Mung's place to be destroyed. Truffles being arrested is a seperate but somewhat related matter.
- Phineas and Ferb also did this. One episode had the boys building a bubble type contraption after sending the Fireside Girls to go get some sap. The next episode showed the girls' POV: their adventure as well as that of a different secret agent.
- The Simpsons, "Trilogy of Error": Each of the show's three acts follows Homer, Lisa and Bart respectively as they go on simultaneous adventures, which occasionally cross each other before meeting at the end.
- South Park had a three-part meteor showers arc, each episode told from a different point of view: Stan got one, then Cartman got another, and then Kyle and Kenny got one as well. Each episode is completely different and the only thing they have in common is the meteor shower.
- Transformers Prime has the hunt for the Iacon relics arc in season two — the episodes "Tunnel Vision", "Triangulation", "Triage", and "Toxicity" all happen at the same time. For bonus points, each episode has some scenes set back at the Autobots' base with Fowler and Raf, and Toxicity shows all these scenes in context.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic did this near the end of season three, with the episodes "Just For Sidekicks" (focusing on Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders) and "Games Ponies Play" (focusing on Twilight Sparkle and the mane six) implied to have taken place on the same day — as hinted at by slight overlaps in the storylines at the beginnings and endings of the episodes — despite being set in different locations and having originally aired a week apart from each other.
- An early episode of The Fairly Oddparents A Wish Too Far was revisited in a later episode The Big Scoop shown from Chester and A.J.'s side as they try to find out Timmy's sudden popularity.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode The Big Cheese and The Little Peas take place on the same day. Notably outside the house on the former and inside the house on the latter.
- The third season of the second Ninja Turtles cartoon featured a five-part storyline where the Turtles were each trapped in a different alternate universe. The first four episodes all had the same beginning that took place from the perspective of a different turtle, and the rest of the episode showed that respective turtle's experience in the world he was trapped in. The fifth and final episode focused on the foursome getting back together.