Grandson:Two narrative threads
Grandpa, is this the same story? Klaus:
No, this is a little side-story. I'm using it to break up the main story so you don't get bored. Grandson:
part of the story? Klaus:
Oh, no. We are a Framing Device
—or more—are woven together; two cases are prosecuted, two murders investigated, and so on. This allows a simple narrative structure to feel as if it has more variety. It gives the audience a break from one line and something to do in terms of recalling the events of the alternate line. The two stories may be about similar subjects, or one may be the usual fare (investigations, prosecutions) interleaved with character development that gives a sense of a Story Arc
. Crime shows or films often feature parallel stories whose heroes turn out to be Working the Same Case
Juggling two stories is common enough that writers frequently refer to the "A Story" and the "B Story". Three
is quite a bit less common, at least in purely-episodic or limited-continuity shows.
If the B Story is clearly subservient to the A Story, it will usually be described as the "subplot". A common pattern on many series—sitcoms in particular—is that the same sets of characters will usually be segregated into "main plot" and "subplot" every week.
fare, two or three recurring storylines may be hit along with one or two minor "breather" plotlines all at once. This just means less screen time for each plotline, which mean they all go on for more episodes, which means the viewers keep watching. This is common in Soaps, long-form dramas, and some Sci-Fi
If the A Story and B Story
aren't juggled simultaneously, but are instead handled separately and tied together with an incredible chain of events, it's Halfway Plot Switch
. If said chain of events is split over two time periods, it's Meanwhile, in the Future
. Often uses Plot Parallels
to set up a Double Aesop
A lighter version involves the protagonist's investigation running parallel to something more innocent. While the detective mom investigates the grisly subway killings, her kids investigate the mystery of the missing chocolate brownie. This allows for a freeze-framed laugh
at the end when it's discovered the dog did itnote
For a Soap Opera
variation see Soap Wheel
and Four Lines, All Waiting
. Contrast Offstage Waiting Room
. If one of the storylines seems utterly inconsequential compared to the other, you may have a case of Trapped by Mountain Lions
. When a battle is starting in one storyline and the camera switches to another storyline, this is an example of a Charge-into-Combat Cut
. See also Simultaneous Arcs
, when the entirety of one arc is told before the next one gets told, but each one happens at the same time.
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- Baccano!. Oh, Baccano!. There are three main stories, each taking place a year apart (1930, 1931, 1932), as well as one in the 1700s. The clips from each of these are then mixed together throughout each episode, and you don't get to see the end of any of them until you finish the series. It's slightly less confusing than it sounds, as the clips usually begin by stating the year in which they occur. Usually. And those aren't even counting the flashbacks.
- Actually, you get to the see the endings in the very first episode. It's just that none of it makes any sense until the rest of the series puts it in context.
- An episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! from early season 2 had gone through this in the form of a Day in the Limelight episode. The A Story focused on Kaiba learning about his and Yugi's collective pasts in Ancient Egypt, while the B story focused on Yugi lamenting about his near-death experience in the previous episode, fearing that he would lose his other self forever (or in the dub, feeling anxious about facing Marik).
- The rest of Season 2 qualifies as well, with the A Story being Yugi facing the Rare Hunters and uncovering Marik's plan, while the B Story focuses on Joey coming into his own as a duelist without Yugi's help. The two plots converge when Marik has Joey kidnapped and mind-controlled to duel Yugi.
- Naruto has an odd variation of this. It started as one plot, but when Sasuke jumps ship, the plot diverges into two main streams (with a third one that's mostly disconnected until recently when they've decided to taper back into one.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes switches rapidly between two interplanetary superpowers and how individuals from both interact and how those interactions influence other interactions and so on.
- The first half of Transformers Cybertron deftly juggled three plot threads at once, varying the focus each one received. The first introduced was the search for the Omega Lock on Earth. After a few episodes, they discovered the location of the first Cyber Planet Key on Velocitron, which led to a secondary thread about Hot Shot and Red Alert competing in a series of races to try and win it. Some time later, a third thread was introduced when the second Key was traced to Jungle Planet, and Overhaul was sent to retrieve it from Scourge. Meanwhile, the Omega Lock was found, the race was won, and finally Scourge defeated, leading up to the more linear but still exciting second half of the series.
- Fullmetal Alchemist is widely praised for this. Usually Ed and Al are followed in one plotline while Roy and his troops are followed in the second, but there are also tertiary plotlines about Scar, Winry and others.
- MÄR's anime tried breaking up the War Game (read: Tournament Arc) with various filler. The problem is, most of this was right after Snow's kidnapping so it just ended up annoyingly prolonging both the tournament and her rescue.
- The Pokémon Best Wishes anime series has done this, with the Team Rocket trio occasionally stopping their usual pursuit of Ash's group and instead operating a long-term mission elsewhere. Their plotline progresses while Ash's does, and eventually the two merge together for a finish.
- Ash didn't meet Dawn and Serena right away in the Sinnoh and Kalos arcs respectively. The first few episodes of each partially focused on the start of the girls' journeys.
- A Certain Magical Index has Touma, Accelerator, and Shiage having their own crazy adventures in Academy City and later Russia. Volume 1 of "New Testament" is the first time all three of them meet at the same time.
- Dot Hack. In SIGN, there are a few characters who genuinely stick to a certain group. Sora and BT, Subaru and Silver Knight, and Mimiru and Bear (and later Tsukasa). The episode will shift focus between these groups, with some of the less trustworthy characters linking the stories.
- In AI Buster, the depiction of the infamous "One Sin" event that keeps getting referenced everywhere else in the series is the subplot.
- The plot in Log Horizon eventually split into two stories, with the "A Story" focusing mainly on Shiroe and his dealings with the macro aspects of the setting and the "B Story" focusing on the beginner players and the micro aspects of the setting.
- 52 was an enormous critical and financial success as it utilized at least seven lines with no waiting. Featuring several different "main" characters, each character had their own plot throughout the series which would occasionally cross over into other characters' plot-lines. These stories ranged from personal, character-driven issues (such as Ralph Dibny's personal quest to bring his wife back from the dead) to large-scale, grandiose events (like Black Adam's alliance with, and then struggle against, superpowered groups throughout the world), and some were not connected to the other stories in any way (like Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange struggling to get back to Earth from across the galaxy). One of the points credited to 52's success was its ability to make all these unconnected stories mesh together and complement one another, avoiding Four Lines, All Waiting.
- A Finnish comic novel named "OM" did this in a decidedly Mind Screwy way. The A Story (or at least the one it opened on), being the adventures of the eponymous samurai rabbit, was interrupted abruptly by the B Story of the surreal Just for Pun adventures of "li'l Piggybear". The B Story, in turn, was ostensibly the dreams of one of the characters in the C Story, a real-world relationship drama. The connection (if any) between the stories was never in any adequate way explained, giving the comic an overarching "what the... ?" -kind of feel. Ostensibly, the C Story, which was introduced last, could be seen as the "main" story, but that is all open to interpretation... It could just as well have been All Just a Dream of the samurai protagonist who was, if memory serves correctly, mortally wounded at the time.
- Infinity follows both an Enemy Mine alliance including the bulk of the Avengers fighting off an invasion by the multidimensional Builders, and the remaining heroes defending Earth and the Infinity Gems from Thanos.
- With Strings Attached tells two parallel stories: that of the four and their adventures on a variety of worlds, and that of the Fans who put them in this situation and who are watching/commenting on/empowering/manipulating them. The two lines are semi-separate (the Fans are aware of the four, but not vice-versa) until the end of the Second Movement, when the Fans speak directly to the four for the first time. The threads intersect a few more times in the book but mostly remain separate.
- There are also several chapters, notably the New Zork chapter, where the four get split up and have individual adventures, or which focus on only one of the four.
- Pink Personal Hell And Altering Fate alternates between an Odd Couple story in our world and a Slice of Life story in Ponyville. In fact, it's confirmed to be a Shout-Out to Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World with different narratives using The same protagonist and having different narratives. This way, it gives the impression of Nickel Steel mentally reliving the events of his "Pink Personal Hell."
- The third My Hostage Not Yours story is split pretty evenly between Zim and Gaz's efforts to conquer Earth, and Dib (and later Tak)'s efforts to stop them.
- Crystal Robot's Invader Zim fanfiction starts off with a simple Love Triangle plot surrounding Zim, Dib, and Casie (Zim's OC sister). The plots split when Dib becomes pregnant by Zim, and Casie becomes the Yandere. At that point, the major ark revolves around a bunch of OC's (and Gaz) trying to defeat Casie and a group of evil Doppelgangers, while the the ark surrounding Dib's pregnancy and his developing relationship with Zim plays in the background.
- Guilty Sparks is a Halo/Mass Effect crossover split between the Normandy crew getting involved in the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, while a major B plot involves Liara investigating Covenant infiltration of the Mass Effect universe.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan fiction Our True Colors uses this technique to simultaneously tell the story of Scootaloo's present and Pinkie Pie's past.
- The Captain America: The Winter Soldier fanfic Out Of The Dead Land intertwines the psychological drama of the Winter Soldier/Bucky's identity issues and relationship with Steve with the action/mystery drama of evil robot duplicates attempting to hijack the Avengers' identities, with a lot of thematic overlap between the two.
- 2006's The Holiday stands out because either of the two plots could have stood alone as a mildly-amusing single-story film.
- For most of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the film follows two separate storylines, one devoted to Luke learning the ways of the Jedi from Yoda and the other devoted to Han and Leia's attempts to evade the Empire. Attack of the Clones, the second installment of the prequel trilogy, also followed this structure, focusing on Obi Wan in his search for the bounty hunter that hired an assassin to kill Amidala, as well as Anakin's mission to keep Amidala safe.
- Pans Labyrinth had the "Ofelia's Tasks" plot and the "Resistance Against Fascists" plot, which intersected towards the end because the head of said fascists is Ofelia's step-father.
- The second and third movies in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The original books involve two storylines in the first half of each volume, Peter Jackson merges them, not always keeping time with when each happens in relation to the other.
- All of the movies in the Saw series (except the first) fit this structure. Line A is mostly about the plot/suspense, while Line B is more about horror/Gorn. The movie jumps to Line A whenever something Gorntastic happens in Line B. It jumps to Line B after some plot development resolves in Line A. Some of the movies spend more time in Line A (Saw V) and some spend more time in Line B (Saw III), which directly relates to how gorey a given installment is. These plots always meet up in some fashion at the end. details
- Requiem for a Dream does this. The four stories are initially linked as the girlfriend, friend, and mother of Jared Leto's character, although they all eventually branch off into their own, primarily unrelated tales. They are still somewhat linked, but for the most part they've gone their own ways.
- Woody Allen has done these a few times in two of his highest regarded movies. Crimes and Misdemeanors has a straight example with the two storylines being distinct and only crossing paths rarely, while Hannah And Her Sisters follows several character arcs with a lot of interaction between them.
- Digimon the Movie. In Japan, it was two short OV As about the original cast and one longer movie about the season two newcomers. To make it a theatrical feature after the first season and an introduction to said newcomers, a bit of narration was used for Arc Welding, and Diaboromon and Kokomon were said to be affected by the same virus, and given the same voice actor and a couple catchphrases in common. ("Don't interfere!" "Go back to the beginning..") Connecting Diaboromon to the Willis thing actually made Diaboromon a much more sympathetic character than the original Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, but the longer Digimon Adventure 02 really loses a great deal of plot.
- The Godfather Part II does this by jumping between Vito Corleone fleeing Italy and building his empire in America in the past and his son Michael Corleone managing his Las Vegas empire in the present. However, this is subverted in the made-for-TV Godfather Saga, which simply showed all the scenes from both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II in chronological order.
- The Nut Job has two plot threads: Surly the squirrel's attempts to steal from a nut store, and several human characters' attempts to break into a bank.
- The first two thirds of G.I. Joe: Retaliation consists of two separate plots — Snake-Eyes and Jinx pursuing Storm Shadow, and the surviving Joes' attempt to figure out the circumstances of their ambush.
- The book Sahara by Clive Cussler (and its movie adaption that he has disowned) has two plots running side by side, interlinking with each other. It eventually then focuses exclusively on one, with the other only coming back just when the audience has forgotten about it.
- The Kurt Austin series of the Clive Cussler books do this. Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are plot A, Paul Trout and his wife Gamay Morgan-Trout are Plot B. Then because of various reasons there will be parts where Austin will work with Trout while Zavala and Gamay work together. Which gets humorous when Kurt and Paul have to sneak around because Trout is nearly 7-feet tall.
- Most Redwall novels involve multiple, interwoven plots. Salamandastron is possibly the most convoluted in this respect.
- Terry Brooks almost always does this in his Shannara books, when the parties split. Normally one half fights some epic but largely mundane battle, while the other party (with the main protagonist) goes off to kill the Big Bad. This is probably in deliberate imitation of LOTR.
- Several Discworld novels feature two parallel plotlines that occasionally interact, finally uniting near the end, for example Reaper Man (Death's retirement and Windle Poons's "afterlife", with slightly different typefaces to distinguish them) and Hogfather (Death taking the Hogfather's role; Susan stopping Teatime).
- The Mind Screw book Kafka on the Shore features two completely different stories alternating every chapter. The odd numbered chapters have a mostly realistic (at least until the end) story of a teenage runaway, and the even numbered ones are about a guy who can talk to cats and is convinced he has to fulfill some destiny to keep evil from taking over the world. The two stories impact on each other from time to time without ever quite intersecting.
- Author Haruki Murakami is good at this. His earlier novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World was, as the title suggests, two separate stories. One is a cyberpunk neo-noir thriller (Wonderland) and the other is a magical fantasy (End of the World). The two stories have the same protagonist, though - and they can't both have happy endings.
- Neal Stephenson is especially fond of this trope. Nearly all of them feature at least 2 plots, although they almost always intersect by the end.
- Cryptonomicon, for example, has a plot following Lawrence Waterhouse and Alan Turing breaking Axis cyphers in 1942, Bobby Shaftoe in service at the Navy around the same years, and Randy Waterhouse setting up a business operation in the present.
- The Confusion deserves special mention for being presented as two separate novels mixed (or "confused") together (the other volumes in The Baroque Cycle contain three books, but present them one at a time). Both novels have a couple of strands to them.
- Snow Crash has Hiro Protagonist and YT as major viewpoint characters. They work together and spend much of their time together, but during the story have completely separate conflicts. It turns out that they are heading towards the same plot climax, but from two completely different directions.
- Literary example: The Wheel of Time the later books fragment into several plotlines. This either creates a vivid, appealing world or makes the books hopelessly convoluted, depending on the reader.
- A Song of Ice and Fire is a particularly strong example of it. In the first book, it starts with three plots - basically one following Eddard Stark, one following Jon Snow, and the third following Daenerys. Over the course of the first book the characters end up getting really spread out and by the second book there are a huge number of interwoven plots, plus Daenerys who has spawned no other point of view characters and has really had minimal interaction with the rest of the cast. The plot is incredibly convoluted with dozens of characters and more than a dozen different point of view characters. Of course, given that Daenerys has gotten so much time, and yet is on the other side of an ocean, we all know something very important is going to happen with her in the last book...
- Daenerys is an odd example, because the actions the characters on Westeros actually have a constant impact on her life—it just sometimes takes a while to cross the ocean and get to her. The first example that springs to mind would be the time Robert Baratheon sent an assassin after her, after hearing about her marriage to Khal Drogo. And by the time the assassin and Dany meet, King Robert has already died.
- It looks like Dany might be moving into the main plotline, or the main plotline might be moving to Daenerys—preview chapters from the next book strongly indicate that she'll be joining forces with Tyrion Lannister in the future.
- Mercedes Lackey - in her Mage Storms trilogy, the main plot gets interwoven with machiavellian scheming in a distant and uber-powerful empire. The B plot gives the readers insight into one of the major characters as well as answering several questions that any smart reader would be asking and couldn't be properly answered any other way.
- Same with The Obsidian Trilogy, which has the main plot with the main characters and another equally important plot happening back in the city.
- Peter F. Hamilton does this quite a bit. His Commonwealth Saga follows something like seven plots all at once, and they'd each be enough for a book of their own. The Night's Dawn Trilogy has three major plots going at once. There's a reason his books are so thick.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen does this with around 4-5 lines. Book 2 and 3 even happened at exactly the same time.
- Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40,000 novel Scourge The Heretic breaks into two infiltration plots: One for the smugglers, one for the Chaos cult.
- The defining characteristic of the Victorian multiplot novel. For example:
- After Fellowship, The Lord of the Rings breaks down into two stories for most of its run: Frodo and Sam, and the rest of the Fellowship. Even then, there are sub-divisions in the rest of the Fellowship for a good deal of the time, such as the two views of the march of the Uruk-hai - one from Merry and Pippin, the other from Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.
- The early parts of Return of the King fragment this a little more, as we get separate views on Pippin and Gandalf in Minas Tirith, Merry with the Rohirrim, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli on the Paths of the Dead. All this is in addition to Frodo and Sam's part of the story, which eventually leads to the re-merging of the disparate threads.
- The Swallows and Amazons series of children's novels by Arthur Ransome follows several families of children who only meet in their school holidays. After the fifth book in the series (Coot Club), there are often two plots running concurrently in different novels, and the characters even send postcards to friends who don't appear. The thirteenth book would have united characters who had never met, but Ransome never finished it.
- The latter half of Dark Lord of Derkholm ping-pongs between the adventures of Derk and those of his children, Blade, Shona, and Kit, as they lead a party through the "game."
- Older Than Feudalism: The Odyssey has Odysseus attempting to get home, and Odysseus's son Telemachos's attempts to find his father.
- In Mike Lee's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fallen Angels, Nemiel's and Zahariel's stories.
- Timothy Zahn does this all the time in his Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. All of his many protagonists have plotlines that weave and diverge and intersect and merge constantly. In Allegiance, chosen for an example because it has a smaller cast, the plotlines belong to Mara Jade and her mission to follow a pirate/corrupt Imperial connection, Daric LaRone and the Hand of Judgment with their efforts to do good and figure out what to do next, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fumbling with Han's reservations about the Rebellion while on a mission, Leia Organa and her quest to keep bits of the Rebellion together, Villim Disra's gambit to get more power, and Captain Ozzel with his increasingly desperate attempts to hide the fact that five stormtroopers defected from his ship. And all of these plotlines forms its own narrative, but is related somehow to all of the others. They rarely get forgotten, either. Zahn's awesome like that.
- This is done less impressively in the multi-author Fate of the Jedi series. It's loosely based on The Odyssey, with Luke and his son exploring strange places and meeting exotic force-using organizations. But, there's also a murder trial, a power struggle between the government and the Jedi Order, a conspiracy right out of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a little girl Chosen One who gets into trouble, and a big sub-plot about slavery. Each book shows some Jedi falling into a paranoid psychosis and causing trouble. Can you remember all of these?... Well, the authors have ignored the investigation into Jacen for a new plot involving an Eldritch Abomination for several books (though they still visit strange places/groups), and a group of Jedi got sent out to fight slavery, only to be ignored the next book.
- Holes, by Louis Sachar, alternates between the story of Stanley Yelnats' life at Camp Green Lake, the story of Stanley's "pig-stealing" great-great-grandfather Elya, and the story of schoolteacher Kate Barlow in the Old West town of Green Lake and how she became a feared outlaw. The connections between the three stories become ever clearer throughout the book.
- Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. The first book starts with Kelsier, Vin, and Elend as viewpoint characters. When their plots diverge, each of them tends to be given a chapter at a time, which helps things move smoothly along. The even spread of viewpoints chapter-by-chapter becomes very noticeable by book three when several secondary characters have become viewpoint characters and they all have their own plots.
- This is also present in his book The Way of Kings, where he has multiple parts in the book, and around 3 viewpoints per part. Each of these has their own storyline.
- It' SOP for Nancy Drew books to start with two seemingly unrelated mysteries that turn out to be the same thing by the end of the story.
- Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, has two plots like this. The first tells of Aleksandar Ferdinand, who is on the run after the assassination of his father, Franz Ferdinand. The second is about Deryn Sharp, a girl who dresses like a boy to get into the British Air Service. About 2/3 through the book, their two stories intersect when the Leviathan crashes on the glacier outside of Alek's
bolt hole bolt castle, he goes down to help, and is put into custody.
- Ken Mac Leod has used this, most notably in The Sky Road and The Stone Canal, two novels in his Fall Revolution series. He was also credited by his friend Iain Banks for suggesting it as a way of bringing together the various ideas and storylines that became Use of Weapons.
- The story in Nick Hornby's About a Boy is told alternately by the two Protagonists, at the beginning of the book both plots are separated, as the story proceeds they get somewhat mixed up a little, owing to the time they spend together.
- Interworld gets a bit weird about this. The book is divided into two halves. The first half is about a guy by the name of Tom Dunjer searching for a sample of something called linzetium, which has been stolen. It's mostly pretty sensibly laid out, except that at the end of each chapter, there's a section in ALL CAPS from the point of view of Klox, a robot who starts off not knowing where he is or what he's doing. At some point in the second half, Dunjer meets Klox. After that, chapters start alternating between those following Dunjer, and some written in italics, told from the point of view of another Dunjer in a Parallel Universe. Both the Dunjer and alt-Dunjer chapters still include the Klox sections at the end. The final chapter constantly switches between the Dunjer and alt-Dunjer sections, with the Klox section running along on another trajectory which intersects with both.
- Ragtime features three families living in the early 20th century. While each has its own story ranging from following the American Dream to avenging your baby mama's death through terrorism to adjusting to the New Music, they find themselves interacting to an almost ridiculous degree, in an amount of detail that would make J. R. R. Tolkien envious. At the end the surviving main characters become one family.
- Spock's World alternates between a history of Vulcan and the present as the heroes try to stop the planet from seceding.
- Several of Jane Austen's novels have this. Sense and Sensibility has Elinor and Marianne as the main characters. Each sister has her own plot.
- Eastern Standard Tribe has two converging storylines that mix with How We Got Here.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Valerius and La Résistance; Conan himself; and Salome, the Big Bad.
- Ian Irvine's The Three Worlds Cycle does this regularly. The first book, A Shadow On The Glass, opens with two separate plot threads from Karan and Llian, which later converge, and over the course of the quartet the action often switches between different characters in different places, who tend to come together for the final events of each book only to separate again in the next one. It all comes to a head with the third series, the Song Of The Tears trilogy, where all the keysurvivng players from the entire series join forces to deal with the overarching threat.
- Jonathan Safran Foer gets a lot of mileage out of this practice.
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close alternates between Oskar's journey to cope with his father's death and letters from Oskar's grandparents detailing how they met and their eventual separation.
- Everything Is Illuminated provides 50% more threading. There are 2 plotlines - the protagonist's search for his ancestral home in the Ukraine and his grandfather's life and escape from there - but the first thread is narrated in turns by the protagonist himself and by his tour guide.
- Spider Robinson's Mindkiller has two plotlines, told in alternating chapters — odd-numbered chapters are in third-person, through the eyes of college professor Norman Kent, and even-numbered chapters are told in first-person by Army-vet-turned-techie-burglar Joe Templeton. It's not until at least two-thirds of the way through the story that it's made explicit that the book has only one POV character.
- For the the first two books of The New Prophecy, the second arc of Warrior Cats, the point of view switches between Leafpaw, a medicine cat apprentice watching as the forest crumbles around her, and one of the six journeying cats, who are on a quest to find a way to save the forest.
- Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels typically have one plot following the investigations of Sheriff Spencer Arrowood in the present, and a parallel case from the past which is connected in some fashion.
- The Rift War Cycle's first book Magician. by Raymond E Feist. Has no less than separate plots following 3 major plot lines and 2 secondary plotlines. Primarily, Pug, Tomas, Arutha's main lines. Carline, Roland and Martin. making up subplots but relating to the over all story. Further books in the series extend this further.
- Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn shows us Kesh City from two viewpoints; a street kid who wants revenge for his mother's death and a musician who's visiting the city from elsewhere, on a reluctant mission for aliens. The perspectives start off in alternating chapters, and while it quickly becomes clear there are definite connections ( Taro's mother's killer is the bodyguard of Elarn's only apparent friend on Kesh), we don't realise how linked their missions are until the Wham Line at the end of Chapter 19. Starting in Chapter 22, the storylines start coalescing, although Taro and Elarn only meet briefly near the end.
- In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, two separate ships, one of men and one of women, try to survive after the Earth's destruction — and find other humans to reproduce with.
Live Action TV
- Perfected by 24. After all, it is the Trope Namer for Trapped by Mountain Lions.
- The most obvious examples would have to be Fantasy Island and The Love Boat, each of which juggled three or more plotlines per episode. In fact, the plotlines even had separate titles in the credits, and usually different writers!
- In fact, when it was offered up in syndication, Fantasy Island had two formats, the original one hour episodes as well as an Edited for Syndication half hour format featuring only one story and Roarke's opening greeting "My dear guests, I am Mr Roarke, your host" dubbed to "My dear guest, I am Mr Roarke, your host".
- This device is used in the various CSI shows (although much more often in the original than the spinoffs), and others in the current crop.
- This happens pretty often in New Tricks. Sandra normally goes off with one other member of the team about a quarter through the episode, with the other two members going off on their own plotline as well. Sometimes there are even three plotlines in one episode.
- Elementary works and develops its story arc and characters this way.
- House often has this (particularly in the last few seasons), where plot A is the current medical drama and there's usually one or two sub-plots concerning House messing with his team and/or Wilson and/or Cuddy (or vice versa). Less frequently, an episode would have two medical plots: one case involving the entire team, and another that House would solve on his own.
- The second was more common in the first few seasons where House would have a minor recurring clinic case that would often provide him with the inspiration to solve to main case.
- "One Day, One Room" is a particularly good example of this trope, as it has no medical mystery. Instead, it follows House treating a pregnant rape victim who refuses an abortion, while Cameron tries to help a dying homeless man who refuses treatment.
- Very common in Star Trek spin-offs. Star Trek: The Next Generation's early seasons suffered badly from a sense that the writers felt obligated to have multiple plotlines, and events that should have been the centerpiece of an entire episode were relegated to the B Story (e.g., the re-introduction of the Romulans).
- The most egregious example coming from a Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Silent Enemy." The A plot is a strong, tense plot where the Enterprise is face with an enemy that outclasses their ship in every way. The ship is boarded, lives are lost, and in order to even survive, the Enterprise has to risk blowing half the ship apart. The B plot is centered around Hoshi finding out Reed's favorite food. Hilarity Ensues, despite, you know, the ship endangering crisis going on. Needless to say, the A plot is horribly undermined by the thematic discontinuity, and gross stupidity, of the B plot.
- This structure was used in basically every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, with the notable exception of the late-first-season episode "Duet".
- Also used in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. Oddly, the movie's title came from the "B" plot.
- Babylon 5: This trope was so prevalent on the show that episodes with only one plot line really stand out, whereas at times the viewer could get up to an F plot to keep track of. One big example of a single plot episode is the fourth season episode "Intersections in Real Time," which focused exclusively on Sheridan being tortured by EarthForce.
- The new Battlestar Galactica series always has at least three storylines, and sometimes as many as five.
- Lizzie McGuire consistently used Lizzie and her friends as the "A" Story, and her little brother Matt doing something for the "B" Story.
- For that matter; pretty much every episode of every sit-com on Disney Channel does this.
- Shake It Up. Usually there is one plot with Cece and Rocky, and Rocky's brother Ty, Deuce and Flynn have a plot. They may or may not intersect, and minor characters Gunther and Tinka may appear in both.
- Hannah Montana: Lilly/Hannah in the A-Plot, Jackson and/or Rico in the B-Plot. Oliver and Robbie Ray can be in one or both.
- Good Luck Charlie: Teddy and Ivy in the A-Plot. PJ, Gabe or Bob in the B-Plot.
- Wizards of Waverly Place has Alex and Harper and Justin in the A-plot, and Max and the parents in the B-plot.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody have Zack and Cody in the A-plot, and London and Maddie in the B-plot. The twins are joined by Marcus and Woody in the A-Plot, whereas London and Bailey are in the B-plot on The Suite Life on Deck. Moseby and Carey can be in either one.
- Sonny With A Chance: Sonny and Chad and/or Tawni in the A-Plot, Grady and Nico in the B-Plot. Zora may intercede in either, or just spend the time being weird.
- Jessie: Jessie and two of the kids in the A-plot; Bertram and the other two kids in the B-plot.
- A.N.T. Farm: Chyna, Olive, and Lexi in the A-plot; Cameron or Angus in the B-plot. Fletcher can be in either one.
- Nickelodeon as well:
- iCarly: Carly/Sam/Freddie A plot, Spencer (and later Gibby) B-Plot. Formula for dozens of episodes. Occasionally one of the trio jumps into Spencer's plot whilst the other two deal with the A-plot.
- Victorious: Tori in the A-Plot, and a B-Plot which uses cast not required for the A-Plot. Trina is often what the b-plot revolves around.
- Then the two shows had a crossover special, leading to an epic 10 Lines, No Waiting: Carly's time with Steven, Tori's time with Steven(which later intertwine), Andre and later Kenan trying to catch the panda, Robbie/Rex in an epic rap battle, Cat having to use a headband to talk, Trina babysitting for Lane, Sikowitz trying to scare Beck, Spencer, Beck, Jade and Sikowitz in the hot tub, Sinjin video game surfing, and Gibby trying to find his mole. Eventually all the plots build into one another leading to everyone singing karaoke.
- Drake & Josh: The titular brothers in the A-Plot, Megan in a B-Plot when not directly involved in screwing up the A-Plot for the boys.
- Zoey 101: Same thing as Victorious except Zoey in place of Tori.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: A-plot with the main character that may involve one of his friends, and a B-plot that involves the other friend (or two B-plots when Ned is alone in the A-plot).
- HBO's Oz featured several continuing plotlines in more of a serial format (starting and ending with the season), as well as single-episode plots.
- Often seen in the British mystery series Rumpole of the Bailey. A typical Rumpole episode involves two plots: the case of the week Rumpole is defending, and a plot involving either some intrigue back in chambers or some intrigue in Rumpole's household.
- Soap Operas... all of them. The general practice to have three main plots running: one in infancy, one at peak and one wrapping up.
- Over in non-fiction land, MythBusters does this too. Partially justified in that a single myth is generally too short to provide a sixty minute (including commercials) show. However, it is the presentation of each myth in parts that qualifies MythBusters as an example.
- In documentary TV, each The First 48 episode tracks two murder investigations, each in a different city and having nothing to do with each other.
- Intervention follows two families coping with addictions, cutting back and forth.
- In its first season, Heroes did a very interesting bit with this in the long-arc scenario. It has multiple long arcs — Nikki/Ikkin, Petrelli Bros., The Bennets, Hiro's Quest, and Sylar (roughly) — with an encapsulating long-arc. Each sub-arc gets some screen time every episode, with the emphasis (length) shifting from arc to arc. Fascinating bit of juggling.
- Less obvious is the title names for each episode. They're metaphoric and (usually) can apply to any and all events that occur in a single episode.
- Later seasons tried similar juggling, but balls got dropped, and things sprang out of nowhere and didn't always connect to the other threads, and it generally exemplified how to not do this. The last season got back on track (though not quite as adept - there wasn't room for everything to prove terribly important, and characters went absent longer than they would in S1, but it was a marked improvement.) but not in time to save the show.
- My So-Called Life usually had a B story involving Angela's parents, thanks to child labor laws (Clare Danes and Devon Gummersall couldn't be in every scene of the show.)
- Exception: Everybody Loves Raymond is unique in the sense that every episode followed one storyline, there were no subplots. Yet it was still very successful and ran for nine seasons. They did have minor inter-episode stories as running gags, such as periodically reverting to the arguments between Marie and Frank (over things like what constitutes something as 'fork-split,' who will die first and what the remaining one will do, etc) throughout the episode.
- Seinfeld perfected this tactic, with a twist. The two story lines would turn out to be physically (not just thematically) interrelated through some absurd coincidence or twist. Larry David has mentioned in several DVD commentaries that he had the idea to interweave the separate plotlines early on in the show's run, but didn't perfect the practice until Season 4.
- LOST does a variant on this pretty much every episode: one Backstory-revealing plot told in a series of FlashBacks, usually thematically related to the primary "present day" plot.
- And now in the fifth season, the flashbacks are gone and instead the episodes are split between the group of people on the island and the Oceanic Six.
- The second half went back to the flashback format, but abandoned the "two present day stories" for, at-episode 10, 12, and 13 were centered on only a single plotline, 11 only featured a brief scene from another, and 14's b plot was only a few scenes at the start and end.
- In a number of episodes, there's not only the Flash Back and the "present day" plot but also a secondary "present day" plot that's more lighthearted and features the leftover characters. There have been cases of people playing golf and table tennis, and Hurley & Sawyer tracking then squashing a noisy frog (seriously).
- Most of season six has three plot-lines per episode: two of the Island groups are featured, along with a story set in an alternate universe where 815 never crashed.
- Lost might actually be a better example of Third Line, Some Waiting, as there was almost always a secondary subplot going on, in addition to the spotlight character's plot-lines on the Island and in flashbacks.
- Northern Exposure typically had three or four plotlines per episode.
- The Bill often does this.
- After the first few series, Heartbeat always divided its episodes between an A plot of the police investigating something serious and a comedy B plot of whoever the Loveable Rogue was at the time (Greengrass, Vernon or Peggy, or occasionally their supporting cast if they weren't in the episode) getting involved in some sort of light-hearted shenanigans.
- Scrubs does this often, and tries to tie them together in a central theme at the end. "It's hard living life... whether it's giving birth on a sinking submarine... eating a fellow doctor's testicles... or just plain sitting around at home in your jammies, smearing baked beans on the TV."
- In My Waste of Time, J.D. lampshaded this practice by saying his moral out loud in front of others after having an epiphany:
Dr. Cox: What in the hell are you talking about?
J.D.: Oh, I'm just doing this thing where I use a slice of wisdom from someone else's life to solve a problem in my own life.
Jordan: Seems coincidental.
J.D.: And yet I do it almost every week.
- Seacht seems to be doing this with Decko, whose interaction with the rest of the cast has so far been minimal.
- Dawson's Creek always had more than one storyline but for much of the post High School 5th and 6th seasons (especially the latter), interaction between the storylines was minimal, or non-existent.
- Friends did this quite often, usually preferring the three-storyline model. The relationships between the characters allowed some fluidity in the pairings.
- "The One Where They're Going to Party" - Ross, Chandler, and Joey in Plot A, Monica and Rachel in Plot B, and Phoebe in Plot C.
- "The One Where Ross and Rachel... You Know" - Ross and Rachel in Plot A, Monica and Phoebe in Plot B, and Chandler and Joey in Plot C.
- Particularly in later seasons, episodes frequently split along with the Ships: Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica, Phoebe and an outside cast member or love interest (Duncan, Eric, Mike, and so forth.)
- Two-story episodes were still common, though: "The One with the Routine" had Monica, Ross, Joey, and guest character Janine in Plot A, with Chandler, Phoebe, and Rachel in Plot B; "The One with the Blackout" had Chandler by himself in Story B, while everybody else was in Story A.
- How I Met Your Mother works this trope similarly to Friends. The A Story usually runs through Ted, while the B Story tends to involve the stable couple of Marshall and Lily. Barney and Robin sometimes end up in their own plotlines, but are more often part of the A Story or B Story.
- Season 5 places the main focus away from Ted more often than not; Barney and Robin's romantic subplot takes up most of the first half of the season, Robin and Don take up the second half, with Marshall and Lily's attempts at having a baby the standard B-plot. Ted himself rarely stars, but is always the Framing Device.
- The delicate balancing of sitcom hijinks and medical/war drama seen throughout Mash appeared to be a little too much for the writers to handle in the last few seasons, so instead every episode was given two storylines, one funny and one serious. It was rather obvious that they were putting all their effort into the serious storylines and the "funny" storylines tended to fall flat as a result.
- Corner Gas has two or three storylines per episode, which is merely one of the reasons it's often compared to Seinfeld. Its larger main cast (more than four) divides up pretty evenly among the storylines. This is most interesting when the divvying of the storylines doesn't happen according to the common pattern (the two police officers, the old married couple, the gas station workers—Hank functions as a wildcard, who may have his own storyline like a Good Hair Day).
- The Littlest Yarbo where Hank discusses his plot, and Brent randomly starts talking about his own:
: Maybe The Littlest Hobo
was the first ever reality show, did you ever think of that?
Brent: Hold on here! If I can see my logo, then her logo is on the outside all the while giving her free advertising!
Wanda: Come on, guys! I can only handle one weird obsession at a time!
- This became increasingly common in later seasons of Married... with Children, with some members of the cast getting involved in their own side adventures away from the main plot.
- The Canadian drama series Da Vinci's Inquest was cancelled in part because of this trope. At the end of the series, the main character, a coroner living in Vancouver, successfully announces his bid to become the Mayor of the city. In the spin-off/sequel, Da Vinci's City Hall, the story balances the problems he has while in office, his quest to get a "red light district" up and running, his bid to create safe-injection sites for drug users, the trials and tribulations of his former partner working at the city morgue, events happening at a police station...if you missed one episode, you were lost. The show suffered in the ratings, and was cancelled as a result (although there may have been other motives).
- A rare case of a show being submarined by its own Truth in Television: the Da Vinci character was based on real-life Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell.
- In Super Sentai and Power Rangers, most episodes revolve around two plots: A Monster of the Week and some real-life challenge for one or more of the main characters. In many cases, the two get interwoven, with the everyday plot ending up teaching one of the Rangers a valuable lesson which then becomes instrumental in defeating the Monster of the Week.
- One particularly memorable Law & Order episode actually screwed with the long established premise of one case, one episode, by showing a day in the life of the police officers and their relations with the D As. Rather than the one case followed from crime to verdict, one principal case is brought up, and several other minor cases crop up to plague the detective's concentration. Like all episodes, however, the detectives are able to solve all the cases by the end of the day.
- Frasier: The majority of the episodes have this structure. Typically, there's the main A plot and the secondary B plot, one of them focusing on Frasier and the other on one of the four other major characters. The main plot isn't necessarily about Frasier, though: Niles especially gets plenty of A plots as his character becomes more rounded.
- One episode ("Death and the Dog", Season 4) hanging a lampshade on it. The events of the episode are being told as a Whole Episode Flashback to a caller, and Roz wonders why Frasier is telling the caller about her date in the episode.
- The Shield usually runs three police plots (the Strike Team, Dutch and Wimms, Danni and Julien), plus Macky's private and Aceveda's political lives, with plotlines crossing and merging.
- Malcolm in the Middle did this every episode, typically with three storylines running at once or more. The most common one was the A Story being about Malcolm and one other family member, and the other stories revolving around the other family members and Francis always had his own story, until he became a part-time cast member.
- Grey's Anatomy does this in a way similar to Scrubs but usually a lot less contrived and there is almost always a real struggle with morality that Meredith references when she does the voice over in the beginning and end of an episode. If the plots are too separated, the writers link it together with a more broad aesop... like "trust your closest friends" or something. Clever!
- To be fair, Grey's hasn't been on the air as long as Scrubs. The plot device didn't feel all that contrived on Scrubs in the earlier seasons. Scrubs even pointed out when Grey's started losing the edge too and going for the broader aesops with a little bit of a Take That.
- The West Wing does this a lot, and also frequently juggles three or more storylines per episode.
- Happened quite a lot in Boston Legal, as different characters are taking different cases, usually with one case being the serious one with a Character Filibuster or Author Filibuster in it, and the other case being the slightly light-hearted one (usually involved Denny Crane)
- Pushing Daisies usually only has one actual murder mystery per episode, but there are other personal plots for the characters to deal with at the same time. In some of the later episodes, two of the main characters would investigate the case while the others had something else to do.
- True Blood is setup like this. The main story is usually focused on Sookie and Bill. Sam and Tara have their own subplots which cross with each other and Sookies from time to time. Lafayette and Andy show up regularly with their own problems, but not as much time is dedicated to them. Meanwhile Jason is off doing his own thing.
- Most episodes in the new series Lieto Me involve two different investigations going on at the same time. In a standard episode Cal and Ria will be investigating a death or a murder while Gillian and Eli are investigating a scandal.
- Every episode of season one of Naturally Sadie would have one 'Sadie' plot and one 'Rain' plot, except one where the plots merged. This was less common for the second and third season.
- This became the standard for Blake's 7. With several main characters the writers needed to find something for all of them to do, and so the plot would often split up into two lines: the first for the ones who make planetfall Down There, and the other for the ones who run into trouble Up There on the Liberator (and later on Scorpio).
- Most episodes of The Closer have the investigation as the A plot and something involving Johnson's personal life as the B plot. Usually they're tied together thematically and/or the B plot provides the weekly Eureka Moment. In addition, the B plots often stretch for more than one episode.
- Desperate Housewives usually has 5 plots running simultaneously; one for each of the four main housewives and one involving the season's Big Bad or creepy/mysterious neighbor. These plotlines will mesh in the big catastrophe episodes, but generally stay apart.
- Used in nearly every episode of The Mentalist. Plot A follows Jane with the murder mystery and whoever happens to be his sidekick this week, usually Lisbon or Cho. Plot B follows the more exciting cop business with Rigsby and his sidekick of the week. Sometimes the plots are related, and sometimes they're not.
- Warehouse 13 has seemingly switched to this in Season 3. With the addition of Jinks, the pattern (so far) is that Pete and Myka search for artifact A, Claudia and Jinks search for artifact B.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia usually begins with the gang getting to an argument and then splitting off into two groups with different objectives as the result of the argument, which form the two plots of the episode.
- Castle has this as well. The A Story centers around the crime drama, and the B Story centers around Richard Castle's family drama.
- In Boy Meets World, most episodes had an A plotline with Cory, Shawn and Topanga and a B plotline with Eric (and Jack starting in season 5 and Rachel starting in season 6), though this varied a good bit. In many of the later season episodes one plotline was serious while one was comedic.
- Very common in Chuck - the A story revolved around Chuck, Sarah and Casey, while the B story revolved around Chuck's friends at Buy More.
- Burn Notice does this in practically every single episode. One storyline will involve tracking down the people who burned Michael or, in season 5 whoever framed him for murder. This will invariably bring Michael one step closer, but won't result in a major development unless the episode is a season finale. The other will be generally involve saving an innocent victim from the Monster of the Week. Seriously, this formula is used so consistently, one has to wonder how none of the characters ever seem to notice that its happening.
- Kamen Rider OOO, a season of Kamen Rider with Rule of Three as its central premise, would often advertise its unique concept of Three Lines No Waiting across every two episodes, complete with a Previously On segment recounting "these three things" - as the series went on, they would often seperate a plotline's cause and effect to make up the number.
- The Big Bang Theory: After Amy and Bernadette joined the cast, there were several episodes that featured one storyline for the men and one for the women with little if any overlap.
- Jeeves and Wooster would quite often have two separate plotlines that Bertie Wooster got involved in. This was due the screenwriter, Clive Exton, often combining two different short stories into one episode.
- Awake does this as part of the show's premise: the main detective character lives in two realities that constantly react to each other. Thus whenever he starts a case in one reality, another case (somehow linked to the first one) starts in the other, resulting in at least two plotlines per episode.
- Community sometimes has subplots spanning every member of the study group. If there are two friends in an A plot (say Jeff and Britta), some of the other members (Abed and Troy for example) will have a B plot together.
- This was the basic storytelling method in the first season of Once Upon a Time. Every episode featured a story in the cursed community of Storybrooke and a story in the past of the Enchanted Forest, with the flashback story usually shedding narrative light on the characters in Storybrooke. The second season added a third plot thread.
- Criminal Minds has done this on a few occasions, most notably in "Damaged" when the main story saw Morgan, Prentiss and JJ help Rossi solve his cold case, with the "B" story featuring Hotch and Reid interview a serial killer looking for a way to stave off execution.
- Go On does this in most episodes, generally with one plot centering around Ryan King, and another plot focusing on someone else from the support group.
- Family Matters generally had an A-story centering on the children and a B-story centering on the parents. However, being a Kid Com, the childrens' storylines were predictably far more interesting than the parents' storylines.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun usually goes with an A-story centering on Dick and a B-story featuring another character.
- Lampshaded on Cougar Town which usually sticks to A and B-plots but occasionally works in a C as well. When they are trying to think of a name for Bobby's (landlocked) boat, one suggestion is The Sea Story because "everything that happens on this boat is kind of a sea story"
- On Haven, especially in seasons 1 and 2, there typically was an A-plot with Audrey and Nathan investigating a Trouble(superpower) related crime and a B-plot with Duke, sometimes intersecting with the A-plot (often Duke would find himself involved in the Trouble somehow), and sometimes a C-plot involving finding Audrey's past. As the other characters were fleshed out more, there started being a C-plot involving the Teagues, Dwight and/or the Guard. In season 5, there usually is an A-plot with one character and Mara and a B-plot involving the other characters dealing with a Trouble.
- "Anthrax" by Gang of Four has Jon King singing the song in the left channel while Andy Gill talks about writing love songs in the right.
- "Spoiler Alert" by They Might Be Giants tells two stories, one sung by Flansburgh, playing a truck driver who, in a fit of exhausted delirium, believes his truck can drive itself, and one sung by Linnell, playing a writer distracted with writing a story who thinks he has more hands than he does. Presumably, they collide at the end.
- In Bally's Creature from the Black Lagoon, the main game is about taking your girlfriend to a Drive-In Theater to see the titular movie. Once multiball starts, however, you are placed into the movie, and must rescue Kay from the Creature.
- In ECW in 1995, Taz had suffered a broken neck due to Dean Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio botching a spike piledriver in a match against Taz and Eddie Guerrero, which put him on the shelf for a time. The Sandman defeated ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas for the title at ECW Hostile City Showdown on April 15. Douglas felt that there was a problem with the officiatingnote and was determined to do something about it. At ECW Enter Sandman, May 13th, he introduced Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission referee Bill Alfonso, who would enforce the rules, in a promotion that prided itself on its lack of rules. Fonzie quickly became the most hated guy in ECW history. What do these two storylines have to do with each other? The answer came at ECW November to Remember 95 on November 18th. Right before the match between Konnan and Jason "The Sexiest Man On Earth", Taz walked down to the ring in a referee shirt. Taz explained to Joey Styles, who was doing the in-ring introductions, that ECW would not let him wrestle that night because they considered him an insurance risk. Jason gets in Taz's face as Taz asks if both guys are ready. Taz then decked Jason and Konnan powerbombed and pinned him in about 14 seconds. Later that night, there was a match, such as it was, between Alfonso and ECW Commissioner Tod Gordon, with Beulah McGillicutty, then a Heel as Raven's girlfriend, as the special referee. Fonzie attacked her and threw her out of the match. They sort-of brawl for a while, complete with Fonzie blading, with no referee. Taz comes down while Tod is attempting a pin, starts to count, then stops, beats up Tod, puts Alfonso on top and counts the pin, thus turning himself heel. The crowd is shocked, and Taz explains that he did it because none of the fans called or wrote or made any attempt to contact him after his injury and that Alfonso was the only person who seemed to care about him. He also rips on the fans for being happy to see Sabu, who had returned earlier that night after seven months in self-imposed exile in WCW, New Japan Pro Wrestling and the indies,note , Paul E. and whatever and whoever else comes to mind, finally saying to the fans, "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU!"
- Halo 2 did this with the Master Chief and the Arbiter. Opinions varied on whether it was a good idea or not.
- Some of the Final Fantasy games, most notably Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX, make use of this trope. At one point in Final Fantasy VI, the characters splits up into three groups, and the player plays through each of their stories in turn, before they all reunite in Narshe. In Final Fantasy IX, the party members split up halfway through Disk 1 to comply with the game's Arbitrary Headcount Limit, and the story shifts back and forth between them until they reunite halfway through Disk 2. Final Fantasy XIII does this for most of the game- it's only 25 hours in where you finally get all six party members together.
- Final Fantasy Tactics follows the story of Ramza as he is forced into conflict with the manipulative church and aristocracy, while the B Plot is Delita trying to become King, and a third plot is the extended flashback that explains their connection. Their stories occasionally interact, but most of the time, Ramza is unaware of what Delita is doing. Not so much in reverse. There are also occasional small plots such as what happens to the leader of the rebellion from the flashback chapter.
- The mission system from the Grand Theft Auto series is a version of this. The missions come in multiple chains, with certain bottleneck events that bring threads together that must have all their prerequisites met. There's an internal mini-story to each line, but they are for the most part order-independent.
- The first two Saints Row games did this as well, with the separate gang storylines being entirely independent. Which lead to characters involved in them only appearing in one of the three, as they frequently get injured or even killed and the game has no way to determine in which order you've completed missions up until the final stretch. The Third changed this around a bit, where missions overall follow one plotline, and most times where you have a choice of two or more missions they're just one of your lieutenants asking you to play an activity.
- King's Quest VII had the player alternate each chapter between playing as Valanice and playing as Rosella, each trying to find each other. This was the only King's Quest game with two playable characters (and oddly enough, the only one where King Graham makes no appearance).
- Done twice, in Sonic Chronicles. First, Chapter 5 has Sonic, Knuckles, and two other characters make their way to Angel Island, while simultaneously Tails and Eggman head up another team trying to gather pieces to build a weapon. Chapter 10 has Sonic and Tails lead a team after one of Ix's dragons while Knuckles and Shade go after the other.
- This was done in both Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. The second having two (Three if you count Knuckles' subplot) intertwining stories, the first having six (Seven if you count Tikal's subplot), that all come together in the end.
- Fahrenheit had two interwoven plotlines: one about Lucas trying to find explanation for what's happening to him and evade the police, and the other about Carla and Tyler trying to catch up with Lucas and understand what's going on.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was originally planned to have three full-weight storylines, one for each main character, however, only Zoe's actually counts as such. April's line is limited to two significant events (Chamber of Dreams and talk with the Guardian), while Kian's consists effectively of a single dialogue and its consequences. Nevertheless, the lines are there.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep does this, with each of the three playable characters' stories happening at the same time, and meeting up on occasion.
- Dragon Quest IV had five chapters. Chapter 1 followed Ragnar, a knight trying to find missing children. Chapter 2 followed Alena, a Rebellious Princess who wanted to fight in a tournament, and her advisers Clift (the healer) and Brey (the wizard). Chapter 3 followed a merchant named Torneko who wants to start his own shop in the kingdom of Endor. Chapter 4 followed Manya and Minea, two magical sisters (a glass cannon and a healer) trying to avenge their father's death. Finally, chapter 5 followed you, the hero, and you get the entire party together, but you can only control yourself directly. In the new DS version, there's a sixth chapter where the Big Bad joins your party.
- Suikoden III makes use of this trope through the Trinity Site System, allowing the player to tackle the story of three to five different protagonists that happen roughly at the same time. Up until you finish chapter 3 with the original three, at which point one must be chosen to become the true protagonist and their stories converge from there. Originally there was going to be a sixth storyline included, but the developers decided it would have revealed information they wanted to keep secret.
- The newer Call of Duty games have this, with the game switching between the viewpoint of two main characters(and occasionally a third character for a single mission). In the Modern Warfare games, The American character is usually engaging in some big urban battle while the British character is doing some kind of special ops raid, more or less at the same time. Though the American plotline usually finishes up partway through the game and the British one goes all the way up to the end. In World at War, however, there is no connection between the two characters, one in Russia and one in the Pacific; the plot just switches between them every few missions presumably for a change of pace. Black Ops does this with Hudson and Mason's roles in the story and even once going through the same level from different starting points (Mason sneaking into the Soviet base to kill Steiner, Hudson and a group of American soldiers going into the facility another way to rescue Steiner. The two plots join up in the end, the final cutscene of both being the same scene from different points of view, which is also the final clue that Reznov isn't there; in Mason's portion, Reznov appears to punch out Steiner a few times before drawing a pistol, declaring "My name is Viktor Reznov!", and shooting him dead - then, in Hudson's portion, Reznov isn't there and Mason is declaring himself to be Viktor Reznov before killing Steiner.)
- Infinity series:
- Ever17 does this during the prologue of the game, switching between Takeshi and The Kid. It drops this shortly into the game, at which point the player is locked into one of the two characters. This trope returns during Coco's path, which begins switching back and forth between the two characters again
- Remember11 has its prologue set up the same way, with Kokoro and Satoru being the viewpoint characters. While this game does force the player into one of the two characters after the prologue finishes, it continues to use this trope throughout its entirety during the personality transfer phenomena, resulting in part of each story being seen no matter which character the player is.
- Front Mission shows this through 2 and 4.
- In 2, the story begins under the eyes of Ash Faruk, an OCU corporal belonging to the Muddy Otters battalion in Alordesh. Shortly after the coup outbreak in the country, the story switches focus to Thomas Norland, an OCU captain from the Dull Stags battalion. After doing some operations with Thomas, the story switches to a third party - the OCU military intelligence through officer Lisa Stanley's eyes. The three groups take their turns in the spotlight and even when they merge late in the game, the focus equally distributed among them.
- In 4, the story begins under the eyes of former French Army pilot Elsa Eliane, who now is in the employ of the multinational research organization known as Durandal. Several missions after the Durandal are sent to investigate an attack on a German base, the story switches to USN sergeant Darril Traubel in Venezuela. Both of these stories only interact with each other explicitly only once and never directly merge at any point in the game.
- Win Back 2 has you play each mission from the POV of two different operatives.
- The first act of Syphon Filter 2 alternates control between Gabe and Lian at the same point in time. Likewise for Dark Mirror. The bonus missions in The Omega Strain have you play as major characters at the same time that Cobra is undertaking his/her missions.
- Leisure Suit Larry 5.
- Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits has this happen, and eventually, both the narratives become one.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja #6, #7, and #8, the doctor is searching for Dracula in the A Story while his sidekick and family train and fight a ghost wizard in the B Story. Eventually it's revealed that the ghost wizard is a slave of Dracula, who grants the wizard a deadly new power when the Doctor pisses him off too much.
- Each chapter of MegaTokyo (with the exception of Chapter 0) usually follows three plots, with the A Story focusing on Piro and Kimiko, the B Story focusing on Largo and Erika and the C Story featuring Miho, Yuki, Ping, or any combination thereof; although they nearly always intersect.
- Questionable Content usually juggles several storylines, with new ones picking up and old ones ending fairly regularly, along with occasional one-off gags unrelated to any of them.
- The basic MS Paint Adventures structure is to start with something very simplistic, then introducing more and more characters, each with their own different storylines and plots, and becoming incredibly convoluted and ridiculous, then slowly but surely dragging those plots together and suddenly, before the reader even knows it, it's all one story.
- Captain SNES: The Game Masta has several storylines all running semi-simultaneously, which are hinted to tie together in the end. Between the length spent on any given storyline and the Schedule Slip problems, threads can be dropped and picked up again quite literally years later.
- Rumors of War begins its first Story Arc with the cast assembling, then follows two characters as they go about separate, unrelated activities. The first is an information-gathering trip that gets hijacked by a mystery and the other is a recruitment plot in the style of a Short Con.
- Bob and George habitually cut between storylines.
- Irregular Webcomic! is entirely made up of B storylines! There's no main plot, except for crossover between plots, so at any given moment there's seventeen different stories going on simultaneously (plus the Miscellaneous theme, which doesn't have a coherent plot or characters), although of late the primary ones are Steve & Terry, Fantasy, Space, and Cliffhangers, with secondary (but still important!) ones being MythBusters and Scientific Revolution. And something's happening with the Shakespeare theme, and I guess the Nigerian Finance Minister and Pirates are still out there somewhere... Anyway, with so many themes, there are frequent crossovers; at one time, fourteen of the different themes converged for the destruction of the universe! (not included were Miscellaneous, which doesn't have a storyline; Supers and Espionage, which exist in a totally separate continuity (OK, so there were a couple of Espionage crossovers, but for the most part it's separate!); and Scientific Revolution, which is a relatively new theme.)
- Oddly enough, the Me theme was originally self-contained, dealing with the author living his life, producing the webcomic, or making very meta gags. That was, until he kills himself off and finds himself actually involved with the characters themselves (mainly the Deaths and the Scientific Revolution characters).
- Used in Our Little Adventure. Julie and her group's adventures to collect the Magicant and solve their world's problems is the A Plot. Zaedalkaah/Umbria's release, meeting with Trevoricus and Jason and joining with Angelo's kids as part of her quest to get her body back is the B Plot.
- In American Barbarian, Two Tank Omen's advance and Yoosamon's talking with the king parallel in every strip for a while.
- Tides Of Change switches between Tides of Change set in the past and The Dragon Rider, set several thousand years later in the present. Only recently in the story have connections beween the two started appearing in the stories.
- Survival of the Fittest. One for every. Last. Character. Of course, there are intersections, but essentially every character has their own story. Some of the time, these stories are part of another character's story.
- Suburban Knights splits the main characters into two groups at the end of the first episode, and they only reunite in the penultimate one. A sideways plot follows the villain, which at time meets one of the groups.
- We're Alive usually confines its storylines into separate chapters. But occasionally it will show two storylines within the same chapter or the same episode. For instance in chapters 17 and 18: Michael, Pegs and Kelly travelling to The Colony was split with Angel and Kalani going to the Army Reserve base to secure MREs.
- The Brave New World Universe has this in almost every story. The original Brave New World had this for nearly every character, which resulted in a lot of Switching P.O.V.. Later in the story, it tended to focus mainly on Charlie's story.
- In Tech Adventures, Sasha and Tech's storylines dance together throughout the overall plot.
- Swarm Rising has this to such a degree that Bladedancer and Swarm's stories might as well have been split into different stories.
- Done in Kim Possible, as most episodes contain a supervillain plot and something from Kim's normal life.
- Done a lot on The Simpsons, usually with one story about the adults and one story about the children, although later episodes seem to have become exclusively one story affairs.
- Still associated enough with the show to occasion a Lampshade Hanging here and there. In "Jazzy and the Pussycats", Lisa is envious of Bart's newfound success as a jazz musician, and also adopts a pet tiger that maims him.
Lisa: I feel so terrible. I just wanted to save those animals while Bart became a drummer, but I never thought the two stories would intersect.
- Lampshaded in the episode with Bart's vision of the future: "Why is there a story about Homer and Lincoln's gold in my vision?" "I guess the spirits thought the main vision was a little thin."
- Newer episodes are more fond of a version of Halfway Plot Switch — a plot hook is set up in the first five minutes, and then promptly dropped when something even wackier comes along. Sometimes invoked in the same episode as Two Lines No Waiting, giving an A plot, a B plot, and an "aborted" plot.
- In the HD era (Season 20-24), the "aborted" plots usually take up less time because of the four-act structure the episodes have now.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender regularly utilizes Aang and the Gang for "A" story, and Zuko and Iroh as the "B" story, to emphasize the similarities and flaws between the main protagonist and the main antagonist. Though Zuko served as a source of conflict for the heroes initially, his own separate stories became much more frequent and gained much more depth after his character was developed, eventually earning him A Day in the Limelight in the second season to delve in his backstory by means of a Whole Episode Flashback.
- With that and his Heel-Face Turn in mind, one can realize that from "The Firebending Masters" to the Grand Finale, Zuko shares plots with the Gaang.
- Though as Zuko becomes a hero and joins the Gaang, the B Plot (rather than dying out) shifts to Azula, since she becomes the main active antagonist with her brother out of the way.
- It is even (sort of) lampshaded by Toph when she says she was the only one who didn't have a "life-changing field trip with Zuko”.
- Almost every Drawn Together episode had two different stories ongoing, usually not intersecting with each other, with different subsets of the main cast. Like just about everything else in the show, this has been Lampshaded a couple of times, once by Toot who, following a battle with a live action cow, was thankful that she "was in the other story", and again by Captain Hero, whom the show had begun focusing on in the second season onwards:
'Captain Hero': Hey subplot, outta my way. Main story comin' through!
- Kappa Mikey is fond of this, to the point where episodes where it doesn't happen are the exception. Generally, the point of this seems to be making sure everyone's in the episode, though the extent to which anything can be rationalized on that show is debatable.
- Some Danny Phantom episodes focus on main character Danny handling his own affairs while the B plot takes a look at the ongoing of his best friends Tucker and Sam. The two plots usually join up as one by the end.
- Many Danny Phantom episodes also have two separate plots covering what goes on in high school, and what goes on with the ghosts. One good example would be "Parental Bonding"—high school dance coming up, and a ghost amulet that turns the wearer into a dragon.
- South Park used to do this every episode (or close to it). It still happens on occasion. Usually one plot influences or causes the other in some way but they aren't necessarily tied back together (for example, in "Krazy Kripples," Timmy and Jimmy joining the crips is directly caused by Christopher Reeve's appearance in South Park, but they never end up meeting him)
- In the commentary, the creators said that they originally felt they had to do two or three stories every episode and found this very tiring. They eventually started doing only single-story episodes, and found these to be much funnier and generally better episodes. They try to keep it simple these days, though they do handle multiple story lines on occasion.
- The episode "Trapper Keeper" plays with the idea of converging plotlines when, after the Trapper Keeper absorbs Cartman and heads off to Cheyenne Mountain, we return to the "class president election" subplot to see Mr. Garrison look out the window and starts acting like a monster is approaching the school. It turned out not to be the Trapper Keeper, but instead Rosie O Donnell, who Mr. Garrison still treats like a monster until he is told about who she is.
- Transformers Animated did this in one episode. Story A had Optimus Prime and Sentinel Prime's head facing off against the Headmaster armed with the rest of Sentinel. Story B was Sari angsting over her non-(legal) existence with Bumblebee and Bulkhead trying to comfort her.
- American Dad! is constantly using this usually by introducing a side plot loosely connected to the main plot at the beginning but letting it go it's own way instantly. Sometimes they intersect again at the end but not always. Klaus lampshaded it when he was The Narrator for his grandson and introduced the Steve subplot while the focus was on Stan and Francine ice skating.
- Family Guy used to do this sometimes in its first three seasons; became less frequent post-cancellation. Many episodes focus on just one plot, but a couple of them ("Stuck Together; Drawn Apart" comes to mind) had a pair of unrelated main plots going at the same time.
- Almost every episode of Phineas and Ferb features an "A" plot about the title characters (usually building something amazing) and their sister Candace trying to bust them, and a "B" plot in which their pet platypus Perry works as a secret agent against the local Mad Scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz. The "B" plot usually ends up physically affecting the "A" plot (for example, Doofenshmirtz's machine somehow destroys the boys' invention before their mom discovers it), but the plots are (usually) thematically unrelated. Phineas and Ferb never become aware of the "B" plot, at least not enough to discover Perry's secret.
- One of the only episodes to break this pattern, "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted," focused only on the boys and their sister's plotline until Perry and Doofenshmirtz are needed, at which point they suddenly appear fighting on top of a mechanical spider. Which is made weirder when it all turns out to be Perry's dream, calling into question why that was the plot to get so much focus.
- There was also an episode in which Perry and Doof were stuck in the desert. The whole episode focused on them, because Phineas and Ferb apparently throught knitting was a good idea. It wasn't, at least according to the end of the episode.
- And then there's Across the 2nd Dimension, which kicks off when the "A" and "B" plots finally intersect.
- The Venture Bros. does this often with two stories going on at once that come together near the end. This is due to Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick often writing separate stories and slamming them together near the end. "Escape to the House of Mummies Part II" plays the disjointedness of the two lines for laughs. The episode starts off all the main characters having a mummy-themed adventure together. Dr. Venture escapes back to his house and promises to return and save everyone, but he almost gets sidetracked by an unrelated side-plot instead. This becomes the A plot, and the show occasional jumps back to the other characters to show them dealing with the much more exciting B plot.
- Young Justice has been doing this more and more, as the cast expands. If the A-plot is talky and character-driven, it's a good bet that the B-plot will be more action focused.