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"For me, really, I felt that the world was the main character. can point to any one of the characters and kind of make your case for them being a lead...I’ve gone in in my own right and pitched TV shows and [the executives] always want to know to know, ‘Who are we following? Who are we following? There’s got to be a central character? Who are we following?’ Still. And what’s amazing about Thrones is you’re not following any one person. You’re following who you want to follow. But really, this world you’re in — Westeros, Dorne, Narrow Sea, this fantasy world — that’s the main character. Which is very hard to do. In a way, the art department is the main character."
Kit Harington, defining the trope and how Game of Thrones fits into it.note 

A Hyperlink Story is any work that, at first blush, seems to be made up of several separate, unconnected, and unrelated storylines that gradually, over the course of the work, slowly merge into a single overarching storyline. It is only after the merge that the audience realizes that it was all one big story all along.

The simplest description of this kind of plot is a "story without main characters" where every character more or less has equal weight in screen-time and star-power. The name for the trope comes from author Alissa Quart and popularized by film critic Roger Ebert in his Syriana review, and is definitely Truth in Television. Other terms for this, proposed by film theorist David Bordwell is the "network narrative", where he notes that it aims to show a larger pattern underlying the individual trajectories of disparate characters, where the central theme is the network of connections between the stories.

Another Side, Another Story can be the video game equivalent. Compare Plotline Crossover, which is just a brief intersection between unrelated plots. Working the Same Case is a subtrope. Hero of Another Story, Canon Welding, "Rashomon"-Style and You All Share My Story are Sister Tropes. See also Arc Welding.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Baccano! is composed of many separate (anachronological) stories strung together into 3 distinct stories that are in turn connected to each other by characters and events.

    Comic Books 
  • A revamped Dial H for Hero comic series, titled simply H.E.R.O., was a long and involved version of this. Each issue told the story of a man or woman who found the HERO Dial, used it, and ultimately lost it — but it also included a subplot in which Robby Reed, the original user of the dial, breaks out of prison and tracks the dial down. In the last handful of issues, Robby Reed gathered several of the dial's previous users together to help him stop a serial killer with the power to use any super-power he can imagine.
  • The Sandman (1989) was inspired by The Spirit, and while Morpheus the Sandman is the main character for most of the story arcs, an equal and great part of the comic deals with supporting characters, minor characters and one-shot stories of Historical Fiction. The final story, The Kindly Ones, is mostly told from the perspective of Lyta Hall, who ends up becoming the woman who kills Morpheus.
  • Issue #90 of The Simpsons comic book series had the first story, "Homer's America", involve Homer, chaperoning Lisa's class's field trip, take over driving the bus after driving Otto insane with his singing, and takes them on a tour across the country, telling them Little Known Facts he makes up about the founding of the USA (such as George Washington slaying redcoat vampires and that Mount Rushmore was made to scare off aliens), all of which greatly annoy Lisa. It gets a Call-Back in the same issue's second story, a Krusty the Clown-centered store, where at the end Krusty takes off for a vacation and Lindsey Naegle needs a replacement since they're out of reruns (as they used the master tapes to record a Gunsmoke marathon). Bart's idea for a mid-season replacement is Homer's History Corner, where like in the first story, Homer tells his made-up history facts to kids, but this time it's Krusty's studio audience, much to the kids' amusement (and to Lisa's annoyance, of course.)
  • The Spirit, while ostensibly a pulp-hero story about the title character and his adventures, often has many strips in which the Spirit is off-screen or arrives only at the end. Most of the story deals with one-shot characters or supporting figures and is sometimes narrated from the perspective of villains and villainesses.
  • The Trifecta arc of 2000 AD, which had storylines from Judge Dredd, The Simping Detective and Low-Life cross over as one. Interestingly, The Simping Detective was originally supposed to be one of these.
  • The Marvel Universe and DC Universe can be this way sometimes, especially if the story is a Crisis Crossover.
  • The Michael Moorcock comic Multiverse seems like a fairly uncomplicated Anthology Comic from the outset, telling three stories of entirely different genres - a dimensional Order Versus Chaos naval war with the entire universe at stake, a supernatural Film Noir detective story, and a medieval Historical Fiction. Towards the end of its run, these three begin to merge together and ultimately conclude as one.
  • American Born Chinese is a textbook example of the form. The story begins with three separate characters in three distinctively separate storylines, but by the end all of their stories tie together into a significant whole.
  • Watchmen has a cast of 6 costumed heroes with an intricate past and history, as well as an extended supporting cast of ordinary humans who weave in and out of the larger story and contain many vignettes that work in counterpoint to the main story. Ultimately, the story doesn't really have a single main heroic protagonist, with all the main characters having equal wright in screentime, presence and weight.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game, an inspiration for Altman, was an early attempt at this kind of story, all the way back in 1939. Renoir's La marseillaise was another example of the same genre, only here applied to Historical Fiction in The French Revolution.
  • Busby Berkeley's musicals 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933 likewise had a series of musical and non-musical vignettes featuring a wide cast with action divided between director/producer/manager, chorines, romantic pair, comic parts. Nobody really is the central figure in terms of having the most songs or most share in the plot's action.
  • John Ford's final western, Cheyenne Autumn. The protagonists are a group of Cheyennes forced off their reservation and most of the action follows their exodus. Parallel plots concern a Quaker woman who helps them, and a US Cavalry led by Richard Widmark who tracks them, other sections concern real life senator Carl Schurz (played by Edward G. Robinson), an interlude featuring Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp that is absolutely unconnected to the main plot.
  • Marriage Blue is about four couples engaged to be married that are all connected to each other somehow—one woman is a wedding planner who's handling two of the other weddings, her fiance works for the doctor whose wedding she's planning, one of the men is seeing the doctor in hopes of getting his The Loins Sleep Tonight problem fixed, etc.
  • Dinner at Eight focuses on a group of guests to a dinner party who are related to each other in ways that aren't immediately obvious.
  • Magnolia has nine major characters - Stanley, a kid genius and winner on the game show "What Do Kids Know?", Donnie, a former star of that show who is now barely eking out a living, Jimmy, host of the show, Claudia, his estranged daughter, Jim, a police officer who falls in love with her, Earl, a dying patriarch, his wife Linda, his caretaker Phil, and Frank, a motivational speaker for alpha-males. In addition to the connections listed above, it turns out Earl is the producer behind "What Do Kids Know?", and Frank is Earl's estranged son.
  • The movie Playing by Heart. It's kept from the audience until the end that the female characters are all related.
  • The indie flick Franklyn, in which the three protagonists' stories only intersect five minutes from the end.
  • Lantana has Leon, a detective who is put in charge of finding a missing woman midway through the film, Valerie, a psychiatrist whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered (who, as it happens, has Leon's wife as one of her patients), and Jane, Leon's mistress, who witnesses Nik, one of her neighbors, throw something in the bushes. It turns out Valerie is the missing woman, and Nik was the one whose car Valerie fled before she ended up dying.
  • Syriana has Bob, a burnt-out CIA agent reassigned to the Middle East, Bryan, an oil consultant who suffers a family tragedy and helps advise a Middle East Sheikh who aims to be an Internal Reformist, Bennett, a Justice Department lawyer who is assigned to investigate a merger between two oil companies, and an Arab boy who gets recruited into a terrorist group. All of the stories end up merging as the movie goes on.
  • Traffic (2000) has three different stories in four different locations dealing with the war on drugs. In Washington, D.C., Robert Wakefield, a judge in Cincinnati, becomes the new drug czar, but finds out his daughter is a drug addict. Meanwhile, in San Diego, two DEA agents arrest a man who gives evidence leading to the arrest of Carlos, a drug kingpin, and his wife Helena will do anything to get Carlos out, including going to Mexico to make a deal with the drug kingpin Carlos worked with. Finally, in Mexico, Javier Rodriguez is ordered by General Salazar to investigate the drug trade there, only to find out Salazar is involved in the trade already. In addition to all three stories dealing with the war on drugs, the characters from different stories sometimes interact as well (Robert visits Mexico and meets with General Salazar, with Javier in the room, while Carlos works for an organization that Salazar is involved in).
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu does this a lot as well. Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams follow this formula.
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love: Cal and Hannah's stories.
  • 11:14 which features an Ensemble Cast of stars, some before they were famous, including (but not limited to) Hilary Swank, Patrick Swayze, Clark Gregg, Jason Segel, and Colin Hanks.
  • Smoke is about Auggie, who owns a cigar shop in Brooklyn, Paul, a writer and frequent customer at the store, Rashid, who saves Paul's life before he gets run over by a bus, Cyrus, who runs a gas station in Garrison, and Ruby, Auggie's ex-girlfriend. Rashid also is connected to Auggie in that Paul gets him a job working for Auggie, and to Cyrus as Cyrus is Rashid's biological father.
  • Cloud Atlas (2012), which dropped the nested structure of the book in favour of a more confusing but thematically revealing jumbling-up.
  • Exotica: Some character connections are not revealed until the end of the film.
  • Intermission is a very interconnected version of this.
  • The Three Colors Trilogy takes this to another level by giving each protagonist a complete movie, with the stories not intersecting until the end of the third. While the way these characters meet may seem like an extraordinary coincidence, this makes more sense when one views the trilogy as the stories of the people involved in the tying-together incident, told after the fact of their meeting.
  • 2:37 shows the events of a single school day from the perspectives of six troubled students, leading up to a suicide at 2:37 p.m. The different viewpoint characters' stories are more interconnected and overlapping than they appear at first glance. This is reinforced both by tracking shots switching to track a different character mid-shot and by showing the same events more than once when following different characters.
  • Super Deluxe is very much this, with seemingly unconnected stories about an unfaithful wife, five boys watching a porn movie, a man who was saved from a tsunami by clinging to a Jesus statue, and a transwoman who is trying to reconcile with the wife and son she abandoned years ago. The four stories are presented in parallel but it turns out that one of them took place completely before the other three started. Transitions between stories are on something that's common, like characters crying but for different reasons.
  • Pulp Fiction contains various stories about the lives of people orbiting the gangster Marcellus Wallace, incorporating a story about two rambling hitmen, a story about Marcellus's wife, a story about a boxer trying to steal money from Marcellus, a story about two young robbers and a storyline about the guy who cleans up evidence after Marcellus's murders. These stories are presented in anachronic order.
  • Happenstance: The whole film, as characters who don't even know each other make minor decisions that wind up having massive effects on each others' lives. Luc's grandma makes him some macaroons. Luc's mom tries one, says it's terrible, and tosses it in the street. A pigeon eats the macaroon and poops on a photo that two tourists are looking at. The two tourists take the photo back into the pharmacy, where Stephanie the pharmacist wipes the bird poop off, and sees her old lover, Frank, who is now an EMT. The photo is of Frank the EMT rushing to the aid of the homeless man on the subway, with a frozen Luc sitting in the background.
  • Mother and Child is about Karen, a caregiver at a hospital, Elizabeth, a hardnosed lawyer, and Lucy, who runs a bakery with her mother. All three characters are linked together by adoption - Karen had a baby when she was 14 and had to give it up for adoption, Elizabeth turns out to be that baby (though neither of them have met), and Lucy is trying to adopt a child. After Elizabeth dies during childbirth, Lucy ends up adopting her child, and while Karen never gets to meet Elizabeth, she does get to meet Lucy and the baby.

  • Ian McDonald's novel River of Gods.
  • The novels of Sarah Dessen, which frequently have characters from earlier novels making brief appearances in later ones.
  • The Valley of Horses, the second novel in Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, alternated chapters focusing on Ayla and Jondolar, until they met about two-thirds of the way in.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces has this.
  • Anything written by Neal Stephenson, but especially Cryptonomicon and, to a lesser degree, The Diamond Age.
  • The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen mainly follows Jen, but each of the artifacts he carries winds up in the possession of another character, whose story is begun and followed for only one chapter before the book goes back to Jen. All of them make an appearance and play a necessary part in the ending.
  • Middlemarch
  • The Jack Vance short story "The New Prime" starts with several apparently unconnected scenes (a modern-day man finds himself naked in public; a small band of barbarian warriors tries to destroy a hive full of monsters; a captured spy struggles to resist interrogation). At the end we discover that these are all simulations that are tests for candidates for the new "Prime" or supreme galactic ruler.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin has a revolving POV structure where each chapter is narrated by alternating series of characters from different parts of the fantasy setting, from different classes, genders and ages. Some of the plot threads, such as the Night's Watch and Essos, rarely overlap directly but play as parallel narratives to the realm of the Seven Kingdoms, the arena where most of the characters' stories take place.
  • The Saga of Seven Suns is this, being narrated in the same manner as A Song of Ice and Fire, albeit its setting has significantly more advanced technology.
  • Glen Cook's Starfishers trilogy.
  • The Star Wars Tales trilogy are all like this, with interconnected stories from background characters.
  • Most books by Nick Perumov are like this. They start with many plots (at least three, but there are up to six at some points), which seemingly have nothing to do with each other, and only gradually do we see how those are related.
  • Haruki Murakami's After Dark. There are about three to four different perspectives at first, then we learn how those characters and plotlines are connected.
  • Tad Williams loves this trope.
  • Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume jumps between seemingly unrelated characters on different continents and even living in different millennia before tying their stories together.
  • The Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb begins by switching between the perspectives of several seemingly unrelated characters; over the course of the books, they all converge on the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra.
  • The Last of the Venitars does it over a period of centuries.
  • Halting State and Rule 34, both by Charles Stross, are presented this way. Each book has three different characters getting drawn into events and gradually finding their paths intersecting by the end. While the three characters (a beat cop, an accountant, and a computer programmer) in Halting State were all Working the Same Case, Rule 34 changed this up a bit by having the three characters run the sliding scale of law vs crime, with a detective, a petty criminal, and a black marketeer who only becomes more charming as we learn more about him.
  • Later novels by Douglas Adams were very fond of this. Books like Mostly Harmless and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency feature several loosely conected plots that come together by the end.
  • The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton has half a dozen story lines or more, which all come together for the climax.
  • The Overstory starts out as a series of eight seemingly unrelated short stories. The rest of the book consists of connecting them all together, either by having the characters join together or having them interact more briefly and symbolically.

    Live Action TV 
  • Lost. The backstories of the characters start to interconnect this way, starting around the 16th episode when we learn that Sawyer met Jack's father in Australia.
  • The Wire is a Hyperlink Story. Every named character, and some that aren't named, eventually affect the overall plot in some meaningful way.
  • The Pilot Episode of Modern Family, where we don't realize until the dinner party at the end that the three families are related.
  • Traffik, doubly impressive in that the Channel Four TV miniseries was made in 1989, years before "hyperlinks" became common phenomena.
  • Each episode of Touch (2012) has several scenarios that appear unrelated, but eventually connect to each other in specific ways
  • The fourth season of Arrested Development: the action between the fifteen episodes happens simultaneously and while the plotlines appear separate it constantly turns out other members of the family were just offscreen.
  • Canadian horror anthology series Darknet works this way.
  • 2011 sitcom Love Bites had three stories an episode that were showcased separately but happened simultaneously, and occasionally characters or events from one would appear in another. While nearly every episode had a totally different cast, there was also regulars Judd, Colleen, and Annie who acted as a connection to nearly everyone else who appeared.
  • This Is Us does this in the pilot, following four people all turning 36 on the same day. We don't realize until the end of the episode that one of these people is actually the father of the other three and his plotline takes place in the past.
  • The first season of The Witcher (2019) follows three or four different plotlines, with Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri's stories only occasionally intersecting over a period of 53 years. It's all in Anachronic Order, of course.

  • La Ronde: The play consists of ten scenes. Each scene in the play is linked by one character who is also in the next scene. For example, the first scene is between a streetwalker and a soldier, the next is between the soldier and a parlor maid, and the next is between the parlor maid and her employer, a young gentleman. The play works its way back around to the streetwalker in the last scene, completing the circle, or "la ronde."

    Video Games 
  • While the first Ace Attorney Investigations was fairly straightforward in how its cases were connected (they were all linked to the same international smuggling ring), the sequel's first four cases seem completely unrelated at first glance. An assassination attempt on a foreign president, a murder inside a prison, an unsolved case that was the last one Edgeworth's father took before his death, and an assault and a murder during Edgeworth's Prosecutor Investigation Committee hearing. It's only once you get to the fifth case that it's revealed they all link to the Big Bad in some way. The killer of the third case was the Big Bad's father, who abandoned him and fled the country. He ended up in an orphanage, where he witnessed the assassination of the president of Zheng-Fa, arranged by his body double. The body double is the president you met in the first case, having replaced the real one. The owner of the orphanage and a corrupt prosecutor were in on the assassination and helped cover it up. The orphanage owner went on to become the prison warden you meet in Case 2, and the corrupt prosecutor is the head of the PIC and the killer of Case 4. Every previous murder except Case 3's was orchestrated by the Big Bad to bring the conspirators he witnessed to vigilante justice.
  • Broken Age at first glance appears to be two stories following two teenagers who's only link a common theme of coming of age and escaping the roles forced upon them by their parents. In actuality Shay is unknowingly in control of the monster that is attacking Vella's world.
  • Gemini Rue has 2 separate stories at first: Azriel is looking for his friend on a rainy planet, while miles away, an amnesiac is trapped in an odd complex. Near the end of the game, it's revealed that the two are one in the same, where Azriel is the amnesiac with false memories. He ends up killing the man who once ran the complex.
  • Live A Live. The final bosses of each chapter have only one thing in common: their names containing the word "odio" in one way or another. Only in the secret eighth chapter do we find out that all of them are incarnations of the Demon King Odio, a noble knight turned evil that transcends time and space.
  • Octopath Traveler has 8 different stories, each for one of its travelers dealing with their self-contained adventures. However, players who make it all the way to the end of each must then unravel a hidden thread that actually connects their stories together: it all turns out that Lyblac - a woman met for the first time during a one-sided love side quest - is the mastermind behind the atrocities plaguing the land and the mysterious benefactor behind several of the big bads. She misled a Despair Event Horizon'd Graham Crossford - the doctor who saved Alfyn's life and wrote Tressa's journal - into being sacrificed to become the vessel of the Dark God, but through willpower, he broke out and injured her, running away and becoming the Redeye; the monster H'aanit ends up hunting down. She helped orchestrate the fall of the Kingdom of Hornburg (Olberic's home) so that the way to the Gate of Finis - the gate Cyrus ends up learning about - was up for her to open without interruptions. The Dragonstones Therion seeks to reclaim were prior stolen from House Ravus after Cordelia's parents were murdered and then used to open the gate itself before they were scattered. Lyblac then had the Obsidians - led by Simeon - assassinate Primrose's father due to finding out about the Gate of Finis, and granted Simeon immortality in exchange. Matthias - the unnasuming traveler Ophilia meets - was also granted immortality and told to sway the faith of the Sacred Flame to weaken the teachings (albeit he went rogue later on and tried to get the Dark God using his own methods). Furthermore, the injured traveler Kit the first traveler meets turns out to be part of the Crossford bloodline, whom Lyblac is seeking to resurrect the Dark God.

  • Dead Winter: The webcomic follows Monday and Lizzie, who appear unrelated to each other except for one chance meeting at a diner. Later it is revealed that Lizzie's father was also employed by Monday's former employer, and then their story arcs merge.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: What started as different themes based on which Lego sets and GURPS miniatures the author possessed, became an attempt to fill up the crossover table before becoming a full-fledged Myth Arc.
  • The prologue of Stand Still, Stay Silent happens Just Before the End and jumps between five groups of people in five different countries reacting to the disaster underway, escaping it either by chance or active effort. The reason these characters got any focus at all becomes apparent only after a 90 year Time Skip, when the people organising an expedition in what the disaster turned into a Forbidden Zone turn out to have familiar last names.

    Web Original 
  • Broken Saints starts out as four seemingly unrelated stories. By the end, it's only one story.
  • Fine Structure has the teleportation experiments, the Powers, and whatever the heck Mitch is. The scientists involved with each all started out working together in the first story but went off into their own occupations and storylines, only reconverging about halfway through the story.

    Western Animation 
  • Big City Greens: The episode "Spaghetti Theory" focuses majorly on the various citygoers going about their lives, and how one simple action leads into the next, just as Tilly's titular theory predicted.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "Trilogy of Error" has three interlinked plotlines - Lisa taking Linguo the grammar-correcting robot to the science fair, Bart and Milhouse finding a stash of illegal fireworks, and Homer getting his thumb cut off... all converging at the end.
    • The episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story": while trapped in a cave the Simpsons tell each other stories, often with more stories within them, that eventually collide when Homer, Moe, Mr. Burns, the Rich Texan, and Snake all wind up in the cave looking for the gold.
    • The episode "Twenty Two Short Films about Springfield" is all about this, with many short segments featuring different characters. Each segment flows into the next, and they all culminate in the entire town gathering on the streets and laughing at Nelson's big public mishap.
    • "500 Keys" had the Simpsons use a collection of keys for their own individual adventures, with Homer going on a trip to the Duff Brewery, Bart getting into mischief (which backfires on him), Marge and Maggie chasing a runaway toy railcar, and Lisa uncovering the school's dark secret. Lisa's conspiracy storyline soon gets big enough for the other storylines to get embroiled.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", each of the Mane Six ponies relates the story of how she discovered her special talent in life and earned her Cutie Mark. It turns out that Rainbow Dash unwittingly had a hoof in helping the other five discover their destinies.
  • Episodes of Futurama usually involve a main plot and a secondary one that come together at the end, much like The Simpsons. However, the epsiodes "Three Hundred Big Ones" and "Prisoner of Benda" consist of a bunch of subplots that all connect into each other.
  • Justice League especially by the time of its Unlimited Phase which essentially became an ensemble film of multiple heroes and villains who conducted separate missions, and had apportioned amount of screentime and A Day in the Limelight episodes.
  • The episode "The Unkindest Cut" of Family Guy involves Quagmire trying to adjust to life after having his penis bit off by a shark while Stewie and Brian try and look for Mort as there is a $10,000 bounty on him. By the end of the episode, Quagmire manages to get his penis surgically reattached and Dr. Hartman tells him to go to Mort's pharmacy to get a prescription for presumably painkillers.
    Quagmire: Mort's is closed.
    Dr. Hartman: Oh, oh yeah. (Beat) Cool tie-in with the other story, though.
  • The first season of What If…? (2021) consists of The Watcher narating over the stories of various universes in The Multiverse. However, near the end of the season, a Variant of Ultron not only gains the power of the Infinity Stones, but also becomes aware of the multiverse and, having finished killing all life in his own universe, sets his sights on destroying the multiverse. This pushes The Watcher to break his oath not to intervene and assemble a team of the central characters from the previous episodes (and one character whose episode got pushed back to Season 2) in order to stop Infinity Ultron.