Linear stories, like those found in the three-act structure, showcase somewhat of a domino effect. Each domino falls forward, causing the next to fall, and the next, and the next, until a final resolution is made. It’s telling a story from Point A to Z, never missing an alphabetical point in between.
But some cinematic stories like those found in Magnolia, Crash, and Babel are like multiple timeline structures — but with each and every story hyperlinked, like multiple different rows of falling dominoes weaving in and out of each other but always ending in the same resolution at the end. The cause and effect of each story lead everything together.
These types of stories give the audience a sense of how our individual lives can be so interconnected. The cause and effect of what we do or don’t do can have a parallel cause and effect in other people’s lives.
In Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson crafted a story where eight characters and their stories slowly started to connect as the film went on.
The key aspect of hyperlink stories is that by the end, each story and character has to masterfully impact the others, where if you were to remove one storyline or character, the overarching story wouldn’t work. It’s hard to master, and even some of the hyperlink films we’ve mentioned may not add up to a perfect degree, but the experience of that attempt can be invigorating for a reader or audience.
And it makes the read of such a screenplay even better because it engages the reader as they wonder if and how all of these stories and characters are truly connected.