As a newbie writer, you may not know how to write a proper story yet. This is understandable because you are just starting out. However, if you want to actually be able to write a story, you should know about linear and non-linear plots.

What are the differences, though? What sets the two apart from one another? Here are the key differences between linear and non-linear plots.

What is a plot?

Before we delve into the differences between linear and non-linear plots, let’s take a look at what a plot really is.  A plot is the overall sequence in which events happen in a story. When you write the plot for your story, it is important that there is a cause and effect for every event that occurs. There are three elements of a plot that you should take into account.

The first is causation, which is the event that will set off the sequence of events that will make up the story. The second element of a plot is the characters. The events of the story will directly affect your characters. The third element is conflict. This is the obstacle that your characters will have to face, and it will move the story even further.

Linear plots

This kind of plotting has a clear beginning, middle, and end to the story. Of the two types of plot structure, the linear plot structure is usually the most common. As the name implies, linear plots usually follow a straight line of events that can be easily followed by readers.

How do you use linear plots?

If you want a more traditional, and less-complex plot style, then linear plots are your best bet. It could still be complex. However, it is a lot simpler compared to non-linear plots. It is a very straightforward plot style, wherein the events in the story are presented in a straight line, with a gradual increase in tension.

Linear plots usually follow a three-act system.

The first act is used to introduce the main characters to the audience. The setting is also introduced during this act. This usually requires a good deal of exposition. An inciting occurrence will be utilized to transition the plot to the second act after all the characters and settings have been established.

The second act is where the protagonist will face the story’s conflict. The challenge will escalate and thoroughly test the main character’s resolve. This is the time for the main character to grow further in order to overcome the main obstacle.

The third part is when the climax happens. This is the breaking point and the culmination of all the main character’s challenges. This is usually the high point of the story, and has the main character squaring off against the main antagonist, or solving the story’s key challenges. Once the climax of the story is achieved, the story rounds off with the resolution. This part settles all the loose ends and helps move the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Non-linear plots

This type of plot does not follow a strict chronological order. Instead, it uses sequences that happen at various places and times.

A key advantage of using non-linear plots is that you can create intrigue for your audience. You could write a scene without any form of exposition, and have your readers figure it out themselves. It also gives your characters more depth and allows you more world-building elements.

How do you use non-linear plots?

When it comes to using non-linear plots, it is important to remember that you don’t need to follow a set chronological order. Instead, you could write in a more flexible manner.

For example, the story could start at the end of the story, and the events have already taken place. The rest of the story could be told through flashbacks by the main character. Aside from flashbacks, you could also use elements such as flash forwards, foreshadowing, and even dream sequences.

If you are going to use non-linear plots, it is very important that you keep tabs on all your plot points. Remember that non-linear plots are more complicated compared to linear plots. Your main intent in using non-linear plots is to create sequences that will intrigue your readers and enhance the flow of your storytelling. However, your plot should always be rooted in logic. Make sure that every sequence happens for a reason.


If you want to be able to write a truly great story, it is important that you know how to write the plot for your story and the two types of plot that you could implement. With this article, you’ll be able to differentiate the two and use them in your own writing.