I binge-rewatched Game of Thrones last month and marveled at just how many stories were crammed into every season. The intercutting between characters kept every episode enthralling and exciting. I was genuinely amazed at all the parallel storylines they were able to maintain throughout the series' run.

So today, I wanted to go over the idea of these parallel stories. We'll dive into the definition, look at examples, and try to help you visualize how you can put this stuff into your own script.

Let's dive in.

Parallel Storylines Definition

Parallel Storylines Definition

The Departed

Warner Bros. Pictures

Parallel storylines, also known as parallel narratives or plots, are a captivating storytelling technique where a film or television show juggles two (or more) distinct narratives.

These narratives can unfold simultaneously or be interwoven throughout the story, ultimately enriching the overall plot and thematic depth.

Tropes of Parallel Storylines

Tropes of Parallel Storylines

Pulp Fiction


Imagine a masterfully woven tapestry. Each thread, unique in color and texture, contributes to the final breathtaking image. Similarly, parallel storylines, each with its own characters, conflicts, and resolutions, come together to create a richer and more engaging viewing experience.

There are several ways filmmakers and television showrunners utilize parallel storylines. Here's a look at some popular tropes:

  • Mirroring Themes: Two storylines, seemingly disparate on the surface, explore the same central theme from different angles. For instance, The Godfather follows the Corleone family's descent into violence, paralleled by the idealistic young lawyer Kay slowly becoming disillusioned with the world.
  • Contrasting Lives: Juxtaposing vastly different realities can highlight social commentary or character development. In Parasite, the wealthy Park family lives blissfully unaware of the struggles of the Kim family dwelling in their hidden basement apartment.
  • Converging Paths: Initially separate narratives eventually collide in a dramatic climax. Pulp Fiction famously features a non-linear narrative with seemingly unrelated stories ultimately converging in a diner.
  • Cause and Effect: One storyline's events directly impact the other, creating a sense of urgency and interconnectedness. Breaking Bad brilliantly portrays the ripple effects of Walter White's descent into the drug trade on his family and the DEA's relentless pursuit.

Ways to Insert a Parallel Story into Your Script

Ways to Insert a Parallel Story into Your Script

Breaking Bad


These kinds of screenplays are fun to write. They're basically mandatory in TV, and they can help you write a dual protagonist in film.

So when you sit down to do it - take this stuff into consideration:

  • Intercutting: Scenes from each narrative are rapidly alternated, building tension and suspense. The Departed masterfully utilizes this technique to keep viewers guessing about the undercover cop and mob mole within each other's organizations.
  • Chapter Structure: Some TV shows dedicate entire episodes to separate storylines, allowing for deeper exploration of each plot. Westworld utilizes this approach to explore the perspectives of both the human guests and the sentient android hosts within the futuristic park.
  • Relevance: The parallel story should never feel like a distraction. Ensure it has a strong thematic or plot-related connection to your primary storyline.
  • Balance: Pay careful attention to the amount of time dedicated to each storyline. You don't want the parallel story to overshadow the main plotline or feel underdeveloped.
  • Transitions: Employ smooth transitions between storylines. This can be achieved through visual cues, thematic links, or clever intercutting.
  • Payoff: The convergence or connection between parallel stories should reveal something significant or create a strong emotional impact, justifying the use of this narrative technique.
  • Voiceover: Characters from different narratives can provide internal monologues, offering unique insights and adding depth to the overall story. The Aviator employs this technique to delve into the complex mind of Howard Hughes through narration by his various associates.
  • Outline Both Stories: Plan out the main beats of both your primary plot and your parallel story. This will help ensure they work in tandem and connect at the right points.
  • Color-Coding: Use different colored highlighters or text to distinguish your storylines when writing and revising. This will aid in maintaining clarity.
  • Test with Readers: Get feedback on whether the parallel story feels smoothly integrated and enhances the overall narrative.

Examples of Parallel Storylines

Examples of Parallel Storylines

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Prime Video

The world of cinema and television is brimming with examples that showcase the power of parallel storylines. I went through and picked some of my favorites.

I think these examples actually help me understand the balance you need in the narrative to support these kinds of stories.


  • Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino's classic intertwines the seemingly independent stories of hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and diner robbers. The non-linear approach and converging narratives create a thrilling web of violence, dark humor, and unexpected connections.
  • The Godfather: The film chronicles Michael Corleone's transformation into the ruthless head of the mafia, while simultaneously depicting his idealistic sister Kay's disillusionment with her family's criminal world. This contrast highlights the corrupting nature of power and the tragic loss of innocence.
  • Amores Perros: This Mexican film intertwines three stories connected by a single car accident. The parallel narratives explore themes of love, loss, and the harsh realities of life in Mexico City, painting a gritty yet emotionally resonant portrait.
  • Babel: Featuring interconnected stories set in Morocco, Japan, Mexico, and the US, Babel explores the impact of a single gunshot on people from vastly different backgrounds. It emphasizes themes of miscommunication, prejudice, and the profound consequences of seemingly small actions in a global world.
  • Parasite: This dark comedy thriller juxtaposes the lives of the wealthy Park family with those of the struggling Kim family, who con their way into the mansion. The contrasting storylines expose social inequality and the desperation it can create, leading to a shocking and unforgettable finale.


  • Lost: This sci-fi mystery series follows plane crash survivors on a strange island. Parallel storylines jump between their present-day struggles, flashbacks to their past lives, and the mysterious events happening on the island, culminating in revelations about the island's mystical nature.
  • The Wire: Each season of this acclaimed series explores a different facet of Baltimore, Maryland. Parallel storylines often involve the police, drug dealers, politicians, the media, and the school system, showcasing the interconnectedness of societal problems and the complexities of urban life.
  • Orange Is the New Black: This dramedy takes place within a women's prison. Individual storylines often focus on a different inmate, with flashbacks revealing their past experiences that led to incarceration. The show delves deeply into various inmates' stories, showcasing themes of diversity, injustice, and the power of human connection within dire circumstances.
  • Better Call Saul: This Breaking Bad spin-off follows lawyer Jimmy McGill’s transformation into the unscrupulous Saul Goodman. It interweaves his pre-Saul life with his post-Breaking Bad existence, creating a fascinating character arc with multiple dimensions.
  • Westworld: This sci-fi drama utilizes shifting timelines and narrative perspectives. One storyline follows the guests' experiences within the futuristic theme park, while another focuses on the android hosts' sentience and rebellion. The show raises questions about consciousness, reality, and the dangers of unchecked ambition.

Why Use Parallel Storylines in Your Writing?

Why Use Parallel Storylines in Your Writing?

Kill Bill


So, why do filmmakers and showrunners choose this structural paradigm? Here are some key benefits:

  • Character Development: Parallel storylines allow viewers to connect with a wider range of characters, fostering empathy and understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Heightened Suspense: Jumping back and forth between narratives can build anticipation and keep viewers engaged, eager to see how the stories will connect.
  • Richer Thematic Exploration: By contrasting or mirroring themes across storylines, writers can deliver a more nuanced and impactful message.
  • Surprise and Revelation: The convergence or culmination of parallel narratives can create powerful moments of surprise, revelation, and emotional payoff.

However, weaving parallel storylines effectively can be challenging.

Pacing, clarity of connections, and ensuring each narrative remains engaging are all crucial aspects that require skillful execution.

Parallel storylines are a powerful storytelling tool that can elevate a film or television show to new heights.

By weaving together distinct narratives, creators can create a richer tapestry of characters, themes, and emotions, leaving viewers captivated and pondering the interconnectedness of the stories long after the credits roll.

Let me know what you think in the comments.