Beginning a narrative
in medias res (Latin: "into the middle of things") began in ancient times and was established as a convention of
epic poetry with
Iliad in the 8th century BC. The technique of narrating most of the story in
flashback also dates back to the
Indian epic, the
Mahabharata, around the 5th century BC. Several medieval
Arabian Nights tales such as "
Sinbad the Sailor", "
The City of Brass" and "
The Three Apples" also had nonlinear narratives employing the in medias res and flashback techniques, inspired by Indian tales like
From the late 19th century and early 20th century,
Ford Madox Ford,
Marcel Proust, and
William Faulkner experimented with narrative chronology and abandoning linear order.
Examples of nonlinear novels are:
Several of Michael Moorcock's novels, particularly those in the Jerry Cornelius series, in particular
The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy (1972) and
The Condition of Muzak (1977) are notable for extending the nonlinear narrative form in order to explore the complex nature of identity within a multiversal universe.
Scott McCloud argues in
Understanding Comics that the narration of comics is nonlinear because it relies on the reader's choices and interactions.