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Thursday, March 02, 2017

3 act, 9 act? Consider the sequence approach



Sometimes, as writers, we can get a bit obsessed about different structures. But the sequence approach is slightly different. Not all writers know about it however, hence this post. I'm a big fan.

It is different because it comes at the issue of structure from another point of view. It simply states that a story is made up of sequences that are 10-15 minute in length - and that those sequences are like mini pieces of drama in themselves, perhaps with a mini 3-act inside them. So one film may have 8 sequences, while another longer film could have 12.

The sequence approach can be a useful style of structure, especially for ‘road movie’ style narratives or character pieces. But actually you see it a lot in action movies too or thrillers - where each sequence features a different method to overcome the villain for example.

If you focus on ensuring that the sequence you are writing is exciting and fulfilling - and that each sequence is emotionally different to the one before and after it - you can really engage the audience. You can keep them along for the ever-changing emotional journey.

It can also be a useful tool for those with a lot of experience writing shorts or TV episodes who are daunted by a feature. Shorts are usually single sequences. So this approach allows you to see that writing a feature made of 7 sequences is no more scary than writing 7 short scripts.

Some good examples of this structure, for me, are films such as:
“Falling Down” - each stop on Michael Douglas' journey is a sequence
“Fandango” - the stages of our heroes' 1960s road trip

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