Friday, January 17, 2014

A Sequence

A collection of scenes centered on a central question. This question usually revolves around a sub-goal.

In Star Wars, the objective of our heroes is to defeat the Empire but they have to go through many sub-goals to achieve that end. “Will our heroes escape from the Death Star?” is such a sub-goal. In Adaptation, Charlie Kauffman tries to get inspiration and tries many different methods, one of which is trying to visit Susan Orlean, the writer of the novel he’s trying to adapt. The question of this sequence is: “Will Charlie meet Susan Orlean and get inspired?”

The sub-goals are important to keep your character active and have him/her pursue something at any time during the story.  Sequences build upon each other:

In Star Wars, our heroes escape from the Death Star but The Empire has put a tracking device on the Millennium Falcon and now they know where the Secret Rebel Base is. So, the new sequence becomes: “Can the Rebels destroy the Death Star before it can fire on the Rebel Base?”

In Adaptation, Charlie cannot muster up the courage to speak to Susan Orlean and thus calls up his brother Donald to do it for him. After Donald successfully interviews Susan Orlean, he thinks there is something fishy about her. As a result, Donald and Charlie decide to follow Susan Orlean, creating a new question and a new sequence: “Will Donald and Charlie be able to figure out what Susan Orlean is up to?”

A traditional narrative script consists of eight sequences; two in the first act, four in the second act, and two in the third act.

Of course these are suggestions, not rules. There are many great movies (My Dinner with Andre, Before Sunset, The Mirror etc.) that do not use a traditional structure.

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