In the ever-evolving world of screenwriting, where storytelling techniques and narrative structures are constantly being redefined, the Sequence Approach emerges as a compelling method for crafting engaging and well-structured scripts.

It's easy to use and exciting, and it can help you shake up the boring, old ways you look at stories.

Break away from the traditional confines of the three-act structure and check out a fresh perspective on screenplay development.

Let's take a look at this approach together.

What Is the Sequence Approach to Screenwriting?

The Sequence Approach in screenwriting is a method that breaks down the narrative of a film into smaller, manageable units known as sequences.

This technique, gaining traction among screenwriters, offers an alternative to the traditional three-act structure, providing a more nuanced and flexible framework for story development.

The roots of the Sequence Approach can be traced back to early Hollywood, influenced by the stage plays and novels that preceded modern cinema.

How to Use the Sequence Approach

Oka, you want to use this method? Let's go over the 10 steps that will help you underatand ans apply it to your own work.

1. Understand What a Sequence Is

A sequence is typically a series of scenes, around 10-15 minutes in screen time, that has its own narrative arc. It includes a beginning, middle, and end, and often focuses on a specific goal or event in the story.

2. Outline the Major Sequences

Start by identifying the key sequences that will form the backbone of your screenplay. These sequences are like chapters in a novel, each with its own focus and mini-climax. For a standard feature film, you might have around eight sequences.

3. Define the Purpose of Each Sequence

Each sequence should serve a specific purpose in your story. It could be establishing characters, advancing the plot, creating conflict, or exploring a theme. Clearly define what each sequence is meant to achieve.

4. Develop the Beginning, Middle, and End

For each sequence, outline a clear beginning, middle, and end. This will help you maintain a narrative structure within each sequence and ensure that they contribute to the story’s progression.

  • Beginning: Set up the situation or conflict.
  • Middle: Develop the conflict or situation with rising action.
  • End: Resolve the sequence with a climax that leads into the next part of the story.

5. Ensure Smooth Transitions

Your sequences should flow seamlessly into each other. The end of one sequence should naturally lead to the beginning of the next. This transition can be through a cliffhanger, a resolution, or a new question that propels the story forward.

6. Integrate Subplots

Use sequences to develop subplots. You can dedicate entire sequences to side stories or weave them into the main narrative, ensuring they complement the overall story.

7. Focus on Character Development

Sequences are great opportunities for character development. Use them to reveal different aspects of your characters, their growth, and how they react to various situations.

8. Revisit and Revise

After drafting your sequences, revisit them to see how they fit into the overall story. Make sure each sequence is compelling on its own and contributes to the narrative. Don’t hesitate to revise sequences for pacing, clarity, and impact.

9. Maintain Flexibility

While the Sequence Approach provides a structure, it’s important to remain flexible. Be open to rearranging or modifying sequences as your story evolves.

10. Use it as a Guide, Not a Rule

Finally, remember that the Sequence Approach is a tool, not a strict set of rules. It should serve your creative process, not hinder it. Feel free to adapt the approach to suit the needs of your story and your personal writing style.

By employing the Sequence Approach, you can manage the complexity of screenplay writing more effectively, ensuring each part of your script is engaging and contributes to a cohesive and compelling narrative.

Advantages of Using the Sequence Approach

Advantages of Using the Sequence Approach'Jaws'Universal
  1. Clarity and Focus: By dividing the script into sequences, writers can concentrate on developing each part of the story in detail, ensuring that every segment contributes effectively to the overall narrative.
  2. Flexibility: The Sequence Approach offers more flexibility than the rigid structure of the three-act paradigm. Writers can adjust the number and length of sequences to suit the needs of their story.
  3. Enhanced Pacing: Sequences help in maintaining the pacing of the story. Each sequence builds up to its own climax, keeping the audience engaged throughout the film.
  4. Character Development:This method allows for deeper character exploration, as writers can devote entire sequences to character development, backstory, or subplots.
  5. Easier Revisions: Revising a screenplay becomes more manageable when it's broken into sequences. Writers can focus on improving or modifying one sequence at a time without getting overwhelmed by the entire script.

The Sequence Approach in screenwriting is a valuable tool for writers seeking to structure their narratives with greater clarity and precision. By breaking down the story into manageable parts, it allows for focused development of plot, character, and theme.

However, like any method, it should be used as a guideline rather than a strict formula, always leaving room for creative flexibility and innovation in storytelling.

Now, go get back to writing.