Stages of Development – Sequences
So – after you have the moved the big pieces of your story around and got your act turning points really humming, you will want to now think about the Sequences of your story.
A sequence is usually unified by location, time or a character – and are maybe analogous to a movement in a symphony.
The audience might not even be aware of your sequences, but as a writer, they help to make sure your film has rhythm and flow. It is no good to just have a film which gets bigger and faster all the way through – it’s like trying to DJ by putting on ever more frantic tunes – it just exhausts your audience – and denies them catharsis – IE tension and release – which to some is one of the reasons we love stories so much.
So a sequence provides a bigger sense of the progress of a story – and there are plenty of websites (such as The Script Lab) which will tell you what the narrative purpose of a sequence is – and in the case of Script Lab suggests that there are eight sequences in all – two in act one, four in act two – and two in act three.
Like all these rules – it is useful – but only really if what you have is not working. A film with too many sequences will probably feely bitty to read and watch – – so sometimes it is useful to pull out to the sequences level and look at your story – is it too busy? Is it too simple, does it moves this way and that way, does if shift toe and mode, do we feel like we have just be in one mode – or do we feel a variety.
These websites will also tell you the purpose, in a general sense of each of the sequences – to do with setup, with rising tension, to do with the arrival of a th antagonist and so on etc – and once again – this is always useful if you feel your sequences are all feeling the same, or not really delivering the sense of scope or pace or forward momentum you seek.
So – think about each sequence as a mini act – setup, complicate resolve – do they feel satisfying as they resolve? What do they feel like when placed next to each other – like a meal – are there are enough contrasting flavours, and do they combines into something with completeness and balance,
For me the greatest sequences have a sense of sweep, of a beginning middle and an end – but most of all they deliver a sense of completeness and to an audience they feel neat, and satisfying – almost like completing a game level. Great sequences leave you breathless – with emotion, with excitement, with hilarity – but they also break up the action so that it is not just one continuum – they really help with rhythm and a sense of “partitioned progress”.