The Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure
What I'm going to talk about next is the key to the story structuring technique I write about and that everyone's always asking me to teach. Those of you who have the workbooks or have taken my workshop have heard this before. But anyone who hasn’t needs this more than anything else I could say. Plus, it’s a new year, and always good to review!
My workshops and books are called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors for a reason. There’s an endless supply of incredibly useful tricks to steal from the movies.
But the real secret of film writing and film making, that we are going to steal for our novel writing, is that most movies are written in a Three-Act, Eight-Sequence structure.
Most movies can be broken up into 8 discrete 12-16-minute sequences, each of which has a beginning, middle and end.
If you write fiction, you’re already using a lot of the techniques I talk about in your writing, including this Eight Sequence structure—even if you’ve never heard of it. What I want to do is make it conscious for you, so you can use it more deliberately and effectively to write better—and better selling! books and scripts.
Because you have to understand this. Your reader or audience also knows this structure, however unconsciously. They expect it. And if you’re missing some key elements, your reader or audience is going to get edgy and think that you’re doing something wrong or the story’s not going anywhere, and they’ll bail on it.
We don’t want that!
So, here’s a very very brief history. For a hundred years, movies have been structured by taking the Three-Act Structure of plays (developed over two thousand years ago in the golden age of Greek theater), and adding an Eight-Sequence Structure within those Three Acts.
Here’s what that looks like: