Overview of the Eight Sequences

The eight sequences of screenwriting are paramount to three-act screenplay structure. Think of them as chapters in a story. As each chapter comes to a close, the protagonist must make a critical decision. Each of the eight sequences has a purpose and will run from 10 to 15 pages in length. Divide the three paragraphs into their eight sequences.

Paragraph one; the first act is the first two sequences. Split the paragraph in half at the point in which the protagonist makes the first critical decision.

The second paragraph (act two), is the next four sequences and the third paragraph (act three) is the last two sequences.

In the treatment, include every detail and major plot point about the story. You want to be as detailed yet concise as possible. Add research notes, background information, backstories, and potential dialogue. The more information you add, the smoother the actual writing process will be. There is a temptation to begin writing the script before you have completed all the footwork. Delving more deeply into the details of the story and the characters while developing the sequences is a method for preventing premature writing.

The final treatment can range from 5 to 20 typed pages or more. When completed, it will be clear if the idea has the potential to become a screenplay. Pay close attention to act two. The second act is the story. If you do not have this act written out in detail, you will struggle later to write a good script.

As the screenwriter considers the final manuscript and marketing the script that emerges, it is important to remember that the treatment is essentially the blueprint and plan for the longer screenplay. Treat it as a precious commodity. With a well-organized and written treatment/outline, a capable screenwriter will be able to create the story that was in the mind of the treatment’s composer. Therefore, make every effort to protect the treatment. In marketing, use only the logline and edited one-page synopsis to pitch the story.

A script is the interpretation of an idea. Eventually, a producer or director will ask to see at least a portion of the screenplay. Registering it online with the Writer’s Guild or U.S. Copyright Office can protect the script.

As a general rule in planning each sequence, divide them into paragraphs. Each paragraph represents a scene. Some may be single sentences and others long and drawn-out. It will allow you or another writer to see the structure of the script take shape. Include backstory, notes, and potential dialogue, as well as character descriptions, which might aid in later writing the scenes.

Remember that this is a working document for the writer and so anything that helps in the writing process is important. If this is a scene where the protagonist expresses a certain emotion or drops a key clue, make that note. What are the characters thinking? What might they be doing while the dialogue is taking place? Think about how to convey the visual images while the verbal is taking place. For each major character in each scene, choose traits from the character diamonds.