Sequence of events

by Bryant

Question: I'm a little confused about breaking down the sign posts into sequences.

Does the sequence event that is broken into four parts

Inciting incident

spread out through different acts or do they stay in the Act of the sign post? And if so, does it all happen at once or is it spread out through the Act?

Answer: Generally, act one will contain the first signpost of each of the four major throughlines. That's what makes it "act one." Act two contains all the Signpost 2s, etc.

In stories that are more theme-based, the signposts might be single events and there might be other events in between them that explore themes or character relationships.

In stories that are more plot-based, each signpost may be given a 4-part structure and turned into a sequence, with not so many transition events in between. Whether they are single events or sequences, the guideline is still that you should finish exploring all the Signpost 1s in act 1 before you can move on to the Signpost 2s, which will be in act 2.

If you are using sequences, you are free to weave the various throughlines within an act however you wish. You explore all of the overall throughline's Signpost 1 first, before moving on to the other throughlines. Or you might tell a little bit of one throughline, then jump to another, then back to the first, then to a third throughline etc. The order is up to you.

The only guideline is that you keep the arc of each sequence in the proper order.

For instance, just like you would not have the resolution of the story (act 4) appear before the crisis (act 3) or put the crisis before the complication (act 2), you keep the same order within each sequence - telling the set-up first, then the complication, then the crisis, then the resolution.

Bear in mind that story structure is recursive. The overall story can be seen as one big event. Zoom in a little, and that event can be told as four smaller events (signposts). Zoom in on any signpost, and you'll find it can be written as a sequence of smaller events. Zoom in closer, and each of these events may be a scene that is also structured as a series of still smaller events.

Zoom out all the way, and you may find that the entire story is just one part of a trilogy or series, etc.

You set the zoom level according to whether you are writing a series, a novel, a short story, or just a scene.

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