Rather than try to write a coherent story divided into three monolithic acts, break your story into eight separate 15-minute segments. Then link them together where the ending of one segment opens the beginning of the next segment.
If you break your big story into eight separate 15-minute segments, you’ll be able to focus on creating eight separate mini-stories that collectively tell one big story. The big danger is that you’ll wind up creating eight separate stories with no connection between any of them.
To avoid this problem, you need to link each segment like Alice stepping through the looking glass. When Alice was in her normal world, she stepped through the mirror, which represented the end of one segment and the beginning of the next segment when she popped out of the other side. That’s the mirror link you need between all your eight segments to tie them together.
In “WALL-E,” the first segment is WALL-E’s typical day moving garbage around. In this segment we learn about the Buy N Large corporation’s existence, see WALL-E’s cockroach friend, see WALL-E scrounging around the garbage playing with a fire extinguisher, and then discovering a plant. WALL-E’s day ends with a sandstorm where he hides in a metal shed with his precious collection including a videotape of two people holding hands. We learn WALL-E’s problem (he’s alone) and his need (to find love).
Watching the videotape shows that WALL-E needs love, and the next segment that love interest appears in the form of Eve. On one side of the mirror, WALL-E is looking for love and when he crosses through from segment 1 to segment 2, he finds the object of his love.
Segment 2 is about WALL-E wooing Eve and he nearly gets there when he invites Eve to hide in his metal shed. Then she discovers his plant, grabs it, and shuts down so WALL-E’s left trying to revive her. That’s the end of segment 2 with WALL-E constantly failing to revive Eve.
As WALL-E tries to revive Eve, the other side of the mirror occurs when the rocketship comes back to retrieve Eve and WALL-E frantically grabs on to it before it can take off. This drags WALL-E into segment 3 where he gets to explore the new world of the luxury spaceliners where all of humanity is living.
WALL-E’s trip through from Earth to his arrival on the spaceships represents segment 3, and this segment ends when WALL-E finally reaches Eve once more, thereby succeeding in his goal of getting back to Eve.
Eve realizes that WALL-E needs to go back to EArth so she tries to send him back in an escape pod, but that’s when they discover that the villain, Auto, the evil computer, is planning to send the plant in the escape pod to blow it up. WALL-E rescues the plant and escapes from the self-destructing escape pod to dance with Eve.
The link between segment 1 and 2 is WALL-E’s desire to revive Eve, which drags him into segment 2.
The link between segment 2 and 3 is WALL-E trying to contact Eve again, which he does.
The link between segment 3 and 4 is Eve trying to send WALL-E back to Earth, thereby foiling WALL-E’s attempt at love.
Each segment is linked to the previous one by some action that kick starts the next segment off again. Just think of Alice stepping through the looking glass. On each side of the mirror is a segment of your story. You need to find that link between each segment so your story flows smoothly from segment to segment rather than jumping awkwardly from one segment to the next.
On each side of Alice’s mirror is a different world. This mirror analogy can help you keep your story segments linked together so they flow naturally and seamlessly, which is why they’re so easy to overlook when watching a great movie.