“Drums keep pounding rhythm to the brain. La-di-da-da-di, la di da di die.” Like an old Sonny & Cher song called, “The Beat Goes On,” every scene must have and include “beats.” Different than a song rhythm, beats are necessary to round out your scenes. We’ll look at them, how to structure your scenes around them, and how the different elements richly add to your scenes and stories. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes
Last time, we talked about scenes having four elements. Two of those are actions and emotions. Together, those make a beat. It’s literally a character action and reaction.
The term “beat” refers to the way events can be broken down into small steps of action, assuring that those small steps move the story and action along, that they are effectively moving toward the conclusion of the scene.
One thing you’ll want to make sure of is that the beats are vivid and easy to show. Making them clear and vivid will keep the line of action in the reader’s mind as the scene moves along toward the outcome of the scene’s event.
Especially in high-action scenes, assuring the beats are clearly thought out makes pacing easier to control.
You should be able to read through any given scene and list the beats. And, reviewing the beats in a scene helps review the logic of the scene to assure if all the actions are plausible because you’ve included all the necessary steps.
Build a beat list from every scene you write, or at least be able to recognize them.
Terms to recognize:
- Inciting event: something that gets the action going
- State of things: how they are now, the circumstances surrounding an event or the resolution of an event
- Observed/Felt motion: distinguishes between what a character sees and what that character directly experiences
- Grounding a scene: how you can give the scene a sense of place, time, and circumstances through smaller actions, objects, and senses
- Action shift: something small or large that changes the progression of an event, it makes a turn
- Interiority: the interior thoughts of the character, what she thinks, either in direct response to something which happens in a scene or thoughts taking another direction.
- Close POV: We’d call this Deep POV now. The events of a scene are told from the point-of-view character’s actions and thoughts.
- Take one of your scenes and “box in” the beats. Ask:
- Is it clear where the scene beings and ends?
- Is it clear where the scene takes place and how much time it covers? Do we have a sense of “being there?”
- Does something clearly happen? Can I summarize it in one sentence?
- Is there a change in the way things are for the protagonist as a result of the action? (a “shift”)
- Cleaning up beats on revisions
- List the beats of action. Do some need to be changed? Listing them will help prepare a revision list.
- Are all actions clear? If not, “ground” the scene with time, place, sensory details, etc.
- Does the scene ramble? Should it be tighter and more specific? Will that help to escalate tension?
- Look at character emotions. Are they the result of tension built? What are the character responses?
- Examine the scene again and look for the relationship between actions and emotions.
The more you read scenes for beats, practice writing and identifying them, the easier it will become. Scintillating scenes add tension, create emotion, and keep your story moving along. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes