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Visit
katherinecowley.com/blog/story-beats
For slides and useful links
Creative Writing Publications
• “The Clockwork Seer”
• “Misunderstood”
• “The Five Year Journal”
• “Yongrui and the Tree o...
The Major Biological
Macromolecules
• Proteins
• Nucleic Acids (DNA and RNA)
• Carbohydrates
• Lypids
The Major Story Beat...
Action Beats
1. Summary Action Beat
2. Habitual or Recurring Action Beat
3. Long Shot or Extreme Long Shot Action
Beat
4. Medium Shot Action Beat
5. Close-Up or Extreme Close-Up Action
Beat
6. Flashback Action Beat
7. Future Action Beat
8. Sensory Action Beat
9. Internal Action Beat
10. Mental Action Beat
Action Beats Writing Exercise
Describe a
character (or
yourself) creating
a peanut butter
and jam sandwich,
using at least...
Description Beats
Describe Using All 5 Senses
•Sight
•Sound
•Smell
•Taste
•Touch/Physical Sensation
Insight: Use Key Details
Use key details—the telling ones—
and people will extrapolate on the
character, the setting, and ...
Pause/
Inaction
Beats
Inaction
Types of Inaction
• Physical Stoppage
• Verbal Stoppage
Subject of Inaction
• POV Character
• Other Character
• M...
Reasons to Use a
Pause/Inaction Beat
1.Imitates Real Life
2.Gives Emphasis
3.Builds Tension
4.Gives Reaction
Space to Read...
Insight: Small Pause
Use a dialogue tag to create a small
pause.
“I don’t want to do it,” said Marlin. “I
just really don’...
Dialogue
Beats
Dialogue and
Desire
“Every character
should want
something, even if
it is only a glass of
water.”
–Kurt Vonnegut
Good Dialogue
• Characterizes the
speaker
• Establishes the
setting
• Builds conflict
• Foreshadows
• Explains
-from Willi...
Insight: Integrate Dialogue and Action
Use an action beat instead of a
dialogue tag.
Example: Fahrenheit 451
Montag stopped at the door, with his back turned. “Millie?”
A silence. “What?”
“Millie? Does the W...
Insight: Dialogue, Description, and Pacing
Dialogue increases the pace of the
story.
Description decreases (or halts) the
...
Banana Beats Exercise – Part 1
Write 3 to 4 lines
of dialogue
starting with the
line,
“I told you to buy
bananas.”
Banana Beats Exercise – Part 2
To your dialogue,
add:
1 pause,
1 description, &
1 action
Emotion
Beats
1. State the Emotion
2. Internal Physical Sensations
3. External Physical Sensations
4. Physical Actions
5. Distinctive to Story World/Character
6. Setting Tinged by Emotion
7. Metaphor or Simile
8. Mini Flashback
9. Mini Flashforward
10. Surreal Imagery
Insight: Complex Reaction Beats
When something really shocking,
surprising, or revelatory happens,
you need a complex reac...
Emotion Beats
Writing Exercise
The vase shattered on the ground.
Now write three possible following
sentences, each which ...
Image Credits
Molecules: cori kindred via flickr, Creative Commons
Peanut butter and jelly: Aminimanda via Compfight, Crea...
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction
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Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction

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If words are the atoms of fiction, then story beats are the molecules, the building blocks that create a narrative. There are five main types of story beats--action beats, description beats, pause/inaction beats, dialogue beats, and emotion beats.

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Writing Powerful Story Beats in Fiction

  1. 1. Visit katherinecowley.com/blog/story-beats For slides and useful links
  2. 2. Creative Writing Publications • “The Clockwork Seer” • “Misunderstood” • “The Five Year Journal” • “Yongrui and the Tree of Life” • “Breastfeeding Mama” • “Daughter of a Boto” • “I Am Not a Writer” • “In Which Eve Names Everything Else” • “Waiting”
  3. 3. The Major Biological Macromolecules • Proteins • Nucleic Acids (DNA and RNA) • Carbohydrates • Lypids The Major Story Beats • Action Beats • Description Beats • Pause/Inaction Beats • Dialogue Beats • Emotion Beats
  4. 4. Action Beats
  5. 5. 1. Summary Action Beat
  6. 6. 2. Habitual or Recurring Action Beat
  7. 7. 3. Long Shot or Extreme Long Shot Action Beat
  8. 8. 4. Medium Shot Action Beat
  9. 9. 5. Close-Up or Extreme Close-Up Action Beat
  10. 10. 6. Flashback Action Beat
  11. 11. 7. Future Action Beat
  12. 12. 8. Sensory Action Beat
  13. 13. 9. Internal Action Beat
  14. 14. 10. Mental Action Beat
  15. 15. Action Beats Writing Exercise Describe a character (or yourself) creating a peanut butter and jam sandwich, using at least three different types of action beats.
  16. 16. Description Beats
  17. 17. Describe Using All 5 Senses •Sight •Sound •Smell •Taste •Touch/Physical Sensation
  18. 18. Insight: Use Key Details Use key details—the telling ones— and people will extrapolate on the character, the setting, and the world
  19. 19. Pause/ Inaction Beats
  20. 20. Inaction Types of Inaction • Physical Stoppage • Verbal Stoppage Subject of Inaction • POV Character • Other Character • Machine, Animal, Environment
  21. 21. Reasons to Use a Pause/Inaction Beat 1.Imitates Real Life 2.Gives Emphasis 3.Builds Tension 4.Gives Reaction Space to Reader and/or Character
  22. 22. Insight: Small Pause Use a dialogue tag to create a small pause. “I don’t want to do it,” said Marlin. “I just really don’t.”
  23. 23. Dialogue Beats
  24. 24. Dialogue and Desire “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” –Kurt Vonnegut
  25. 25. Good Dialogue • Characterizes the speaker • Establishes the setting • Builds conflict • Foreshadows • Explains -from William Noble, Three Rules for Writing a Novel
  26. 26. Insight: Integrate Dialogue and Action Use an action beat instead of a dialogue tag.
  27. 27. Example: Fahrenheit 451 Montag stopped at the door, with his back turned. “Millie?” A silence. “What?” “Millie? Does the White Clown love you?” No answer. “Millie, does—” He licked his lips. “Does your ‘family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?”
  28. 28. Insight: Dialogue, Description, and Pacing Dialogue increases the pace of the story. Description decreases (or halts) the pace of the story.
  29. 29. Banana Beats Exercise – Part 1 Write 3 to 4 lines of dialogue starting with the line, “I told you to buy bananas.”
  30. 30. Banana Beats Exercise – Part 2 To your dialogue, add: 1 pause, 1 description, & 1 action
  31. 31. Emotion Beats
  32. 32. 1. State the Emotion
  33. 33. 2. Internal Physical Sensations
  34. 34. 3. External Physical Sensations
  35. 35. 4. Physical Actions
  36. 36. 5. Distinctive to Story World/Character
  37. 37. 6. Setting Tinged by Emotion
  38. 38. 7. Metaphor or Simile
  39. 39. 8. Mini Flashback
  40. 40. 9. Mini Flashforward
  41. 41. 10. Surreal Imagery
  42. 42. Insight: Complex Reaction Beats When something really shocking, surprising, or revelatory happens, you need a complex reaction beat, which should include a physical reaction and at least 1 or 2 other types of emotion beats.
  43. 43. Emotion Beats Writing Exercise The vase shattered on the ground. Now write three possible following sentences, each which should use a different emotion beat, for example: 1. State the Emotion 2. External Physical Sensation 3. Internal Physical Sensation 4. Physical Action 5. Distinctive to Story World/Character 6. Setting tinged by emotion 7. Metaphor or Simile 8. Mini Flashback 9. Mini Flashforward 10. Surreal Imagery
  44. 44. Image Credits Molecules: cori kindred via flickr, Creative Commons Peanut butter and jelly: Aminimanda via Compfight, Creative Commons Women speaking: Dimitris Papazimouris via flickr, Creative Commons Glass of water: Daniel Pozo via flickr, Creative Commons Girl in wind: Kevin Conor Keller via flickr, Creative Commons Motorcycles: Seattle Municipal Archives via flickr, Creative Commons Sofa: James Tworow via flickr, Creative Commons All other images courtesy of pexels.com

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