Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plot Talk - Part 3: Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet

Part 3: Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet

This is the second book that Alyson Noel mentioned having in your arsenal of writing books. Yes, this book is a screenplay book, but so was the last one. And, might I say, they are both the best books I've come across.

Blake Snyder uses a Beat Sheet that he lays out in his book Save the Cat! I loved this book mainly because it gives out so many examples of movies laid out in the format of his beat sheet.

No, I'm not going to give you the complete beat sheet here. That would be more than I am willing to delve into at the moment. Right now I am more concerned with the idea of inciting incidents, acts, and climaxes than the other stuff.

Snyder lists the inciting incident as the catalyst, so here is a little different terminology added to our discussion. He has the writer state the theme first (I believe this is his first act) then moves into the catalyst.

Next we are to break the story into two parts (his version of a second act). In this second act you should have the "B Story" which he defines as the love story. Seeing this I can think of a few novels I've read recently that use this "B Story" as their love story. I wonder which other authors knowingly used his beat sheet, or just happened to stumble upon the method.

Snyder places a few other integral parts between the "B Story" and the "Break into Three" section. All are very integral, but without them I'm not sure the story is a complete story. His third act is a sort of refresher for the protagonist, a place where the protagonist arrives at a new fresh idea or inspiration to right things.

Are you confused? I think I am. Without the rest of the Beat Sheet I think the writer is missing key pieces. So, I'm telling you - "Go Get This Book!" I just can't bring myself to explain the whole thing. That would probably be considered some kind of copyright infringement of sorts. Plus, you really need to see his explanations for each of the steps. Therefore, "Go Get The Dang Thing!" I checked it out from the library and ended up exceeding my allowed number of borrows on it.

I use Snyder's Beat Sheet as a rough outline. I've found that I don't do well with drawn out, in depth outlines. This style works really well for me, though. I have the room I need to move around and change what I need, but still have the direction that I require to write.

Snyder doesn't delve into the different sub-plots, but sticks with the main three act story. Do you think he's right or McKee with his complex structure? Or, could you use them both together like I am trying to do?

Click the links below to see the other three related posts.
Part 1: The Basics - I will look at the basic principle of plots.
Part 2: Robert McKee's plot structure in Story
Part 3: Blake Snyder's beat sheet plot structure in Save the Cat!
Part 4: Steven James' Story Trumps Structure article from Writer's Digest Magazine February 2011


  1. Thanks for the comment Sarah. I'm glad you liked it. I have a Beat Sheet filled out for almost all of my WIPs right now. :-)