A Beat Sheet

What is a Beat Sheet?

A beat sheet is a blueprint for your story, and listed below is a generic beat sheet. The way people attack this is to change things within the beat sheet. Make things different. How different it can be is limited to what you can get away with, and still sell books.

ACT I

OPENING SCENE: The hook.

Start in the middle of an action, a scene which reveals an unusual trait of your main character that will make your reader want to know more about him or wonder what will happen next. Get your readers hooked!

Exposition: Introduce your hero and the world in which he lives.

Show the biggest need of your hero, his problem, his greatest flaw, his missing piece. It will give your readers a clue about the inner journey of your character and prepare them for the Midpoint Climax.

TURNING POINT: Event that irrevocably disturbs the hero’s world as he knows it and introduces the antagonistic forces.

Your hero can’t go on with his life-like before, his world has been turned upside down, the balance is thrown off, and he will have to make a choice and take action.

He may refuse the Call at first, deny the fact that he must do something, try to keep things as they’ve always been and eventually realise that he can’t go on like this, that his world has irrevocably been changed.

ACT II

BEGINNING OF ACT II: Your hero declares his goal. His journey begins.

It is most interesting when his goal is at odds with what we know he needs. It will make the Midpoint Climax all the more satisfying when your hero realises what it’s all about.

The introduction of your sub-plot.

This is a good time to start your sub-plot that will develop throughout Act II until your hero experiments a major setback where everything seems lost and then realises, thanks to the sub-plot, what has been missing that will help him defeat the antagonistic forces.

PROMISE OF THE PREMISE: Your hero explores the new world.

This is the fun part where your readers get what the premise promised, be it a detective finding clues, love blossoming or an adventurer on his quest. The stakes are small, and your hero has the upper end, the story progresses quickly.

The event that increases the stakes.

The commitment of your hero to his goal is getting more dangerous.

MIDPOINT CLIMAX: Context shift that changes your hero’s understanding of his goal / the stakes / the antagonistic forces.

Your hero realises that he has been pursuing the wrong goal or that the stakes are much higher than he anticipated or that he has severely underestimated the antagonistic forces.

It can also be a moment when he realises that the goal he first set doesn’t match with his real need and he’s willing to change the direction of his path to fulfil the need we saw a glimpse of at the beginning of the story.

The closing in of the antagonistic forces.

The stakes get even higher, the task more challenging and we begin to understand what are the antagonistic effects.

MAJOR SETBACK: All seems lost.

Your hero hits bottom, and everything seems impossible.

ACT III

BEGINNING OF ACT III: Your hero reaffirms his goal after discovering something from the subplot that may help him overcome the antagonistic forces and was missing before.

This is his last chance at defeating the antagonistic forces. He will win or fail, but there’s no turning back. The stakes are at their highest.

CLIMAX: Hero’s big fight against the antagonistic forces.

Final battle where your hero’s destiny will be decided. Whether he achieves his goal or not, his world and life will be forever changed.

ENDING SCENE: Glimpse into the future.

This scene is showing how the hero has changed and what is his new world.

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