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Nov 6, 2012

How To Create A Three Act Beat Sheet


These are my personal tips for NaNoWriMo. You know the drill. Take only what works.


You can use a beat sheet in place of a storyboard/short story/synopsis of your story, or you can use it in addition to the storyboard. It’s another way of testing your story idea, to make sure it is substantial enough to flush out a novel. This is also a helpful precursor to the scene-by-scene outline which comes next.  

Blake Snyder gives a great Beat Sheet in Save the Cat. I suggest reading it but making your own.

Here’s my version:

Act I:
1. Opening conflict.
2. Protagonist is shown in daily life, before transformation
3. Opportunity for change.
4. Resistance to the opportunity.
5. Point of No Return—Opportunity Accepted.

Act II:
6. Entering the New Situation.
7. Meeting Friends, Enemies or Romance.
8. Problem Brings Them Together.
9. Problem Drives Them Apart.
10. Crisis Hits

Act III:
11. Terrible Secret Revealed or Final Attack Starts
12. All Seems Lost
13. Self-Sacrifice or Symbolic Death
14. Final Showdown
15. Conclusion (Wedding Bells, Award Ceremony, Pile of Bodies or Ride into Sunset)


UPDATE: I should mention that you can extend the Three Acts easily enough into Four Acts, Five Acts or Seven Acts by basically repeating Act II as often as needed. Television dramas, for instance, typically use a Four Act structure, molded around commercial breaks. (Cable channels, without commercial breaks, might use a Six Act structure or their own template.) The more subplots you add, the more Acts you might need. Just make sure each successive Act have rising tension.

1 comment:

Ink in the Book said...

I am on the fence about always using the 3 act structure. I use it, but not in every story, every time. But when I do use it, I use a formula like the one you posted.