September 12, 2017

How Do Story Beats Work in Our Genre?

Apple on books with text: Deepen Your Craft with Resident Writing Coach Jami Gold (at Writers Helping Writers)

It’s time for another one of my guest posts over at Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Writers Helping Writers site. As one of their Resident Writing Coaches, I’ve previously shared:

With this turn for another coaching article at WHW, I’m exploring a question that has come up here several times. This time around, we’re talking about how to take the major beats of a beat sheet and apply them to our story’s genre.

Wait…What’s a Beat?

If you’re not familiar with story structure or beat sheets, you’re in luck. *smile* If you are familiar with all this stuff, just skip to the next section below.

Despite my tendency to write by the seat of my pants, I’ve successfully completed several books because I love story structure and enjoy creating story-planning tools. Story structure is what makes our story feel like a story (with a beginning, middle, end, and twists along the way), story beats are the plot events or character turning points that keep our story interesting, and beat sheets are tools to check our story’s structure and pacing.

I have many, many posts and resources here with more information:

Understanding Story Structure:

Understanding Story Beats:

Beat Sheet Resources:

Those links above are just a fraction of my posts and resources here on these subjects. For more, check out my full list of worksheets, the Planning Your Story collection of posts, or the Story Structure or Beat Sheet tags.

How Should We Apply the Major Story Beats to Our Genre?

The two resources I’m most well known for are the Basic Beat Sheet and the Romance Beat Sheet (along with their matching Scrivener templates). But writers of other genres look at that romance-specific beat sheet and want one for themselves, so I often get messages asking me to create a beat sheet for mysteries, thrillers, and other genres.

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in those genres, so I don’t feel as though I have the knowledge necessary to create a specific beat sheet for anything other than romance. That said, I’m also pathologically helpful. *smile*

So I decided to take a stab at sharing some big-picture guidelines for translating story beats into any genre. The key to understanding the story beats for our genre is to understand the function of each beat. If we understand each beat’s function, we’ll be able to see how that story beat applies to our genre.

Come join me at WHW, where I’m sharing:

  • the function of the four major beats
  • how those functions apply to the romance genre
  • examples of how those functions could apply to other genres (using mysteries and thrillers for the examples)

Writers Helping Writers: Resident Writing Coach Program

Writing to the Beat: Translating Story Beats to Any Genre

Have you used beat sheets before? Are you able to define the purpose of each major turning point in a story? Do you know what that purpose looks like for your genre? Do you have any questions about story beats for specific genres? (My WHW posts are limited in word count, but I’m happy to go deeper here if anyone wants more info. *smile*)

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks! Not something I’ve used.


[…] Jami Gold’s blog is a fantastic place where you can find beat sheets and scene checklists. […]

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