Why Clear Story Structure = Clear Thinking
One thing I hear from audiences I get to speak to, from writers in class or in email from readers who are having a light-bulb moment from reading my books, is how learning story structure has changed their lives.
And I couldn’t be happier — or more grateful — than to share in these eyes-wide-open hazzahs!
When you work out the “beats” of a story via the Beat Sheet (a free download available in the Tools section of this site) or in our software, this method leads to clear thinking.
Being able to “see” a story as we write it is why we use these templates. All stories are about “transformation,” so our job is to tell the tale that has the biggest possible change. When we look at the Opening Image that starts a story and hold it up against the Final Image, we must make sure those two points are… opposite. And the “transformation machine” that all good stories measure tracks this change.
I say it all the time in class: It’s easy.
If we can tell a story well, we can communicate on every level in a quicker, more effective way!
Yet the structure method we use is more than that: it’s fresh air for the mind. So often our imaginations get cluttered. Some of the pictures in our head are total 100% right-on. But some are just clutter. And having a story clothesline to hang our thoughts on, look at them, and have others be able to look too, empowers every storyteller with a method to not only communicate what’s in our minds, but test to see if what we’re communicating makes sense to someone who isn’t inside our heads — and that’s invaluable!
Story is puzzle solving. And having not only the perspective but the cool aplomb to know our idea doesn’t have to be perfect the first time leads to even greater exercise of our gray matter.
Whether you wind up as a professional storyteller, or as someone creating a 30-second TV commercial, or giving a speech to the PTA, or any of a thousand ways “story” is used to communicate, you are better empowered to tell your story if you think of the “Transformation Machine” our story templates help you create. From uninformed to informed, from apathetic to involved, from feeling superior to feeling humbled (and thus ready to be called to a higher purpose), transformation is our business.
And there is no better way to look at every article we write, speech we give, or message we articulate, than by the clear thinking it takes to deliver on the 15 beats — these little turnstiles of change — of every story we tell!
Sometimes I think I have the whole story in my head, but then when I fill in all the beats I realize I can’t fill the all in! Or that I’m very vague about certain areas (the Midpoint is a biggie). It’s good to figure this stuff out before I spend months working on a script and falling in love with all that clever dialogue, only to realize the whole just isn’t working. The beats are my fail-safe.
- David Martin
I have to agree Mr. Snyder, since adapting your beat sheet into my writing (note: outlining was something I have never done before) it seems a breeze to get through a first draft now. The meat and potatoes can be added later, developed and honed. I was referred your book at a screenwriting club I belonged to and have read it several times. It sits beside my laptop, a hand’s reach away. Thanks again for the insight.
- Mike Rinaldi
It’s always darkest before the dawn. It’s not just a saying; I’ve seen the proverb proven true in life time and again. This is why the Dark Night of the Soul beat preceeding the Break Into Three resonates with us.
Whether storytelling is an occupation or vocation or not… being a storyteller is intrinsic to human existance. Our words and actions proclaim our stories every day. I see story structure within the structure of my life and it’s a reliable guideline. After I’m buried, my friends and family will share favorite highlights of my story. The logline of my life will be my epitaph. And I hope my story is one full of joy and wisdom for others to glean.
- Natalie Hitchcock
One of the many refreshing things about Blake is the “It’s Easy” ideology. I’ve been to another script guru’s workshop and he told us that writing a script is harder than brain surgery, that we must be prepared to write for 10 years and have 10 failed screenplays before you have any success. The thing is I believed him, that is until I found STC!
Your book “Save the cat!” changed my way of writing and I can’t praise the beat sheet enough.
I started to use it when I got stuck (again!) right in the middle of the story. That script is now complete and I’ve started on a new.
My blog is dedicated to my experiences.
Thankfully, the information I picked out was the refreshing bit about second drafts; they are inevitably my saving grace. First drafts, outline or not, tend a bit boorish (and that’s putting it mildly). Everything comes together when I can cut and paste, or delete as the case may be.
Sorry if this is off topic, and ANOTHER sorry if you’ve done this before. But have you ever thought about a Blake Snyder genre mash-up competition? As in … best idea for ‘Dude with a passage’, ‘Superhero in the house’ or even ‘Fool love’?
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The Beat Sheet is free!
>>races to the top of Blake’s blog<<
OMG! I never knew.