Reworking the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet
Master Cat! Jose Silerio writes about an exciting, different, and downloadable format for the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from workshop attendee and writer Tom Gowen:
Our workshops are a great opportunity to vet your ideas and put them through the wringer — or as we call it: The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (or BS2). It’s always an interesting mix of seasoned writers and first-timers who walk in Saturday morning, a bit skeptical of their stories and unsure if the people seated in the room “will get it.” It doesn’t really matter how many scripts you’ve written in the past because when we start on a project, we’re all starting from the same place — a blank piece of paper (which really means an empty white screen in today’s vernacular).
This is where the BS2 really comes in handy, though we often forget that the BS2 is a document that grows and evolves as we discover more about our stories, its world, and the characters that inhabit it. There’s no need to overload it with details (you can do that in The Board). “Keep it simple” is our battlecry.
All we want with a BS2 is a clear straight story spine. We want to know (1) whose story it is, (2) what he (or she) wants, and (3) what’s stopping him from getting what he wants. But don’t forget that the BS2 isn’t just about knowing what the hero wants. It’s also about giving him what he needs because what we look for, in the end, is transformation… how our hero has grown and changed in the course of this story.
As we go through stories in a workshop and beats are thrown in and out, it becomes clearer how connected and intertwined all the 15 beats are to one another — because the goal is to give your audience a story that’s emotionally satisfying. It’s a one-two punch of wants and needs. External and internal.
In our last workshop, Tom Gowen had this “a-ha” moment in his story, but he took it even one step further. He designed a new beat sheet that clearly shows how the beats are connected. Instead of the simple numerically arranged listing of the 15 beats, he arranged them in such a way that shows how the beats affect and mirror one another — all in one nifty looking sheet. He even incorporated the Five Point Storming the Castle Finale in it. And did I say it’s color-coded as well?
Talk about a growing and evolving beat sheet! Tom hasn’t simply given the BS2 a facelift (which is sooooo Hollywood), he’s made it his own. He’s recreated it to “make it work,” not just for the story he was working on during the weekend, but for all the stories he will be writing in years to come. Thanks, Tom for sharing it with us.
What Tom did also reminded me of what the beat sheet can be. As Blake once said, “Learn the rules, then break the rules.” Yes, he wasn’t the first one who said this line, but Blake knew that his beat sheet could be much more than what he intended it for.
While the BS2 helps you shape and sculpt your stories, don’t forget you can also reshape and resculpt the BS2 to help you write stories you want to tell in your own unique way. The beat sheet is meant to be flexible and malleable. It’s not set in stone. It’s not the only way to tell a story. But it helps give your audience a way of following a story that will resonate with them.
Just ask the marketing executives, songwriters, and even lawyers and real estate agents who have told us how they’ve used Blake’s beat sheet for their own purposes. So next time you pull out your handy-dandy beat sheet, give Tom’s a spin. Or maybe you already have your own take on the beat sheet. Let the beat sheet serve you and your story. Work it and rework it. How can you keep it familiar enough but still give it a fresh take? Same but different, right?
Do you have your own reworked beat sheet that you want to share? Let us know. And if you have thoughts for Tom on how to further improve his one-sheet beat sheet, we look forward to your comments below.
Download the pdf of the Tom Gowen Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.