Writing Story Beats

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When writing a screenplay, by writing story beats first, it helps you organize your thoughts into a more coherent form. Once you complete writing the story beats, you can then begin writing each scene for your screenplay. By following this approach, you will find that you have a road map to follow with respect to your story beats. So, much of your grunt work goes into the story beats, while most of your creative work goes into the writing of each scene.

Story beats should show each scene in brief form. They do not have to be written in perfect grammar. They simply need to be written down in order. Story beats can be looked upon as idea beats. You have an idea for a scene. What should take place in that scene.? “Oh, yeah, this, this, and this.” Bang! You’ve written your story beats for the first scene. A word of caution, always enter your scene at the last moment and get out of the scene as soon as you can.

For example, on page 1/minute 1 of my screenplay/movie, “The Caller”, I introduce the setting. I introduce the main character. I show what she does as a professional. I show how she acts and reacts around other people. Bang! I move to the next page/scene. The story beats are: Introduce the setting. Introduce the main character. Show what she does as a professional. Show how she acts and reacts around other people. Get out, move to the next page/scene.

Once you get some story beats down, you will find that ideas come up where you want to write more in story beats you’ve already written. So, do that. If you want to expound on the setting, e.g., then add to introduce the setting, behind the stage of a fashion show. Then, get back to your story beats for the scene on which you are presently working.

Writing story beats are refreshing and very helpful to writing a multi-dimensional screenplay, something for which every screenwriter should strive.

Story beats 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...

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About Donald L. Vasicek

Award-winning writer/filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the acclaimed Dov Simens and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin, daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor. Don has taught, mentored, and is a script consultant for over 300 writers, directors, producers, actors and production companies. He has also acted in NBC’s “Mystery of Flight 1501”, ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley, and Red-Handed Productions’ “Summer Reunion.” These activities have resulted in his involvement in over 100 movies during the past 23 years, from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56 million “Warriors of Virtue”, Paramount Classic’s “Racing Lucifer”, American Picture’s “The Lost Heart” and “Born To Kill” starring the Charles Bronson of Korea, Bobby Kim, and his internationally-known brother, Richard, who directed, Incline Productions, Inc.’s “Born To Win”, 20th Century Fox’s “Die Hard II” starring Bruce Willis with Rennie Harlan as director, and Joel Silver as producer, Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Haunted World” with Emmy-nominated PBS Producer Alison Hill, and Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Faces”, “Oh, The Places You Can Go” and the award-winning “The Sand Creek Massacre” documentary film. Don also has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include “How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced” and “The Write Focus.” He has been a guest screenwriting and filmmaking columnist for Hollywood Lit. Sales, Moondance International Film Festival’s e-zine, Screenwriter’s Forum, Screenplace, Screenplayers.Net, Screenwriters.Net, Screenwriters Utopia, Spraka & Kinsla (Swedish), Inkwell Watch, and Ink On the Brain. Writing recognition includes Houston’s WorldFest International Film Festival, Chesterfield’s Writer’s Film Project, Writer’s Digest, The Sundance Institute, The Writer’s Network, and the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Guild, Inc. Don completed producing “The Sand Creek Massacre”, a documentary film project that includes the completed and award-winning documentary short, a book, a classroom video, Interactive Media, a study guide, and a lesson plans. The film is being distributed by Films Media Group. Don is on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. He is the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company and a screenwriting volunteer on AllExperts.com. Don’s screenwriting agent is Robin Kaver of the Robert Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc., 1501 Broadway, Suite 2301 New York, NY 10036, 212-840-5751.

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