The Beat Goes On

As I say farewell to another terrific novel writing class, I’ll skip the usual admonitions to “Keep writing” “Junk it through” and “Get it down before you fix it up.” Instead, here’s a little trick fiction writers employ: adding beats to your scene. A “beat” is a sentence of either stage business (action), emotion, or interior thought. Often it’s part of the sequel of a scene.
Writing Tip for Today: When you draft a scene with a fair amount of dialogue, it’s important to stay away from talking heads and speeches. The Rule of Three is helpful in this regard, but also consider adding a beat here and there. Beats can replace dialogue attributions. They prevent the reader from losing the surroundings –it doesn’t take long to forget where you are. Beats also enrich and deepen character and motivation and remind the reader of the POV character’s attitude toward whomever else is in the scene. Finally, beats help the reader imagine the scene cinematically by providing touchstones at intervals. In writing, these aren’t limited to sight cues. You can add a beat of interior thought or emotion or let the reader know if the place smells, if the pie is good or how the wine feels as it slips down the throat. Use beats in a non-formulaic way (that is, use your intuition) for best results.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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