Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet for Novels

Like me, you’ve probably toyed with some tried-and-true novel structures. I always end up bending them to my own will–trying to make things work in a way that’s convenient to me. I’ve kept my eye open for a foolproof recipe, because a well-structured book is becomes a fast friend of readers. When the always outstanding Authoress at Miss Snark’s First Victim recommended Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, I had to check it out. To my utter delightI found that Snyder’s beats perfectly fit within my outline for my latest novel project! I have to share, I’m so doubled over with excitement.

Save the CatWriter, editor and story consultant Tim Stout’s post describes the beats most elegantly. Stout says, “The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet is the best plot structure template I’ve come across;” so you don’t have to take my (and Authoress’) words for it.

Snyder breaks down the three-act structure into manageable sections, each with a specific goal for the overall plot goal.

Below is Stout’s explanation of each beat. He’s even offered how it works with graphic novels here: Graphic Novel Story Structure.


Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.

Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.

Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.

Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.

To read on, please see the rest of the story at Tim Stout’s blog!
Another great Beat Sheet resource–This page indicates how many pages each beat ought to cover. I find this particularly helpful when editing–it is important to know when to elaborate and when to ruthlessly cut for clarity and readability. Best of luck!