As I thought about this series, I realized in retrospect that I wanted a plan. And I wanted something for you readers to be able to follow along. And I wanted it to be totally available. AHA - a Beat Sheet.
If you don’t know what beat sheets are, here’s the short description: The “beat sheet” is a way to sequence your story, using bullets instead of whole sentences or paragraphs. Very quickly, though, those bullets becomes sentences and paragraphs. And when that happens, you have an outline on your hands. (From Storyfix.com) You’ll find a lot of talk about beats and beat sheets in the screenwriting world. I won’t get into it here, but it’s certainly something to check out if it sounds like gibberish to you. I often use beat sheets to do some preliminary plot work once my character work is well in hand.
Jamie Gold is the queen of beat sheets online. She has made a variety of them in Excel format so you can fill in your page goal and it will calculate where all your beats should come. Obviously, this is a tool. Don’t get stressed about having to follow it exactly. Jamie even has one for romance. Good information in the entire post.
Here’s why I’m sending you there. It occurred to me as I was looking at this beat sheet that I may have jumped the gun last month with Boy Meets Girl. Yes, Boy Meets Girl should happen in Act One, but there should probably be some preliminary scenes before that happens. Note: In the “olden days” of Romance, the requirement was that hero and heroine meet in the first pages of the book. I don’t think that’s the hard and fast rule anymore. But if the line you’re targeting wants it - give it to them. You’ll have to weave the other preliminary stuff in as you do so or shortly after.
Alright. So here’s why I’m making a U-turn – it’s only temporary. It’s not because I’m requiring - or even suggesting - that you have to use this beat sheet. But I will be using it as a guideline for this series of article. It’s all about me 🙂
Last month we talked about Boy Meets Girl. That event usually happens as the Inciting Incident in your plot outline. Before that happens, you may want to introduce your reader to one or both characters and set up the romance by showing what your character is lacking - or what he (she) thinks he’s lacking. In the opening scenes of the story, you’ll want to create empathy. Showing what the character is lacking/longing for is a way to do that.
As an aside here, most of the time, the goal that the characters go into the story with is what they WANT but not what they NEED. Over the course of the story, you’ll bring them through a character arc from what they thought they wanted at the beginning of the story to what they actually NEED.
Hope you’ll forgive the blip!