In the previous entry we established our environment (the junkyard), and figured out who our main characters would be (a robot and a dog), and what their motivations were.

Since we had all of these elements, it was time to start figuring out what would happen in my story. Sure there are a bunch of funny bits I could include – but I wanted to maximize the funny bits and keep the story flowing at a steady pace. We do this with something called a beat sheet.

“What is a beat sheet?” you may be asking yourself.

In music, a beat is a measure of time. It’s not dissimilar in storytelling. A beat is an action or series of actions that happen in your story. Beat sheets tend to be like detailed outlines of the events of your story. Typically, these are ordered in sequence and contains all of the actions of the scene.

Since they tend to be so detailed, I add an extra step before the beat sheet which just outlines very generally what I want to have happen in my story. Let’s take an example from Junkyard Chase.

On page 3 of the story, we are in act two and the chase has been going on for a while now. I knew I wanted a funny gravity-defying event on this page, so my outline said simply this:

3) Robot chases dog to edge of cliff, comedic pause, robot falls.

The benefit of the outline, for me, is while putting a story together I can easily change the order of events before I get too detailed with the beat sheet or script. It helps me keep the story in perspective from a top-line high level, and they I can start to chip away at it as I get into the details.

From this outline passage I can create a beat sheet for the page. It goes something like this:

3) Dazed, the robot looks up to see the dog about to jump off a cliff of junk. The robot rushes over and tries to grab the dog in the air, but misses. There is a comedic pause, and then he plummets to the bottom of the pit

The outline is not dissimilar from the beat sheet, just lets me play a bit with the story / event order a bit easier. And helps to get the ideas down on the page before putting in additional details.

The beat sheet helps get the details of the story events onto the page, and from this you can build the script easier. And we’ll get into the next step, script writing, in the next entry….