Storybeats and Scenes

When it comes to the meaning, or message of a story, scenes don’t matter. A scene can start and stop any time, and can consist of any number of thematic issues. End the scene earlier or move its issues from one scene to the next, and the message stays the same. The Subtext of the narrative remains intact.

And that’s all we’re really concerned about when developing a story.

When it comes to meaning, scenes are arbitrary dividing lines. One man’s scene is another woman’s sequence—the markets are entirely subjective and therefore don’t factor into the message.

Subtext honors this reality of story by referring to individual events as Storybeats, not scenes. A single scene can contain any number of Storybeats. It can consist of one or 600–the final tally is entirely up to the writer.

What isn’t up to the writer is the importance of that beat to the overall message of the story. Storybeats communicate the meaning of your story.

TIP

The more Storybeats within a scene, the greater the dramatic impact and importance within the scope of the narrative. Think of the final Trench Scene in the original Star Wars: Overall Story Throughline Beats mix with Main Character that mix with Influence Character and Relationship Story Throughline Beats.

That's why it feels so monumental--it's not just because it's at the end of the story, it's because it's chock full of important and meaningful Storybeats.