Hamlet, James Bond and Rick Blaine
A new book in my ever-growing collection of volumes about writing, Hamlet’s Hit Points is somewhat different, because it is a book at least nominally aimed at game masters willing to improve the structure of their roleplaying scenarios, upping their game. But in laying down the foundations of a system to structurally map stories, Robin D. Laws manages to create a tool that works for games, for fiction and for movies/screenplays.
The basic building block of the system is the concept of “beats”, which is derived by cinema: a beat is a portion of a scene in which something specific happens, bringing the action forward or laying the foundation for some forthcoming event.
Once we see our story as a series of beats, each with its purpose and its direction, it becomes easy to see symmetries and to map the flow of our story, thus revealing strengths and weaknesses of the plot.
To illustrate his method, Robin D. Laws analyzes three well-known stories: Hamlet, Dr No and Casablanca, mapping out the development and the ups and downs of the reader’s tension as the stories unfold.
I am notoriously a sucker for structure, and I’ve found this book extremely useful as a tool to look at my writing (and my scenario writing, and mastering) from a different angle.