The Scope of a Storybeat

While presented with different labels, every Storybeat theoretically is the same exact thing: a single point in time along the thread of narrative that is your story. By offering you the chance to see these Beats at different resolutions, Authors can determine for themselves how much time to spend on a particular part of their story.

More detail = more time, and more specificity.

Subtxt offers three sizes of Storybeats:

  • Transit Storybeats
  • Progression Storybeats
  • Events Storybeats

The Scope of Storybeats

Transit Storybeats

Within the context of a complete story, you will find a total of 16 Transit Storybeats--four for each of the Four Throughlines. They will feel like "Acts" because they span a greater amount of time within the narrative.

The 16 Transits of a Complete Story

Progression Storybeats

Progression Storybeats are breakdowns of their parent Transit-level Storybeat. Think of these Progression Storybeats as telling the mini-"story" of the Transit Storybeat above them. If you break a Storybeat labelled "Progress" into the Progression Storybeats of "Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, and Falsehood," then those four Progression would tell the story of Progress for that Throughline.

In the beginning of a story, Progression Storybeats often end up in their own individual Scenes, cordoned off from the others. As the narrative progresses, and tension winds up, a "Scene" in your novel or screenplay might contain three or four of these Progressions (think the ending trench scene in the original Star Wars, where Storybeats from the Main Character, Obstacle Character, Relationship Story, and Objective Story fall into one action-packed moment).

A Complete Story with All Transits and Progressions

Event Storybeats

Events Storybeats illustrate the story of a Progression Storybeat. We refer to them as simply Events because they represent the smallest unit of narrative you can see without losing context of the entire story. If you were to dive further, you would be telling an entirely new story within the framework of your original story (Television series and seasons and individual episodes work this way).

Think of the Events as a specific outline for what happens in your Progression Storybeat from beginning to end. Again, in the beginning these four Events will represent the beginning, middle, and end of individual Progressions. As you get closer to the end, several groups of Events will work together to tell a highly dramatic and consequential climactic moment.

A Complete Story with All Transits, Progressions, and Events

A Complete Story

At the minimum, a story needs the 16 Transits to be considered a complete story. Note that you do not have to illustrate every single Transit, every single Progression, and every single Event. Stories are a mix of larger-sized Storybeats interspersed with smaller-sized Storybeats. As long as the Audience has enough information to connect the dots between these Thematic Cycles, the meaning of the story will hold together and the end result will be that of a complete story.

A Complete Story with Various Levels of Transits, Progressions, and Events

For more on this concept, please read the article on Narrative First entitled Traversing the Storybeats of a Complete Story.

Setting the Level of Detail

When you begin developing your story with Subtxt, the number of Storybeats is quite manageable. Four Transits in Four Throughlines gives you the minimal coverage for a complete story, and that relatively small amount of information (16 Storybeats) is easy to navigate during development.

As you grow that number beyond the initial sixteeen Storybeats, some Throughines can become quite overwhelming to navigate. As you zoom in and out mentally from the Transit level down to the Event level, you find yourself lost and wishing there was a way to focus in on one level at a time.

There is.

Setting the Scope of the Throughline View

At the top of each Throughline, you'll find a three "dots" icon that you can click in order to set the level of detail.

Setting the Level of Detail

The choices within this dropdown menu are multi-selectable, meaning you can show just the Transits, or just the Transits and the Progressions, or just the Events. Any combination of all three will adjust the current Throughline View to a scope that is more manageable for you and your writing process.

Breaking Down Storybeats

One of the more powerful features of Subtxt is the ability to breakdown Storybeats into their smaller units of dramatic progression. Transits break down into Progressions, while Progressions break down into Events.

The Scope of Storybeats

The term "Breakdown" comes from my experience working in the animation industry. Supervising animators would first draw "key poses"--those poses key to communicating a certain bit of acting--and then hand off the scene to an assistant animator to "breakdown" the poses. These in-between poses would help bring the scene to life by giving the key poses fluidity and flow.

Same thing with the Breakdown Storybeats in Subtxt.

Think of Storybeat Breakdowns as the progression of the story within a specific Storybeat. If a particular Storybeat tells you that your characters are learning something (a Transit of Learning), then how they go about learning is covered step-by-step by the Storybeat Breakdowns (in this case, a set of four Progressions).

It's up to you, the writer, to determine how much you want to go into detail for your story.

Detailed Story Structure

When you first Add a Narrative to a story, Subtxt figures out the essential--or key--Storybeats for your narrative. These initial Beats are essential for communicating the essence of your Dramatic Argument (what Dramatica theory refers to as a Storyform).

Leave one or two of these progressions out, and you risk losing your Audience. Repeat the same item over and over again, and you risk beating your Audience over the head with your message.

An Incomplete Story with Various Progressions and Events

It's a tender balancing act, and one that you'll come to know intuitively the more you work with Subtxt.

Scope, Scale, and Size

If you're writing a screenplay, you likely won't need to breakdown the Transits for the Obstacle Character or the Relationship Story Throughlines. In fact, we strongly suggest you don't.

A Complete Story with a Typical Arrangement for Most Feature Films

On the other hand, if you're writing a novel, or longform television series, breaking down Transits and Progressions will give you the material and inspiration you need to fill in your story's larger storytelling real estate.

A Complete Story with All Transits, Progressions, and Events

If you're writing a short story, we absolutely recommend you don't breakdown any of the Transits. In fact, you're probably best served turning off some of the Throughlines. You can learn more in our section on Writing Short Stories.

Breaking Down a Storybeat

Subtxt will let you know whether or not it can breakdown a Storybeat by providing a button in the Detail section of each Storybeat.

A Storybeat with Breakdowns Available

In the example above, the Transit of Conscious can be broken down into four Progressions.

Simply click on the breakdown button (marked either "Progressions" or "Events") and Subtxt will automagically add the four Breakdown Storybeats.

A Transit Broken Down into Progressions

You'll find that the Progression button has disappeared from the original Transit, indiciating the Breakdown. In addition, those four Progressions underneath are visually attached to their parent Transit. In order to further the connection, you'll find the original "parent" Storybeat listed as context after the words "while" in the "children" Storybeats.

It's important that you always remember the context for a broken down Storybeat. Storybeats always work in concert with the Storybeats around it. By maintaining that frame of reference as you discover and imagine creative ways to write this Storybeat, you ensure that the integrity of your story's Dramatic Argument reamains intact.

Deleting a Breakdown Storybeat

Occasionally, you may find that the Breakdown Storybeats are too detailed for your story. You may only want one or two of these breakdowns. This is a perfectly legit approach and won't disrupt the integrity of your narrative.

Think of your narrative as a range of mountain peaks. Sure, you can zoom in and see the trees and the rocks and maybe a bear or two, but if you leave out a bear or even a couple trees, you'll still see a mountain. Same thing with your story--the initial 'big' Storybeats are far more important than the smaller Breakdown Beats when communicating your story's Dramatic Argument.

You delete a smaller Storybeat the same way you delete the larger ones. Select "Edit" at the top of the Storybeat tab and then tap the red "minus" icon to the left of the Storybeat.

If a larger parent Storybeat contains smaller children Storybeats, Subtxt will ask you ahead of time if you want to erase those Storybeats as well. Note that once you delete a Storybeat, any and all storytelling attached to it will be lost.

Illustrating the Children of a Storybeat

When it comes to illustrating the broken-down, or children, Storybeats of a parent Storybeat, writers can benefit from taking and outside-in approach that honors the meaning of a Storybeat over the linear progression of beats that appear within.

The Dramatic Circuit Analogy

Think of each Transit or Progression as a dramatic circuit, such that the energy of the narrative flows in through the first child Storybeat and then exits out that circuit through the last Storybeat. The middle two Storybeats simply process, or work through, the narrative energy as it transmutates from beginning to end.

You might have heard this referred to as "turning a scene" elsewhere, or you might know this as the concept of "negative" and "positive" scenes, such that one enters a scene with a positive charge, and then leaves with a negative charge (or vice versa).

The reason others have picked up on this in the past is that, for the most part, the first and last Storybeat of a Progression or Transit are typically polar opposites of a Dynamic Pair. When viewed within the context of the Dramatica quad, energy arrives into the scene in the upper left quadrant, and then exits out through the bottom quadrant.

The Outside-In Approach

When illustrating a Transit or Progression, consider these first and last Storybeats first, and then proceed inward to address the other two. In this way, the writer ensures a consistency of thematic integrity towards the parent Storybeat (either Transit or Progression).

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