Friday, February 10, 2012

Fiction Friday: A Look at Twilight's Plot a la Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet

There are many ways to analyze plot structure in novels, plays and movies. The one I'm most familiar with are the Act/Scene/Beat breakdown taught by Robert McKee in his book Story and in his seminars.

Another, one that's probably a little easier for the neophyte, is the beat sheet shared by the late screenwriter Blake Snyder in his book, Save the Cat.

If you're interested in learning to plot better, you can't find a better place to start than with Snyder's book.

The table below represents Snyder's Beat Sheet, which assumes a 110-page script. I was looking at the trade paperback version of Twilight, which ran 498 pages. Because Snyder recommended that certain things happen at specific intervals in a movie script, I've listed the appropriate page numbers from the script and applied a multiplier of 4.54 to calculate a similar spot in the book.

Where Twilight varies from Snyder's recommended placement of a beat, I've indicated the suggested spot with a strike-through, followed by the actual page number(s). As you can see, up to about the midpoint, Meyer sticks pretty close to Snyder's beats, then blazes her own trail. Which is interesting, because it's that last quarter of the book that has all the action. It's relatively cerebral up to that point.

Also, Twilight doesn't really have much of a B story. For lack of anything better, I treated the "Bella settles in at a new high school" as the B story, but it doesn't get much page time.

Note: In a normal book/movie the A and B stories get switched when you move from the printed page to the screen. This is because the A story in a novel tends to occur too much inside the protagonist's head to translate well to the screen. The B story tends to be more action-oriented, which works a lot better for film.

Script Page Twilight Page Beat What Should Be Happening
1 5 Opening Image Foreshadowing of James attacking Bella
15 68 Theme Stated "That was the first night I dreamed of Edward Cullen."
12 55 Catalyst Edward risks exposing himself as a vampire when he saves Bella from being crushed by Eric's van
12-25 55-114 Debate Bella tries to figure out how she feels about Edward Cullen
25 114 Break into Two Jacob tells Bella about "the cold ones" and Bella realizes Edward is a vampire.
30 136 B Story Bella goes to Port Angeles with Jessica and Angela
30-55 136-250 Fun and Games Edward rescues Bella from the rapists; he and Bella spend the day alone in the meadow
55 250 286 Midpoint Edward finally commits to not kill Bella (a high point in any relationship)
55-75 250-341 427 Bad Guys Close In Rosalie doesn't like Bella; James catches a whiff of Bella and begins to hunt her
75 341 427 All is Lost James claims to have Bella's Mom hostage
85 386 440 Dark Night of the Soul/td>
Bella thinks about all the stuff she's losing as deliberately walks into James' trap
85 386 452 Break into Three Edward arrives to save Bella
85-110 386 452-500 Finale Bella and Edward go to the Prom
110 500 Final Image "...and he leanded down to press his cold lips once more to my throat."

Next week: Acts/Scenes/Beats (different kind) value changes and rising action.


  1. My first thought...books do not pop out ready-made from a writer's head. Writing a book isn't that easy. I am glad lots of people are willing to spend time writing because I love reading.

  2. I love your Twilight analysis. I'm fascinated by the plot of the series, because while there is so much that is mock-worthy, the plot is pretty riveting.


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