I've been reading about beats and writing for a few years now. Well, I haven't been reading much about it, because I can't make heads nor tails of it.
But a guest post at Cynsations by Deborah Halverson (who, it turns out, is a Facebook friend) on narrative beats makes some sense. "Narrative beats are those little breathers in dialogue, sometimes filled simply with speaking tags like he said, she said. They’re rhythmic beats in conversations."
Okay. I'm with her so far.
Halverson says those breathers in dialogue should reveal something about character. Again, I get that. Because every word in a story should support your story, and this is a way to do that. However, Halverson...wait...I should say Deborah, because we're Facebook friends...says that many writers waste the opportunity to reveal character by using this breather with filler, such as having a character smile, frown, laugh or synonyms for same. To be clear, she uses the following example:
Beth looked at him. “No. I want to go, too.”
The word "looked" doesn't reveal anything about character. It's just filler.
I get this, too, because I do it! I'm always having characters turn to someone, smile, etc., in order to avoid using dialogue tags like "she said." I thought I was onto something. But I've got to rethink this now.
I'm still lost on some of this other beat stuff. But I'm definitely going to work on replacing filler with revelation.