Edits By Knight

What is an Action Beat?

    An action beat is a sentence, usually fairly short, used to describe the movement of your characters during dialogue. Beats can also indicate the tempo of the dialogue and tone of your character’s voice, adding gaps, pauses, and changes in pitch or timbre. Without them, your characters’ conversations will fall flat—which means your readers will get bored.

The Role of Action Beats in Dialogue

    People move during conversations. They gesture, clear their throats, pace, and stop to think. Their facial expressions change, as does their body language. It all depends on how they feel about what they’re saying—or what another person has just said. If you don’t add action beats to your dialogue, you’ll end up with something that feels like a script or transcription.

     Action beats should not be included in the same sentence as a line of dialogue itself (unless a tag appears as well.) You should, however, put the beat in the same paragraph as the dialogue of the character performing the activity.

Examples of simple action beats:

  • He sighed.
  • She turned.
  • They waved.
  • She pointed.
  • They smiled.
  • He paused.

     Since you don’t have the luxury of relying on actors to bring your dialogue to life, you must help your readers visualize what’s happening while your characters converse. Your reader depends on you to set the scene, so give them something to feed their imagination!

     Be sure to check out the rest of the basics of using dialogue tags, and visit visit my blog’s main page to find more tips and tricks for editors, writers, and freelancers!

Miko lives in North Alabama with their husband, Mark—two bright blue dots in a really red state. The pair have three cats, Henry, Louise, and Jefferson Twilight, and live the quiet and satisfying lives of two nerdy introverts. The work-from-home lifestyle is perfect for Miko, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism in their late thirties.

     In their spare time, Miko enjoys gardening, playing the piano, singing, playing JRPGs, Tabletop gaming, and (of course) reading.

For more about me, visit my blog here.

Miko lives in North Alabama with their husband, Mark—two bright blue dots in a really red state. The pair have three cats, Henry, Louise, and Jefferson Twilight, and live the quiet and satisfying lives of two nerdy introverts. The work-from-home lifestyle is perfect for Miko, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism in their late thirties.

     In their spare time, Miko enjoys gardening, playing the piano, singing, playing JRPGs, Tabletop gaming, and (of course) reading.

For more about me, visit my blog here.