Never forget the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet again!

A movie theater with gaudy neon signs.

I recently read Unlimited Memory: How To Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and Be More Productive. Most of the strategies boiled down to finding the techniques that work for helping you visualize your desired information in a vivid way, then associating it with other things that you already know well. I thought I’d try out one of the techniques, called Spaces in Places, to remember the details of the three-act structure outlined in Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder. My end result looked a little more like a story than the often exaggeratedly nonsensical examples in the book, and it has indeed made it easy to remember all the parts of the transformation machine!

Since the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (the BS2) is designed for screenplays, I decided to associate it with going to the movies. First, I free-wrote about all the things that might involve:

You enter the building, buy a ticket, give it to the ticket person, locate the theater, go to the bathroom, buy something at the concession stand, look at the posters, play an arcade game, enter the theater, find your seat, sit down, watch the ads, watch the previews, turn off your phone, open the candy, drink the pop, have some popcorn. You watch the movie, then stand up, get your purse, throw away your stuff, and leave the theater.

And now, the finished memory aid:

Act One: Entering the theater

Opening Image: The glorious movie theater looms ahead of you. This glittering building promises a few hours of escapism, transporting you elsewhere.

Theme Stated: The theme of the movie you want to see is the title, such as “Friendship is Great” or “Love Conquers All.” It’s on the marquee.

Set-Up: To get into the right mood for the movie and enter into the world of fun, you go to the movie arcade.

At Home: You have the first game at home already. You don’t need to play it here, too.

At Work: This game is too hard for you — it’s too much like work.

At Play: This game makes you feel so happy, it’s fun to play, and so you play it for a few rounds.

Catalyst: You bought your ticket online, and you show the ticket collector your phone and get a ticket. There’s no going back now: you are officially seeing the movie!

Debate: Should you go see the movie you bought the ticket for, or should you sneak into another movie? You hold a debate about it.

Break Into Two: You decide to go see the original movie, and you locate the theater where it’s being shown. The name of the movie is up above the door, and the worker just finished cleaning it.

Act 2 to Midpoint

B Story: You see someone who’s always been a jerk to you going into the same movie theater. Now your attention is split between your fun time at the movie theater and the person you don’t like. Will there be conflict between you? Will you be able to hide from them and hope they don’t see you? It’s a subplot in your own life!

Fun And Games: You avoid them for a little while by having some fun playing another video game, then looking at all the posters and cardboard cut outs and losing at the claw game.

Midpoint: You need to perform the most important of all movie rituals: getting some popcorn, candy and a drink from the concession stand! 

Act 2, Part 2: Antithesis

Bad Guys Close In: When you get back to the movie theater, your nemesis is sitting in YOUR seat. When you ask him to move, he steals your popcorn and spills your drink all over you.

All Is Lost: What a mess you are! You’re covered with pop and your nemesis is LOLing and eating YOUR popcorn. You run off in tears.

Dark Night Of The Soul: You hide in the bathroom, feeling ashamed and powerless. He always makes you feel like the biggest idiot in the world. This is probably because you were bullied as a child. But you’re an adult now, and you can deal with him on your own terms.

Break Into Three: You’re not going to let him push you around anymore! You splash some water on your face and stride out of the bathroom.

Act 3: Synthesis

Five Step Finale

Gathering The Team: You take five steps towards the team of ushers. You ask them for help, and they’re happy to help get your nemesis out of your seat.

Executing the Plan: The ushers come up with a plan and prepare to execute it. You follow the ushers back into the theater, and they ask him to move.

The High Tower Surprise: But your nemesis shows the usher his ticket — which is YOUR ticket! He pickpocketed it from you while you were distracted by his stealing your popcorn. Now you’re the one who looks like you’re trying to steal his seat! He raises a big fuss about it and acts all high and mighty, thinking he can cow you into giving up.

Dig Deep Down/Touched by the divine: You’re not intimidated by him anymore. Even if you’re still covered in pop, you no longer see him as your nemesis: he’s just a sad little man trying to cause trouble. So you can keep a clear head instead of running off to the bathroom again.

Execution of the New Plan: You’re going to make a new plan and execute it. You pull out your phone and show the usher that the seat was originally yours. The usher throws out your nemesis.

Final Image: You reclaim your stolen popcorn and eat it merrily as the movie starts.

With this little story, I memorized each part of the beat sheet easily, using the suggested method of reviewing it 10 minutes after I’d learned it, then after an hour, then after a day, then after three days. The author suggests you also review after 7, 14 21, 28 days, after 2 months and after 3 months, but I wasn’t that dedicated in my reviewing schedule. You can tell which ones I had trouble remembering, because I’d go back and put trigger words in my story. For example, ‘Gathering The Team’ is part of the Five Step Finale, and to remember that I added “You take five steps toward the team of ushers.” The examples in the book tend to be more exaggerated — it would be just as valid to remember the “High Tower Surprise” by magically transporting you and your nemesis to a high tower. But I liked trying to turn it into a coherent story.

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