Emulating film in writing is an easy trap to fall into. Overly long descriptions of complex settings and impartial narration as though attempting to show what a camera would see. But to write fiction in this manner is to sell yourself short. No one can portray a story in a film-like manner as well as film itself can. I’m not saying you can’t tell about the same story, the same characters, the same events. But you need to tell it differently to reach its full potential.
To me, beats serve three main purposes:
1. attribution: lets you know who is saying what.
2. characterization: actions speak louder than words, this can betray a lie, show nervous habits, convey more subtle communication between characters, any number of other things.
3. pacing. A longer beat conveys a longer moment of time between speech.
“But I’m upset, Susan!!” Brandon countermanded huffily. “I have to use exclamation points!!!”
Susan shook her head. “No you don’t. If the dialogue’s written well enough, the tension of the words will come through to the reader. If you use too many exclamation points, people will accuse you of trying to inject tension in with punctuation instead of writing it in. And multiple exclamation points at the end of a single sentence is a sign of a mentally unbalanced individual. Ask Terry Pratchett.”