Writing Raven


At the Crossroads: The 5th Beat in Fiction

This year, Writing Raven Author Solutions is breaking down the 15 beats of writing a bestselling novel based on the three-act structure for you.

Remember The Clash song, Should I Stay or I Should I Go? (https://youtu.be/BN1WwnEDWAM?si=jAkwaI1RCBfaj36j)

That’s the question your Main Character must ask in the fifth beat of your story.

If you’ve created a strong burning-down-the-house moment in Beat 4 (your burning-down-the-house moment), they have no choice but to answer the call and move on to the next stage of their journey.

What is the Debate?

In Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat method, the Debate marks the final beat of Act 1. It’s a crucial moment where your protagonist faces a decision: to answer the call to action or to remain in their current state. Doubts, fears, and desires collide, setting the stage for the adventure ahead.

Why is it Important?

The Debate serves as a narrative crossroads, propelling your story into Act 2 with momentum and purpose. It injects tension and conflict, keeping your audience engaged and invested in your protagonist’s journey. By confronting internal and external conflicts head-on, your main character undergoes a transformative moment, paving the way for growth and discovery.

How to Utilize Internal and External Conflicts

To master the Debate, consider your protagonist’s internal and external conflicts. What are their deepest desires? What fears hold them back? By delving into these elements, you can craft a compelling decision that resonates with your audience.

For instance, imagine a protagonist, Alice, dreaming of adventure beyond her mundane life. However, her fear of leaving her comfort zone and disappointing her family holds her back. In the Debate, she must confront these conflicting emotions: to stay or to embark on the unknown journey down the rabbit hole that beckons her.

Exercise: Fill in the Blanks

  1. My Main Character’s Desire: This should be in your opening

  2. Their Greatest Fear: Now that their everyday world is upended, what do they fear? How will moving forward conquer that fear?

  3. Decision: In the Debate, my MC must decide whether to [insert decision to stay and how that might look now that you’ve burned down their house] or [insert alternative decision showing what they might face if they move toward their desire].

Completing this exercise will give you insight into your protagonist’s inner workings, setting the stage for a captivating Debate that propels your story forward. Don’t be afraid to do the exercise more than once, digging deeper until you force your MC to confront their darkest fears, whether they stay or go.

For a great story, they must go!

Remember, the Debate isn’t just a choice; it’s a gateway to adventure and transformation. Allow your MC to embrace the uncertainty, and let your protagonist’s journey unfold with courage and conviction.

⭐️ If you’d like more examples + exercises to help you build an effective Beat 5, upgrade to paid for premium content!

Scribble on, Scribble Strong,


The Writing Ravens


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