In Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer,the author defines the term “beats” as small units of character action and reaction.
Beats are, “the way we break down events into small steps of action, making it possible to evaluate whether those steps move the action effectively toward the culmination of the scene.”
Scofield recommends jotting down the beats of each scene before we write or before we revise in order to have a clear vision of where the scene is going. If we have a sticky or muddy scene, this exercise can help clarify the scene and make it stronger. Having the beats of a scene clearly thought out also makes it easier to control pacing and review the logic of the scene. Read more