East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Hamlet, James Bond and Rick Blaine


A new book in my ever-growing collection of volumes about writing, Hamlet’s Hit Points is somewhat different, because it is a book at least nominally aimed at game masters willing to improve the structure of their roleplaying scenarios, upping their game. But in laying down the foundations of a system to structurally map stories, Robin D. Laws manages to create a tool that works for games, for fiction and for movies/screenplays.

The basic building block of the system is the concept of “beats”, which is derived by cinema: a beat is a portion of a scene in which something specific happens, bringing the action forward or laying the foundation for some forthcoming event.

Once we see our story as a series of beats, each with its purpose and its direction, it becomes easy to see symmetries and to map the flow of our story, thus revealing strengths and weaknesses of the plot.

To illustrate his method, Robin D. Laws analyzes three well-known stories: Hamlet, Dr No and Casablanca, mapping out the development and the ups and downs of the reader’s tension as the stories unfold.

I am notoriously a sucker for structure, and I’ve found this book extremely useful as a tool to look at my writing (and my scenario writing, and mastering) from a different angle.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Hamlet, James Bond and Rick Blaine

  1. Thanks for the review. It sounds like a useful book. I’m re-reading Word Painting. The first time I tried, I was too new at writing, and it was too advanced. I’m getting more out of it this time.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.