Ara Grigorian &
Janis Thomas

Story Beats — Your Story’s Heartbeat

Understanding story beats, the heartbeat of great stories

9:00-11:30 AM
RM 269

Course Description

Great novels have one thing in common — a great story! But what is story? It’s not just plot and not just character. Instead it’s how that specific plot transforms that specific protagonist. A great story eases us directly into the pages, makes us experience the transformation, and, by the end, shows us something new about being human. 

This workshop will illuminate the concept of story beats to show how to become a better storyteller by looking at your favorite works (books, movies, etc.), like a surgeon, until you see the inherent patterns that make all stories flow. Story beats are the events, the decisions, or discoveries that alter the way our protagonist pursues his or her goals. Understanding the core beats that all great stories share is a critical tool in fostering your evolution as a better storyteller. And the secret sauce is in understanding how theme—the heart of the story—is the reason our protagonist must take this journey.


Ara Grigorian is the award-winning author of Game of Love (2015) and Ten Year Dance (2017), his critically-acclaimed, second novel. Ara is a technology executive in the entertainment industry. True to the Hollywood life, Ara wrote for a children’s television pilot that could have made him rich (but didn’t) and nearly sold a video game to a major publisher (who closed shop days later). Fascinated by the human species, Ara writes about choices, relationships, and second chances. Always a sucker for a hopeful ending, he writes contemporary romance stories. He’s a public speaker and a workshop leader for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Southern California Writers’ Conference, Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, and others. Ara is represented by Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group.

Janis Thomas is the author of bestselling What Remains True (Lake Union, 2017) and the upcoming All That’s Left of Me (June 2018). She’s written three critically-acclaimed, humorous women's fiction novels, Something New, Sweet Nothings, and Say Never. Award-winning Murder in A-Minor is the first in her musical murder mystery series. Janis has written over fifty songs, and two children’s books, which she wrote with her dad. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, Janis likes to play tennis, sing with her sister, and throw lavish dinner parties with wild menus for friends and loved ones. She lives in Southern California with her husband, their two beautiful children and two crazy dogs.