Writing Action Beats

Action Beats

Action beats are short modifiers before or after a piece of dialogue that describe what the character is doing in relationship to what the character is saying. Beats can be used effectively to change the pacing within a longer dialogue stream. Use them sparsely, at just the right moments, and they can add a great deal of texture to dialogue. Use them too frequently, and they will detract from the dialogue. Example:

“Look at me.” 

“I’m looking at you.”

“No. Look. At. Me.” She moved her face to three inches from his.

“Okay. I see you. What?”

Writing ExerciseAction Beats Writing Exercise

Choose a longer section of dialogue from a work already written. The section should have at least five lines of dialogue. Now, remove all dialogue tags—she said, he said—and give one line of dialogue an action beat. The action beat should communicate both character gesture and mood. Rewrite the dialogue so that it is clear who is speaking in each line without the need for dialogue tags. Also, study the introductory paragraph and closing paragraph so that the narrative flows both in and out of dialogue in a manner consistent with the intended atmosphere of the scene.

Submit to Eckleburg

We accept previously unpublished and polished prose up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise.  We are always looking for tightly woven short works under 2,000 words and short-shorts around 500 words. No multiple submissions but simultaneous is fine as long as you withdraw the submission asap through the submissions system. During the summer and winter months, we run our Writers Are Readers, Too, fundraiser when submissions are open only to subscribers. During the fall and spring, we open submissions for regular unsolicited submissions.

Note: We consider fiction, poetry and essays that have appeared in print, online magazines, public forums, and public access blogs as already being published. Rarely do we accept anything already published and then only by solicitation. We ask that work published at Eckleburg not appear elsewhere online, and if republished in print, original publication credit is given to The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. One rare exception is our annual Gertrude Stein Award, which allows for submissions of previously published work, both online and print. Submit your work.

Eckleburg Workshops

Take advantage of our $5 work-at-your-own-pace writing workshops where you can create new work as well as fine tune work you’ve already written. Fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and more, Eckleburg Workshops offer writing prompts and craft techniques that will take your work to the next level. 

Work with a Reedsy Editor for Individualized Attention

Submit your work for developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, editorial assessment and more at Reedsy.com, where hundreds of experienced, awarded writers and editors are ready to read your work and help you make it the best it can be.

Action Beats Sources

Developmental Editing: Characterization

Developmental editing is the first phase in the editorial process when the writer and/or editor focuses on structural elements within the narrative including but not limited to characterization. See below for tips on editing characterization.

Editing Characterization: Amalgamation

Each character must earn his/her/their space on the page. If a character isn’t working on multiple levels then cut the character or amalgamate the character with another.

Character amalgamation is a fantastic way to build complex, three-dimensional characters. In our first drafts, we often write too many characters as we are discovering what the narrative wants to be, and this is okay. This is a helpful process as we create. However, upon developmental revision, one of our first focuses should be delineating which characters are essential and three-dimensional and which characters are flat and unnecessary. Amalgamation is a helpful tool in editing characterization. 

Editing Characterization: Divine Details

All characters, when first introduced, should come with one or more “divine details,” something iconic, striking and memorable — e.g., gesture, quirk, scar, etc. If you are having difficulty figuring out how to introduce a character with divine details, the narrative might be better served by cutting or amalgamating the character with another. Fleshing out divine details is an important focus in editing characterization.

One on One Developmental Editing

This is our One on One Workshop option through Reedsy, where you can receive editorial feedback for your manuscript of any genre and length. Submitting your work to Reedsy for editorial feedback is not submitting to our journal or any other journal for publication consideration.

  • developmental edits
  • copy edits
  • line edits
  • proofreading
  • end notes.


The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review

If you are looking to submit to our journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, please click here. When you submit to Eckleburg, we promise to give your work our undivided attention and reading. We regret that we do not have time and resources to give individual editorial feedback on your publication submissions to the journal.

The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review was founded in 2010 as an online and print literary and arts journal. We take our title from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and include the full archives of our predecessor Moon Milk Review. Our aesthetic is eclectic, literary mainstream to experimental. We appreciate fusion forms including magical realist, surrealist, meta- realist and realist works with an offbeat spin. We value character-focused storytelling and language and welcome both edge and mainstream with punch aesthetics. We like humor that explores the gritty realities of world and human experiences. Our issues include original content from both emerging and established writers, poets, artists and comedians such as authors, Rick Moody, Cris Mazza, Steve Almond, Stephen Dixon, poets, Moira Egan and David Wagoner and actor/comedian, Zach Galifianakis.

Currently, Eckleburg runs online, daily content of original fiction, poetry, nonfiction, translations, and more with featured artwork–visual and intermedia–from our Gallery. We run annual print issues, the Eckleburg Reading Series (DC, Baltimore and New York), as well as, the annual Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction, first prize $1000 and print publication, guest-judged by award-winning authors such as Rick Moody and Cris Mazza.

We have collaborated with a number of talented and high profile literary, art and intermedia organizations in DC, Baltimore and New York including The Poetry Society of New York, KGB Bar, Brazenhead Books, New World Writing (formerly Mississippi Review Online), The Hopkins Review, Boulevard, Gargoyle Magazine, Entasis Press, Barrelhouse, Hobart, 826DC, DC Litand Iowa’s Mission Creek Festival at AWP 2013, Boston, for a night of raw comedic lit and music. We like to promote smaller indie presses, galleries, musicians and filmmakers alongside globally recognized organizations, as well as, our local, national and international contributors.

Rarely will readers/viewers find a themed issue at Eckleburg, but rather a mix of eclectic works. It is Eckleburg’s intention to represent writers, artists, musicians, and comedians as a contemporary and noninvasive collective, each work evidence of its own artistry, not as a reflection of an editor’s vision of what an issue “should” be. Outside of kismet and special issues, Eckleburg will read and accept unsolicited submissions based upon individual merit, not theme cohesiveness. It is our intention to create an experience in which readers and viewers can think artistically, intellectually, socially, and independently. We welcome brave, honest voices. To submit, please read our guidelines.

Over the ashheaps the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil, but I perceived, after a moment, that other eyes were regarding us with peculiar intensity from less than twenty feet away. – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald


Through her beautifully written book THE FOREVER LETTER, Rabbi Elana Zaiman guides readers of all faiths to acknowledge, celebrate, and share their values, wisdom and love in powerful and lasting ways with the people who matter to them most.

Based on the old Jewish tradition of an Ethical Will where elders shared their values and wisdom with the next generation, Elana brings this beautiful practice into the 21st century, making it accessible to people of all ages and cultures. THE FOREVER LETTER offers readers inspiring example letters, motivational stories, and an easy to follow step-by-step process to help them write and share their forever letters. The book is a perfect gift for holidays and rites of passage like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, confirmations, graduations, marriage, and the birth of a child.

THE FOREVER LETTER has received high praise from authors and speakers Jack Canfield (Co-Author, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”) and Parker Palmer (Author, “Your Life Speak”), relationships’ expert Julie Schwartz Gottman (the Gottman Institute), clergy including Rabbi Sherre Hirsch (Author, “Thresholds: How to Thrive Through Life’s Transitions to Live Fearlessly and Regret-Free”) and Rev. Susan Sparks, (Author, “Laugh Your Way to Grace”), ethics expert Michael Josephson (Josephson Institute of Ethics), Barbara Isenhour (Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney), Carolyn McClanahan, MD., CFP (Life Planning Partners, Inc.), and Priscilla Long (Author, “Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”)

THE FOREVER LETTER (ISBN: 978-0-7387-5288-4) is published by Llewellyn Worldwide and is available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other fine bookstores or ordered directly from Llewellyn.

What People Are Saying about THE FOREVER LETTER

“More than any time in our recent history, it’s critically important for families to come together and share their love and support for one another. Elana Zaiman’s The Forever Letter offers tools, guidelines and examples for grandparents and parents to share their love, respect and values with the next generation.”
-Jack Canfield, Co-Author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul® and The Success Principles™

I love this little book because it’s about writing real letters, a lost art in our time. Even more important, it’s about writing letters that matter to people who matter to us. What could be better than putting words to paper to tell people who we are and what we are becoming, and what it is that we cherish and value—thanking them for the way they helped point us toward our own North Star? Buy or borrow this deeply human book, and use it to write the letter of your life!

—Parker J. Palmer Author of “Let Your Life Speak”, “A Hidden Wholeness”, “Healing the Heart of Democracy”, and “The Courage to Teach”

Rabbi Zaiman showed me that forever letters are one of the most important gifts we can give to people we love and care about. Leaving words from our heart is just as important as passing on our material possessions. I will be recommending this book to clients and friends.

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Publisher’s Information

  • PUBLISHER: Llewellyn Worldwide
  • ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-7387-5288-4
  • PAGES: 240]
  • PRICE: $16.99
  • RELEASE DATE: 09/08/2017

Recommended Works by Rabbi Elana Zaiman

Favorite Eckleburg Work: https://eckleburg.org/readingseries/vipra-ghimire/

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The most powerful and important book I’ve ever read. It changed my perspective about how change ‘really’ happens. READ MORE

“Light of the Desert” by Lucette Walters

Amazing book about a Muslim woman who escapes a mercy killing by her father. READ MORE

Discussion Questions for THE FOREVER LETTER

1. What are the most important values that you live and want to make sure that your children and grandchildren carry on in their lives?

2. How do you ask a loved one for forgiveness and how do you put that in a letter that is read and accepted?

3. What was the most important letter you ever wrote and how was it received?

About Rabbi Elana Zaiman

Author Elana Zaiman (Seattle, WA) is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. She’s also a chaplain and travels throughout the US and Canada as a scholar-in-residence, speaker, and workshop facilitator. Visit her at www.ElanaZaiman.com.