Tracking the Beats of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary

Robin D. Laws, in his excellent book Hamlet’s Hit Points, walks readers through upward and downward beats in Shakespeare’s iconic work. By identifying the rising and falling moods of the play, Laws tracks how Shakespeare keeps a narrative alive and interesting, the true opposite of “flat,” an adjective usually deployed to describe narrative works that don’t keep their audience on a roller coaster of rising and falling emotions. Laws works in Tabletop Role-playing Games, among other pursuits, and Hamlet’s Hit Points is intended for game masters who want to make their game sessions as narratively gripping as Hamlet, Dr. No, or Casablanca, the three different works of fiction presented as examples. Here is an image of a simple narrative structure Laws imagines for a game session:

Laws identifies different beat types (outlined above, in the header image) that comprise a narrative: procedural, dramatic, commentary (oops, didn’t get that one in the header image!), anticipation, gratification, bringdown, pipe, question, and reveal, then couples those beats with transitional sections that imply rising, falling, or static emotional movement. The result? A visual representation of how narrative works. It’s a powerful tool for both analyzing and crafting story. We built a quick version for the second half of Andy Weir’d Project Hail Mary, which we talk about during our final episode on the book, released last week. Like what you see or have a question? Shoot us a note at

Hamlet’s Hit Points Icons and Arrows by Gameplaywright LLP and Craig S. Grant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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