Save the Cat is the most famous storytelling structure by far. The book proved to be a massive financial success leading many to believe that Save the Cat is the default structure of all stories. Without a doubt, Save the Cat is an ideal place for a beginner and functions as a great introduction to storytelling.
Opening Image: A strong thematic image to start.
Theme Stated: At some point near the beginning, the theme of the script is stated.
Set-Up: Plot work to set-up the rest of the story.
Catalyst: The incident that sets the adventure in motion.
Debate: The protagonist is reluctant to begin their journey.
Break into Two: A plot point (often a change in location) that indicates the adventure has begun.
B Story: A secondary story begins, often a love interest.
Fun and Games: The promise of the premise. If this is an action movie, have your best action setpiece here.
Midpoint: A plot point that raises the stakes and changes the direction of the story.
Bad Guys Close In: The antagonistic force applies pressure on the protagonist.
All is Lost: The protagonist fails in a gambit and is sent spiralling.
Dark Night of the Soul: An introspective moment where the protagonist wonders how they got to where they are.
Break into Three: A thematic or plot revelation spurs the protagonist forward, reinvigorating them.
Finale: The final setpieces where the story concludes.
Final Image: The final image of the screenplay.
Pros and Cons
Simple and clean. There’s no fluff and everything has a clear purpose in the layout.
Offers a strong introduction to storytelling structure.
Allows the intrepid screenwriter to rewatch films they’re familiar and better understand how their favourite stories function.
A little too didactic. In the book, Snyder is adamant that plot points must fall on specific pages. This can lead to a lot of hamstrung screenplays.
Lacks nuance. Unlike some other structures, Snyder has no interest in exploring why these beats are organized like this. This makes the whole idea feel arbitrary.
Save the Cat only accounts for mainstream Hollywood movies (though, not unanimously). Try applying Save the Cat to something out of the mainstream and you’re going to have a lot of trouble.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Use Case: If you’re just starting out, writing a screenplay while using Save the Cat can help you grasp the basics and churn out a story that has a strong backbone.
A paperback version of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder book can be found on Amazon here.
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