Scrivener And “Save The Cat!”
In a previous post, I mentioned that I structure all of my fiction work using Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat!” structure model.
Some of my readers might have wondered what such a structure looks like in Scrivener. Those of you who also use the “Save The Cat!” structuring method might also be aware that there is an app that bears the name “Save The Cat!” which is dedicated purely to this story structuring model.
Now, it’s not my intention to take sales away from that app — for what it’s designed to do, it’s fantastic. But what it’s designed to do is one thing, and really one thing only: allow writers to create story structure for screenplays, then export those structures to applications like Final Draft.
But if you can recreate the philosophy that underlies that application, Scrivener expands that workflow, allowing you to not only create your structure — and not just for screenplays, but for novels and even short stories — but then write your story based on it, all in the same application. I believe that I’ve found a way to do just that.
“Save The Cat!” incorporates just over a dozen must-have plot points into its structure. Briefly, these are:
Opening Image: This is where your hero begins. We see his flaws, and we also see that if something about his life doesn’t change, he’s on the road to ruin.
Theme Stated: This is the fundamental theme of your hero’s upcoming transformative adventure, often (though not always) openly stated in dialogue at this point.
Setup: We explore the hero’s flaws and mundane trials, at work, at play and/or at home.
Catalyst: The event that sets the bigger problem in front of the hero.
Debate: This is where the hero resists tackling the bigger problem.
Break Into 2: This is where the hero chooses — and it must be a proactive choice — to tackle the big problem.
B Story: This is where the hero meets the character he’ll be fighting for.
Fun & Games: This is where, as Blake Snyder described it, we realize the “promise of the premise”; another way he described it is that this is where all of the things you’d see in the movie trailer come from.
Midpoint: The hero has a significant false victory or false defeat here. A clock generally starts ticking here, as well.
Bad Guys Close In: The pressure is amplified in this section as the villain(s) discover the superhero’s secret identity, metaphorically speaking, and close in on hitting him right where it will hurt the most.
All Is Lost: And here is where they hit him right where it hurts the most.
Dark Night Of The Soul: Here the hero, utterly defeated, mourns the death of (x). (x) could be the person he was fighting for, but more importantly, it’s the death of his original worldview. Everything he believed in has just been ripped into shreds and pissed on by the villain.
Break Into 3: The hero hears that whisper in the back of his mind repeating what he was told at the Theme Stated point, and it rejuvenates him, gives him the will to make his final stand, win or lose. This is the place where Neo begins to really believe that he is The One, to use an example.
Finale: This is where the final battle is fought, whether the battle is physical or more subtle. There will still be small victories followed by small defeats, and the victories and defeats continue to ascend in intensity until the final victory — or the final defeat, depending on which ending you prefer.
Final Image: This is the immediate aftermath of the final victory (or final defeat) where we see how the hero has transformed due to his adventure. Looked at in a certain light, for example, Darth Vader is actually the hero of Return of the Jedi, because he had the most dramatic transformation, from ruthless Sith Lord back to a remorseful Annakin Skywalker longing to connect with his son as his last living act.
So! What do those story beats look like in Scrivener? Like this:
You can see that, while some of those beats are single documents, some are folders. That’s because some beats, such as “Setup”, actually include several parts. For example, in that Scrivener project, “Setup” is actually composed of the following:
Setup – Home
Setup – Work
Setup – Play
I didn’t include “Theme Stated” as a distinct document, because Theme Stated, as a plot point, is both intentionally subtle and incredibly brief. It appears during the “Setup – Work” beat as a single line of dialogue that gets noticed and reflected on for just a tiny moment, but will be called back to later.
For those who are new to the “Save The Cat!” method and would like more information, I encourage you to pick up Blake Snyder’s book, “Save The Cat!” It explains the method in greater detail, and provides examples of how the biggest and best films of the 20th and 21st centuries incorporate the same story beats I’ve related to you here. You can find it at http://www.blakesnyder.com
And if you haven’t yet picked up your copy of Scrivener for Mac or Windows, you can try before you buy. Just go to http://www.literatureandlatte.com
Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.