At the weekend, I read Katie Fforde’s latest book, A Springtime Affair. When a kitten was rescued in the very first chapter, it reminded me of Save the Cat! I doubt that Katie Fforde has read Save the Cat! but judging by the number of articles on the internet, it’s a very popular concept when trying to devise a plot.
The term Save the Cat! was coined by screenwriter Blake Snyder to describe the moment in a story when the protagonist shows that they’re worth rooting for by, for example, saving a cat. Snyder came up with a 15 “beat” structure that can be used to drive a story forward.
The book I read, Save the Cat Writes a Novel, was written by Jessica Brody. You can get a free starter kick from Jessica’s website by clicking here.
I won’t go through each of the 15 beats, but the story basically starts with a set-up and the theme is stated. In Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, for example, we hear the theme at the annual turkey curry buffet: “How does a woman manage to get to your age without being married?” There’ll be some kind of catalyst when the protagonist’s life changes – Bridget’s boss Daniel sends her a flirty message – and some debate where the protagonist wonders which way to go – does Daniel just want her for sex?
Then comes the main “fun and games” of the story culminating in the midpoint of the book, which is often this is a party – the tarts and vicars party for Bridget when she’s the only one dressed up. Then the “bad guys close in”, the protagonist feels that “all is lost” but eventually all is resolved in the finale of the book. I won’t reveal what happens to Bridget just in case there is anyone reading thiswho hasn’t read the book or seen the film.
I found Save the Cat Writes a Novel very helpful. It’s clearly explained but also contains many examples of the Save the Cat structure in various novels, many of which I had already read: Me Before You, Pride and Prejudice and Everything, Everything to name but three.