Save Me, Save the Cat: Part Two

We left our hypothetical hero on the horns of a massive dilemma.  [If you’re confused, I’m showing how easily Chapter Four of Blake Snyder’s screenwriting manualSave the Cat can be made to work as a novel outlining template. Read Part One.]  Let’s see what happens with our three act hero next:

6. Break into Two (25):  This is what we’ve been building to.  This is the cataclysmic moment that pushes the hero to decide, once and for all, to undertake the quest, to leave all that he or she knows behind.  Note that the hero does the deciding.

7. B Story (30):  Snyder describes this part as a small breather for the audience.  The B story often covers the hero’s love interest.  But it can also be an aside with a mentor or a trickster that attacks the novel’s hero on a spiritual level.  It’s a good place for the writer to explore the themes of the story.

8. Fun and Games (30-55):  This is tough section of the novel for me.  It’s the muddle in the middle where I always despair.  Snyder says to give the audience a little something of what they came to see, a scene that might not have a lot to do with the main story line but that completes “the promise of the premise.” (Snyder 81)  The book’s cover art may very well come from this section of the book.

9. Midpoint (55):  This is where the hero either hits what feels like their highpoint (but it turns out to be a lie), or the moment that his or her world collapses.  Everything changes for the hero and nothing can ever be the same. Snyder’s very clear about this happening dead center in a screenplay.  As I said in Part One, I don’t know that a novelist needs to be so rigid with the order and size of each Beat.

10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75):  Trusted allies turn out to be traitors in this part.  The enemy “regroups” (Snyder 85).  Things may still appear okay, but the veneer is cracking.

11. All Is Lost (75): “All aspects of the hero’s life are in a shambles.  Wreckage abounds.  No hope.” (Snyder 86) If any of the hero’s allies are going to die they’ll do it in this part of the story.

12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85):  The hero digs down deep and finds a way to press on.  He or she miraculously digs up out of the despair that the audience has seen almost kill them.

13. Break into Three (85):  A and B stories meet and join up.  The B story proves to have been a useful classroom or laboratory for the hero. In both story lines he or she has learned what’s needed to win.  It’s time to apply that knowledge.

14. Finale (85-110):  This is the plot of every first-person-shooter video game, ever.  The hero takes out the bad guys “in ascending order” (Snyder 90) of difficulty until he or she beats the big boss.  All is saved, the hero has changed in a fundamental way directly related to the ordeals he or she just went through.

15. Final Image (110):  This “is the opposite of the opening image. It is your proof that change has occurred and that it’s real.” (Snyder 90)

These excerpts and notes only touch on small part of Snyder’s book.  No matter what kind of story you’re telling, he’s got an insight into how to do it in a more appealing and satisfying way.  Is it a formula? Maybe.  Or maybe it’s a useful framework for getting out of a hole.  Either way, it’s just one chapter in one book.  If Snyder could read what I’ve done here, he would probably say I’m wrong, you can’t skip or rearrange any of these steps or interpret them as broadly as I have.  Of course he’d probably also point out that he wrote his book for screenwriters, not novelists.  Not to hypothetically speak ill of the dead, but I think he’d be mistaken if said either of those things.  Storytelling is storytelling, no matter how you choose to do it.  The basic rules don’t change. Even when I ignore them they remain.