You’ve probably heard about Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder’s method for mapping out your novel (or screenplay or possibly even your poem or eulogy). What began as a simple system to help novelists has grown to include books for writing novels and screenplays, classes, coaching software, and now cards.
Snyder’s system is built around “beats,” or plot points essential to a good story. Does this mean that it’s a formula? Well, yes. Or call it a story structure, if that sits better with you. The bottom line is that Snyder’s outline/formula/story structure works, and following it will improve your writing, guaranteed.
Now, the core of the system is freely available on any number of websites, so why would you buy a book? Or a set of cards?
I’ve known about the Save the Cat! system for years. It’s a good system, and I can see that it would be a tremendous help to me when I’m blocked, when I’m not sure where the story needs to go next, when I do know where the story needs to go but I’m not sure how to get there. The trouble I’ve always had with the system is that I piddle with it; that is, I jot down the beats on a sheet of paper or in an Excel sheet or on a few index cards but I lose interest before I get all the cards prepared. I manage to muddle it all together, to distract myself with insignificant details (Should I use different colors for the index cards? Put the beats vertically or horizontally on the chart? Break for coffee before I continue? Look, a squirrel!)
If you’re like me, the ready-made beat cards and scene cards are worth your money. When given an opportunity to test out the cards in exchange for a review, I honestly expected to give you a lukewarm report. As it turns out, and to my great delight, I laid out the beat cards on my office floor and almost immediately spotted the solution to a plot tangle I’ve struggled with for weeks. There may be magic in the darned things, because unlike my iffy index cards, the Save the Cat! cards stayed put, made sense, and kept me focused.
See the official description of these cards below. Check out the official website, where there’s a Save the Cat! Beat Mapper you can use. Decide for yourself whether you’ll benefit most from book, cards, or classes. Never follow the outline at all, if that’s what your muse advises. But I promise—you’ll do yourself a favor by getting acquainted with Blake Snyder’s planning method, even if you never consciously use it.
The Save the Cat!®Story Cards help map out the beats of your story and guide you to identify the meaning of every scene.