Review: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
Thursday, February 4, 2021

Save the Cat! Writes a NovelSave the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best books on the craft of writing I've ever read!

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is not only filled with useful, insightful, and actionable analysis on the structure of successful stories, but it's easy to read, which is a huge plus for an informational book.
Even if you are a "pantser" and shudder at the thought of outlining, I recommend you read the beat sheet breakdown and genre explanations so that the information can percolate in your subconscious. I have no doubt that reading this book will make me a better writer.

The "Save the Cat! Beat Sheet" breaks down the traditional 3-act structure on story-telling into fifteen distinct single- or multi-scene "beats." Here's a *very* brief synopsis:

Act 1 has an Opening Image, Theme Stated, Setup, Catalyst, and Debate. These beats form the backdrop for your story, introduce your main character(s), and provide the inciting incident that will propel your character to change.

Act 2 turns the status quo world upside down and represents the characters chasing their "wants" rather than their "needs." Characters try to solve the story problem "the wrong way." This act includes the introduction of a B-story (sometimes a C,D,etc, for as many side stories as you want to weave in). The first half of act 2 is a section called Fun and Games, during which the character either flounders or flourishes in their new world, and culminates in a Midpoint where the character either achieves a false victory or suffers a false defeat. The second half of act 2 is where the Bad Guys Close In (both figurative and literal), culminating in the All is Lost Moment, where the character hits rock bottom. This is immediately followed by the Dark Night of the Soul, in which the character digs deep and learns the theme of the story in order to move forward and attack their problem "the right way."

Act 3 starts with the "aha!" moment where the character realizes what they really "need." Then there's the Finale, which encompasses the lead up to the climax, the final confrontation, and the resolution. And lastly, there's a Final Image, which should be a foil of the opening image to highlight how the character has grown and changed.

While most of that information might seem like a no-brainer, the explanations and descriptions provided in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel certainly helped to clarify my thinking on a few points. Plus, it was a fast and enjoyable read. I highly recommend.

View all my reviews