One of my favorite books I reference multiple times while writing is, ‘Save the Cat! Writes a Novel’ by Jessica Brody. It has become a staple and I have sticky notes and highlighters to prove so. I’m not one for plotting but quickly realized that I needed to be as I rewrote my novel for the fifth time. Not exaggerating! I have put the beat sheets (plot points) outline into my scrivener workspace and followed it hoping and praying that this was it, that I would officially finish my first draft… side note; I’m not, but almost.
You may wonder why the book is titled ‘Save the cat’ and that’s a valid question. It comes from the late author Blake Snyder who wrote the original ‘Save the Cat!’ Book for screenwriters. It was a tip he used for avoiding common pitfalls of storytelling, “If your main character starts off somewhat unlikeable, then, in the early pages of your story they should save a cat (yes, like from a tree or a burning building or shelter), or do something comparable that immediately makes the reader root for them, regardless of their original likability.”
All right, so back to why you’re reading this post. Let’s talk about beat sheets and what they are. In the book, there are fifteen beats (3 acts) and Jessica goes over each one giving you examples from other books. She makes it easy to follow and complete each beat; it was the hand-holding I needed!
1. Opening Image: A “before” snapshot of your hero and their world.
2. Theme Stated: Briefly alludes to the transformative journey that your hero will take and the flaw or flaws they will eventually conquer
3. Setup: Sets up your hero’s life and their status quo world before everything changes.
4. Catalyst: Disrupts the status quo world with a life-changing event.
5. Debate: Shows how resistant your hero is to change and/or prepares your hero to break into act 2.
6. Break Into 2: Brings the hero into the upside-down world of Act 2 where they will fix things the wrong way.
7. B Story: Introduces the character that who will somehow represent the B Story/spiritual story/theme and help your hero learn it.
8. Fun & Games: Deliver on the promise of the premise of the novel and shows us how your hero is faring in the new Act 2 world (either having fun or floundering.)
9. Midpoint: Marks the middle of the novel with either a false defeat or a false victory while raising the stakes of the story.
10. Bad Guys Close In: Provides a place for your hero to rebound after a false defeat Midpoint or fall down after a false victory Midpoint, all while the internal bad guys are closing in.
11. All Is Lost: Illustrates your hero’s rock bottom (lowest moment) of the story.
12. Dark Night Of The Soul: Shows how your hero reacts to the all is lost and how they eventually break through to a resolution.
13. Break Into 3: Brings the hero into the synthesis world of Act 3, where they will finally fix things the right way.
14. Finale: Resolves all the problems created in Act 2 and proves that your hero has learned the theme and has been transformed.
15. Final Image: Provides and after snapshot of your hero and your hero’s life to show how much they’ve changed.
Detailed and what I was looking for, this book helped me when I direly needed revamping on my WIP. She also reveals the ten universal story genres which helped me nail down what direction would best suit my story. If you’re stuck and need a little extra help, or you’re looking for a new way to plot your story I highly recommend checking out this book!
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