Tag Archives: Save the Cat

Story structure sketch note

Story structure

Act 1:

  • Hook
  • Backstory
  • Trigger

Act 2:

  • Crisis
  • Struggle
  • Epiphany

Act 3:

  • Plan
  • Climax
  • Ending

Should be able to write at least 9 scenes with this in mind. Yay!



We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars;
Now all we do is look down and worry about our place in the dirt.


We saw Interstellar today.

It was as visually stunning as we hoped it would be, maybe not as science-y as we expected, and far more spiritual than any reviewers so far had let on.

Punk is an avid reader of all things pertaining to outer space. He says the effects were realistic, in keeping with what he’s read pertaining to worm holes and time warps. And my stomach actually dropped at one point, just like on a roller coaster! Kind of awesome to know a movie can achieve that.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, but not by choice. He’s a former NASA pilot, “a pioneer and an explorer,” living in a bleak post-space-race semi-apocalypse in which crops are not only failing but becoming extinct. It’s only a matter of time before humankind will be wiped out.

Cooper’s daughter, Murphy, is a smart kid with a “ghost” in her room. Synopsis/mini-spoiler: she leads him to decipher a message that takes him on a mission to save the human race.

It’s interesting that the script speaks often of other beings, benevolent ones. Why are they helping us?

And the ghost. I thought more than once of the Holy Ghost of religious lore. No one ever mentions God or gods, but my mind was constantly going there. Even the dialogue regarding the topic of love was reminiscent of sermons I’ve heard about how “God is love.”

Names are also significant in the movie. Murphy is named after Murphy’s Law: what can happen will happen.

There are other overt references to things being named after people, too. My favorite was one of the explorers sent out ahead of Cooper called Mann. Mann is touted as brilliant and brave, “the reason we’re going out there.” What eventually becomes of him is an interesting commentary.

I can’t tell! Don’t want to ruin it!

Let’s just say Christopher Nolan has some hopeful ideas about the resilience of mankind and the possibilities of going beyond being mere caretakers of the earth.

I can’t watch a movie anymore without thinking of Save the Cat! Some parts of Interstellar don’t fully conform to Blake Snyder’s model. It’s long. The Pope in the pool comes late. It’s intense. The “Fun and Games” portion is little more than a deep breath before we get right back into the action. The final image isn’t a mirror image of the opening. It doesn’t matter. Other parts are spot on, particularly the “All is Lost” moments and the way the B story reflects and eventually meshes with the A story. It’s truly well done, so let’s just think of Interstellar as an exception that proves the rule.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining, emotional, intelligent film. Watch it in IMAX for the full visual effect, and plan to go out for stellar conversation (or maybe a bit of stargazing) afterwards.

Time to edit

After finishing my novel’s first draft in April, I set it aside for six months to fester marinate before editing. Today being October 1, I’m ready to resurrect the beast and start filing off its scaly edges.

These notes I wrote to myself back in the halcyon days of becoming la belle noveliste, based largely on my adaptation of the screenwriting strategy laid out in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Now that I’ve arrived on ye olde editing shore, it’s time to unpack.


Questions to ask AFTER FIRST DRAFT is complete

Does the thesis-antithesis-synthesis hold?
Thesis (marriage=prison) > Antithesis (single=freedom) > Synthesis (married AND free)

What were the 6(+) tics established in the Setup? Were they fixed?

Save the Cat: does MC do something early to make us like her?

Is there a good B story? How does it parallel the A story?

Who states the theme in Setup? Does it come up for discussion in the B story? How does the hero fight against the theme in the beginning? How does she incorporate the wisdom of the theme into her Finale solution (synthesis)?

Is there boring exposition? Pope in the pool: how can you “bury” the exposition? Bury, don’t bore!

Does the catalyst change life permanently? Does it thrust the hero into action?

Debate section MUST ask a question. Hero must answer.

Is the hero strong? Decisive? Does the hero move the story from Act 1 into Act 2?

Do you reach the FPP (first plot point) by page 25 (screenplay) or at minimum page 50 (novel)?

Is there a false victory?

Is there a false defeat?

What time clocks appear at the Midpoint?

Does time speed up from Midpoint on?

Who or what dies at the “All is Lost” moment? Does the hero fall completely at this point? (She should.)

Do the A story and B story intersect? In a cool way?

Five point finale: are all five points here?

  • Hero hatches plan to “storm the castle” and “rescue the princess”
  • Castle wall breached. Hero enters bad guys’ fort. Things appear to go according to plan.
  • Reach tower but “the princess” is not there. It’s a trap. Looks like bad guys win after all.
  • New plan. Dig down deep for the last ounce of strength our hero didn’t know she had.
  • Thinking on the fly, the hero discovers her best self, executes a new plan, and wins against all odds.

Is the final image a reverse of the opening image?

Does each character have a character arc?

Each character:

  • has a goal (or problem to solve)
  • is thwarted somehow
  • is at odds with others’ goals
  • his bad thing becomes a plus
  • his good thing becomes a negative
  • wants what someone else has, is, or does

Are B characters upside down versions of A characters?

Is B story bizarro version of world in Act 1?

Is there too much magic, too much of anything that is too unbelievable?

If any of this helps in your editing process, sweet. I’d love to hear about it! I’d also be much obliged if you have ideas or editing strategies to share.


Book jacket blurb. Warning: it’s bad.

A woman regrets asking a deranged neighborhood cult to kill her philandering husband.

Working with Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel” last month, I came up with about a hundred mini-summaries for my story.

Some other versions:

  • She lost her cool… now she could lose everything.
  • A young mother decides she doesn’t want her unfaithful husband killed after all.
  • She wants to call off the hit on her husband, but it’s too late.
  • A jilted wife gets more than she bargained for at the neighborhood garage sale.
  • They moved up, then he moved out. She thought she’d moved on.

There are more. And they are all just as bad. I might as well start designing my own cover art and get my 12 year old to publish the thing.

Want to give it a shot? Here’s what Ingermanson says to do:

Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel.

Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
No character names, please! Better to say “a handicapped trapeze artist” than “Jane Doe”.
Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.

This first step is akin to creating the “log-line” in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. There are 9 other steps in the Snowflake Method. I might just do the whole shebang for my next story.

Daily Prompt: BYOBlurb

Beat Sheet Mini

Beat Sheet for a Novel is the #1 post on this blog. Meaning it gets viewed every day, but is it helpful? Beats me.

In an effort to be useful, I thought I’d share my BEAT SHEET MINI. This is a quick fill in the blank beat sheet you can use to beat out any film, screenplay, or novel.

The (#s) are minute marks at which events happen. For example, the midpoint of a movie/screenplay occurs around minute/page 55.

Novels, being longer than screenplays, tend to stick to the script only for the first few beats— you get the opening image on page 1, a theme by page 5 or so, and you’re well into the set-up by page 10.

After this, books get more longwinded with each beat. No page 55 midpoints. We’d be disappointed if there were. But it just so happens in The Truth of Me (reviewed yesterday), a 114 page children’s book, the turning point comes in the last sentence on page 55. Patricia MacLachlan must be a Blake Snyder fan!

I use the BEAT SHEET MINI for two things:

  • As a bookmark, to keep track of key plot points of novels I read
  • As a mini-outline, for fleshing out a story idea I might write

Here’s the PDF:

Beat Sheet Mini

Let me know in the comments if and how you use it.