What is Save the Cat? If you are interested in screenwriting or currently learning the trade, then there is a good chance that you have heard the phrase “save the cat” thrown around in one context or another. Explaining Save the Cat requires some added context as the term is both a verb and a noun. In other words, “save the cat” is both a book on screenwriting and a storytelling mechanism. Let’s get started with an overview of the book, then we’ll dive into the book’s titular piece of advice and take a look at everything else the book has to offer.
What is Save the Cat
Let’s define Save the Cat
For breakdowns and definitions of other writing and storytelling terminology, be sure to take a look at our ultimate guide to screenwriting vocabulary.
SAVE THE CAT DEFINITION
What is Save the Cat?
Save the Cat is a bestselling non-fiction book on the craft of screenwriting written by Blake Snyder. After Save the Cat was published in 2005, it quickly grew to be considered one of the definitive screenwriting books.
Blake Snyder was a successful Hollywood screenwriter who sold several scripts, sometimes for amounts in the seven-figure range. Two feature films written by Snyder were produced and released. Snyder pulled from his experiences in the film industry when writing what he hoped would be the definitive insider’s guide to making it as a professional screenwriter.
Several sequels to Save the Cat were written including the likes of Save the Cat Strikes Back and Save the Cat Writes for TV. Some of the sequels were written by Snyder as well, though others were written posthumously by students of Snyder after his sudden passing in 2009.
The advice within Save the Cat has been highly acclaimed but has also met with pushback from some critics. Detractors of the book point to its advice as leading to formulaic storytelling and criticize the book for encouraging writers to rely on writing that is familiar and successful rather than encouraging creativity and originality. Some detractors also point to the critically reviled films written by Snyder as reason to distrust his advice offered in the book. Blank Check and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, the two produced features penned by Snyder, sit at a 9% and an 11% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes.
Save the Cat Characteristics:
- Acclaimed book on screenwriting
- Written by Blake Snyder.
- The advice offered by the book is hotly debated
Save the Cat Screenwriting
What does it mean to save the cat?
The title, Save the Cat, is a screenwriting term coined by Blake Snyder and refers to a particular plot device. This narrative mechanism involves having the protagonist do something admirable toward the start of the story in order to establish the protagonist as a likable person and get the audience on their side. Having the protagonist save a cat can be literal or figurative.
Including a save the cat scene near the start of your script can be a quick way to generate empathy for and an attachment to your main character. Some writers and film critics push back against this plot device for a handful of reasons such as this type of scene being considered manipulative or cliche. Some also push back against the notion that protagonists always need to be likable and/or admirable.
Save the Cat Story Structure
Other screenwriting takeaways
The titular plot device is far from the only piece of information found within the pages of Save the Cat. There are structure analyses of successful films, logline breakdowns and a formula for writing original loglines, and more. Perhaps even more highly regarded than the titular Save the Cat plot device is the Save the Cat beat sheet.
The Save the Cat beat sheet quickly became one of the most popular models for screenplay structure. The 15 beats outlined in this three-act plot structure model were based on a tried and true structure that Snyder compiled by analyzing the structure of dozens of successful films and scripts. It was the structure model employed by his own screenplays which sold, and some readers of the book have even sold their own screenplays after putting the Save the Cat beat sheet to use, though your mileage may vary.
Free Save the Cat Beat Sheet
Now that you’ve learned what Save the Cat is and heard how effective the Save the Cat beat sheet can be, you might be interested in trying it for yourself. Grab a free copy of the template, learn how to use it, and explore several examples of the beat sheet in action in highly successful films, up next.