WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
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The Plot Thickens
Now that you have some characters with flaws and a synopsis of a story, it's time to talk about the plot. The challenge of how to plan out the steps of a story can seem overwhelming, but with a strategic skeleton pre-made for your use, it becomes much easier. So, take a note here, and writing your story just gets more fun. In fact, with a great outline, the story can fall into line while you enjoy yourself, eagerly anticipating what comes next for your stars. I'll show you a story plot outline that you can use.
The Basic Plot
Blake Snyder wrote a popular book called Save the Cat, The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. The title, Save the Cat, is a screenwriting term coined by Blake Snyder and refers to a particular plot device. The save the cat method involves having the protagonist do something admirable toward the start of the story in order to establish them as a likable person and get the audience on their side.
Readsy.com has built a quick guide to explain Synder's beats.
The 15 steps of Save the Cat
Since Snyder’s sheet was originally created for screenwriting, the bracketed number by each beat is the page or pages that it would take up of a standard 110-page screenplay. The beats are as follows:
- Opening Image : An opening snapshot that welcomes the reader into the story's world.
- Theme Stated : We are introduced to the central theme or lesson of the story. This is a moral lesson that a side character states to the main character and can come in the Set Up stage.
- Set Up [1-10]: The hero and the 'ordinary world' are introduced. A longer beat that shows relevant detail and the MC status quo.
- Catalyst : Something happens that sets the story in motion. This breaks the status quo and presents an opportunity.
- Debate [12-25]: The hero is hesitant to take action, and discusses whether to take the opportunity.
- Break Into Two : The hero takes up the challenge. A plan is set into motion.
- B Story : The subplot kicks in, introducing a character and who helps the hero in their transformation. This is often a new relationship.
- Fun and Games [30-55]: The hero in the throes of their challenge or journey. The promise of the premise plays out as the goal is pursued.
- Midpoint : The stakes are raised as a false victory or false defeat happens.
- Bad Guys Close In [55-75]: Things start going downhill for the hero. Antagonist threatens.
- All is Lost : Things go from bad to worse. The hero hits rock bottom. It seems as if there is no way forward.
- Dark Night of the Soul [75-85]: Faced with defeat, the hero must reckon with their loss and how they got there.
- Break Into Three : The hero realizes a truth that’s been evading them all this time. A new plan is hatched for a final attempt to reach a goal.
- Finale [85-110]: Putting their new awareness into action, the hero conquers the bad guys. Highest tension in the story where the goal is won or sometimes lost.
- Final Image : A snapshot that mirrors or contrasts the opening image.
Originally this plot device was written for screenplays, but it works for any story. In fact, you can look at most stories and see this plot behind them.
Find a movie that you like and plot out the steps using this outline. Send me the results. It's fun once you see how the beats of a story work.
"As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another."