Review: Save the Cat Writes a Novel

Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need has been a staple for writers of all kinds: screenwriters, novelists, playwrights. But now, there is a Save the Cat! specifically for novelists. And it’s awesome.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody uses all of the basic tenets from Blake Snyder, but shifts them specifically for writing a novel. She provides word counts and genres for every story, including yours.

Have you ever heard someone talking about a character’s “Dark Night of the Soul” or when the “Bad Guys Close In,” and thought, dark night of the what? That’s Save the Cat.

The title of the book comes from the idea that to make a character likable they have to metaphorically save a cat. They have to have a moment that makes the audience think, “sure they launder money and just stole that car, but they really love their mother.” Or, “they’re angry and unkind to puppies, but they caught the baseball and threw it back to those kids, maybe they can be redeemed.” And then we’re in for the ride.

Picture of a kitten in a tree. Cute, right?

Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! is chock-full of examples from established novels that we all know and love. She names ten genres and then applies the structure to each one. For example, she explains the Superhero genre, Being Extraordinary in an Ordinary World, by using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Then she goes step by step, detailing the structure with page numbers as well.

HOW TO USE SAVE THE CAT! FOR YOUR STORY

  1. Start from scratch. Have an idea for your next novel? Use the structure to plot it out. Try using sticky notes, or index cards, or even the online Story Structure Software on the website.
  2. Feeling stuck? If you’re faced with a bit of writer’s block, use the structure to revitalize your creative juices.
  3. Need help revising? By fitting your story into the structure, you might find something that’s missing or needs to be expanded on.

I’ve used the Save the Cat! structure for my novels, stage plays, and even my latest musical. It sets up the hero’s journey for the maximum ride, while still offering freedom for how to go about it.

Give it a whirl!

This book is super helpful, whether you’re a plotter working out what happens next before you get writing, or a pantser who could use a bit of a pick-me-up in the ugly middles. Give it a whirl! The worst that could happen is that you learn a little bit about the structure of some of your favorite novels, and can chat about the “dark night of the soul” with the best of them.

Have you used Save the Cat! for your writing? If so, what do you think? Feel free to share on Writers’ Rumpus!

Related Posts:
Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder review by Marianne Knowles

Plotting a Novel with Sticky Notes by Alison Potoma

The Plotter, Pantsed by Dianna Sanchez

10 comments

  1. Thanks for reviewing this one, Alison! Like Laura, I’m VERY familiar with the original and wasn’t sure it was worth a second go-round…but I’ve been hearing talk about it EVERYWHERE and now I know why people are so excited about it!

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  2. Alison, this is great stuff! I didn’t think I needed to read this, as I already read the original Save the Cat backward and forward. But boy oh boy, it seems I was wrong. I can’t wait to dig into my own copy!

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  3. Alison, thanks so much for this review! As a novelist who’s applied STC for plotting advice, I’m looking forward to getting this book for myself. Jami Gold has some helpful worksheets for figuring out beat placements in novels, including one that follows Save the Cat!. Input estimated word or page count, and the sheet adjusts to indicate roughly where things should be happening. See links here: https://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/

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