Save The Cat! Book Review, A Storytelling Resource
My favorite book on storytelling!
I first learned about this book when I was taking acting classes back in the olden days. Our acting coach wanted us to read this as a way to understand movie story structure and teach us how to understand story and character arcs.
Save The Cat is the modern day hero's journey. It breaks down the foundations of a good story to its simplest form.
A great story can bond with our soul and embed itself with our psyche. A great story can be remembered for generations after it has been told.
Save The Cat is the decisive recipe for telling a successful and memorable story.
Although the author of Save The Cat focuses on script writing for movies, we can take his advice and apply it to any form of storytelling. Whether it is novel writing, game design or any other form of story. Save The Cat can help.
Saving the cat is a concept that Snyder proposes that needs to happen early in the story. The main character rescues a cat that is stuck in a tree, letting the audience know that the main character is a good guy. The cat is a metaphor.
At the beginning of the live action Sonic The Hedgehog movie, Sonic picks up a turtle on the road before it gets run over by a truck. The save the cat scene can be short but it is important to convey to the audience what type of character they will be dealing with.
When Han Solo shoots first, we immediately understand exactly what type of character he is. That is his 'Save the Cat' moment.
The story foundations that Snyder uses is called the beat sheet. He want us to “beat” out every scene in the story to make sure the story flows well and gets the audience invested. Each beat is a scene in your story. This is my favorite part of the book.
When I first read about the beat sheet I was entranced. This was the breakdown I needed as an actor, a writer, and a dungeon master.
Save The Cat covers a lot of writing territory. He analyses the type and genre of a story. He poses the idea that there are only 10 types of stories that have ever been told.
Snyder gives advice about the log-line, or the elevator pitch. The pitch is a single sentence that tells the audience what the story is about. If you can’t describe the story with one line, your story might be too complicated.
Save The cat also helps with complicated scenes that need to be in your narrative. He tells us how to give exposition without it getting boring. He helps us keep track of our rules for magic systems and other mumbo-jumbo.
There is a multitude of advice here for repairing parts of your story that doesn’t flow.
I love the concepts and advice in Save The Cat, and I will never get bored of re-reading it. Snyders writing makes everything simple, to the point, and comically entertaining.
Advice For Dungeon Masters
DM’s can use log-lines and short pitches for adventure hooks and quest lines. They can and should be used to entice specific players into action.
Dungeon masters can utilize the beat sheet for campaign creation. The beat sheet can be used for single session stories. You can also beat out player character development. Villains and NPCs in your game can also follow the same character structure. You will be amazed how well told your campaign will end up if you use the beat sheet. Your players will be fully engaged following each beat or scene in your story.
For more story telling ideas take a look at these adventure hook ideas.
You can use the storytelling tricks and techniques for any genre or style of rpg. Use the pope in the pool trick so your players won’t get bored with exposition.
"Representatives visit the Pope at the Vatican. And guess where the meeting takes place? The Vatican pool. There, the Pope, in his bathing suit, swims laps back and forth while the exposition unfolds. We the audience aren’t listening, I’m guessing. We’re thinking, “I didn’t know the vatican had a pool?! And look, the Pope isn’t wearing his pope clothes, He’s… He’s… in a bathing suit!”
We can use this in our D&D games all the time. Whenever you need to convey some elaborate history or a piece of lore in your world, you can use this trick. Unfold exposition during a battle, a chase scene, or when the PCs are exploring some new and interesting environment. Or you can have a very entertaining or odd NPC tell some stories for you.
DM’s should always be raising the stakes in the flow of their story and watching out for the glacier.
Snyder says, "Danger must be present danger. Stakes must be stakes for the people we care about. And what might happen to them must be shown from the get-go so we know the consequences of the immediate threat."
This rule applies to the story in your RPG game and all the players in the game, this needs to happen to the PCs and NPCs that the players care about. The threats and villains should be up on center stage instead of slowly approaching like a glacier eroding away at a slow paced story.
For more ideas to make your battles interesting, look at this.
Please enjoy Save The Cat like I did. This book gave me a huge understanding of story structure and writing advice. As a film nerd and a dungeon master, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in writing or storytelling!
Don't let fear stop you from telling your story!
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