Screenwriting Product Review: Save the Cat! Software and Book

One of the biggest problems a script writer has is keeping track of all the elements in the story. Think about it; there are usually multiple characters, several locations, and if that weren’t enough, there needs to be a convincing arc for each character to follow as the story progresses. What should happen and where? Difficult questions to say the least. Creating these details can be quite overwhelming.

Help me Underdog! Help me!! What? No Underdog to the rescue? Then Save the Cat Strikes Back to the rescue! Save the Cat Strikes Back is one of the coolest books in the screenwriting genre! It describes, in great detail, how to take an idea and turn it into a sellable script.

The late Blake Snyder, author of the book, left a wonderful legacy in his Save the Cat! series of books. The books and software are available online at The Writers Store. Software? What software? Hang tight, I’m getting to that.

Save the Cat! is an organizational system that goes against conventional thinking. Snyder has you start with your logline before you start writing your story, not the other way around. The logline is the sentence or two that tells what the movie is about. A good logline makes people curious and want to go see the movie. For example: Shawshank Redemption – Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to write a great logline. The book explains how to do it. Once you have a logline, all you need now is a working title and a genre. Save the Cat! gives you a list that covers most any genre. That’s it! Think of the logline as the seed for your movie. Everything else makes it grow into a full blown script. Snyder has what he calls his “15 beats sheet.” These are the 15 beats of just about any well-written movie. You fill in information about your story on index cards for each beat. A beat is a changing point where something happens in the movie. For example, the moment a character has a change of heart, or has reached a point where he is ready to give up, or the climactic fight scene.  Now write your scenes on cards and pin them onto a cork board so you can visually see your story before you. You’ve done this all from just a logline! save the cat Pretty cool, but it gets cooler with Save the Cat Software. Yup… it is the software companion to the book. Instead of using a real cork board and real index cards, you use a virtual cork board and virtual index cards. It is a godsend to all us unorganized types. You don’t need the book to use the software. All the information about the beats, plot points, and writing a logline are in the software’s help menu. What’s really nice about Save the Cat Software is that you can carry your virtual cork board wherever you go to write.

Save the Cat Software is NOT a word processor designed to format scripts, You must use screenwriting software for that. You can now export the project into Final Draft 8. “But I use Celtix, Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft 6 or 7 what do I do”? Answer: You’re out of luck. The software only exports into Final Draft 8 at this time. It’s no big deal though because you’ve still developed your outline. Just continue writing in your software of choice. Save the Cat Software is compatible with Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad. You can work in the Cloud too.

As a writer who is somewhat unorganized, I found using Save the Cat Software fun enjoyable. The three Save the Cat! books in the series are quick reads, and incredibly informative. Even if you only have the slightest concept for a story, you can now easily turn that idea into a screenplay.

PROS: Well-organized system to help you create a captivating story from just an idea or logline.

CONS: The software version only exports into Final Draft 8. A little cumbersome when first learning the software.

BOTTOM-LINE: A wonderful and affordable series of books and a software program that compliment each other.

Related Articles:

Save The Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You’ll Ever Need

 

Save The Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You'll Ever Need version 3.0
Sale Price: $79
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Save the Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You’ll Ever Need is on sale for only $79. Offer begins April 23rd and expires April 30th – Save Now!Structure your screenplay the Save the Cat!® way and create stories that resonate!

Structure your screenplay the Save the Cat! way, with the method used by one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters.Based on Blake Snyder’s best-selling book, Save the Cat! The Last Screenwriting Book You’ll Ever Need, this revised and updated software guides you through the complete story development process, step-by-step, from title to logline.

Click here to LEARN MORE!

Also, don’t forget – Buy now and receive a FREE PDF of the Top 20 Beat Sheets from the Blake Snyder blog archives, including: Avatar, Star Wars, Memento, The King’s Speech, Tangled, Caddyshack, and more!

 

10 thoughts on “Screenwriting Product Review: Save the Cat! Software and Book

  1. davidjohnhall

    Oh man, Snyder bringin’ the heat — again! Anytime I see Blake listed in a post headline I know the comment section is going to be filled with fire.

    He’s polarizing, no doubt about it. But seriously, what’s not to love about a guy who loved movies so much?

    I first read Save the Cat after I’d been writing screenplays for awhile — but that didn’t stop me from using a lot of what he taught.

    Anyway, I thought I would weigh in on some of what was said in earlier comments —

    First, I can safely say that the term “beat sheet” was used long before Blake used it — I’ve had several producers ask for one years before STC hit the shelves.

    Second, once you take out the outlining, here’s what’s left — passion. Passion and enthusiasm. I could care less about where he tells you to put your beats — though most movies do line up with what he teaches — the benefit of Blake is witnessing the pure enjoyment he takes in crafting stories.

    Finally, you would NOT be hard pressed to find a working screenwriter who used the STC method of writing — his name is on the cover of the book!

    From my perspective, Snyder created a method for breaking down a story that worked for him…and then shared it with a lot of people who also seemed to benefit. Good for him. Good for us.

    I say let everyone be into what they’re into. If someone doesn’t like Blake and thinks that movies written with his method will ultimately blow formula chunks — then that should be a good thing, right? Because it means less competition!

    Anyway, just my two cents on a heated topic…because, although Snyder doesn’t need my defense, he definitely deserves it!

  2. Forris Day Jr.Forris Day Jr. Post author

    Hi Chuck,

    It is true that there are dozens of ways to write a script. Movies have been produced long before Blake Snyder came on to the Earth. Lets look at reality. Many people who write screenplays have not had any formal schooling for it and are simply looking for direction without ending up in debt to Sallie Mae for 30 years. I believe the book and software are perfect for just such a person, because of the VERY fact that it makes the process simple, fun and affordable. Everyone learns differently, and this is perfect for us folks who like simple and fun.

    I do appreciate your feedback and am happy that you are one of the people selling scripts. It gives us all something to rise to. I say keep writing and selling and don’t sweat the fact that people who are buying them use refrences from STC, such as the word “beats”. If the money is green then smile and walk away.

    Thanks
    Forris

  3. ChuckHustmyre

    I wouldn’t mind reading STC Goes to the Movies. I love breakdowns of popular movies into the structural components. Regarding GLADIATOR, I would argue that the inciting incident is when Maximus discovers the emperor had been murdered. That seems to me to be in keeping with the function of the inciting incident, which is an event that upsets the balance in the protagonist’s life. I agree the emperor asking him to lead Rome was huge, but it was just another task in the military life of this dedicated general. What really upset the applecart was the murder. As usual, though, that’s just my two cents.

    1. Patrick Mahon

      I hear you on the murder. Blake’s point was that the murder by Commodus is the result of the Catalyst (Inciting Incident) of Marcus choosing Maximus over him. But if you take the murder then that happens on page 27! (Interestingly, in the second draft I have, the murder happens off screen and it’s only implied).

  4. ChuckHustmyre

    I use a detailed outline for every script. Some now call it a beat sheet. My problem with STC is it’s absurd dogmatism. Does Gladiator or The Godfather or Casablanca contain the inciting incident on page 12?

    If you have had a script produced, you realize how little control (read that as NO control) over exactly where your inciting incident goes. Assuming that you are an adherent of STC, and you needlessly juggled your script around to place that crucial scene on page 12, as Mr. Snyder demands, the director is going to shoot what he or she wants and the editor is going to mix and adjust the scenes as he or she sees fit, so your carefully placed inciting incident on page 12 may come three minutes into the movie or 27 minutes into the movie or anywhere in between, before or after — maybe even at minute 12, but if it does, it will be coincidence, not design.

    I’m all for outlining. I do it every time. And certainly Mr. Snyder did not invent outlining, so if you take that out of STC, what do you have left?

    1. Patrick Mahon

      I’m an aspiring screenwriter so only really have my opinion to offer here. And I understand what you are saying about dogmatism, Chuck. Especially in relation to specific events *having* to happen on specific pages, however…

      I’ve read all three books. And I found their tone inspiring, hopeful and positive. Something that there is often not enough of in this game.

      Furthermore, the second book SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES is one of the few books I’ve found that deconstructs key genres in a clear and practical way. It’s a goldmine. Offering Snyder’s unique point of view on 50 solid examples to feed your own process.

      But I think Chuck is also right to question the dogma of Snyder’s page numbers.

      To answer Chuck’s GLADIATOR point, Snyder identifies the CATALYST (Inciting Incident) as Emperor Marcus asking Maximus to become his successor. And in the draft I have that happens at the top of page 20 not on page 12. So Snyder quotes examples that don’t always follow his own page count rules. Another one being, in his analysis of DO THE RIGHT THING, he admits the ‘Theme is Stated’ on age 23, not on page 5 (as his own ‘dogma’ would have it).

      Now everyone has their system, and a number of them are really cousins of each other, but for me Blake Snyder’s still has a lot to offer. You can take or leave what works for you.

      One of the most helpful things I found in the second book was the way he breaks down each genre into 3 things that must be present. To use the ‘Monster in the House’ example you need:

      1. A house (enclosed space or world).
      2. A monster (supernatural/evil).
      3. A sin (A transgression that brings the monster into the house).

      It may sound simple but I’d never seen it put like this before. And if you take out the ‘sin’ (Greed in JAWS, JURASSIC PARK or ALIEN) the tension and edge to the story is lost.

      His third book SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK is empowering and honest about the hard knocks you will experience. His thoughts on a ‘Shard of Glass’, the ‘Tangible and the Spiritual’ and his simple mantra of “Discipline. Focus. Positive Energy.” are all insights I am grateful for.

      Not to everyone’s taste but, along with Dan O’ Bannon, he’s one of the few successful Hollywood screenwriters who have shared their process. And I, for one, feel richer for it.

  5. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman

    I’ve used the app on my iPad. Love it, especially since I’m always on the go and need to sneak time in to work on my scripts. Chuck, I use the beats as my initial short outline, then I built upon that. My struggle in writing is the process of starting. That simple step is the one my creative mind needs to jumpstart a story idea.

  6. ChuckHustmyre

    I have never tried the STC software, but I did read the original book, SAVE THE CAT, and found it absurdly simplistic, bordering on the dogmatic, e.g., the inciting incident MUST go on page 12, not a page earlier, nor a page later; there must only be forty scene cards.

    While I am not sure if “beat sheet” was in the common screenwriting lexicon before Mr. Snyder penned “Save the Cat,” the phrase certainly is the standard now. When producers ask me for a “beat sheet” rather than an outline, or more specifically a step outline, I cringe a little. Fortunately, I have not had one ask me to follow the ridiculous titles of STC’s beat sheet, the completely unhelpful and non-descriptive abstractions like “Fun and Games.”

    Although the original book has a near cult-like following, I think you would be hard pressed to find a working, i.e., selling, screenwriter who either followed the STC paradigm or found it particularly useful.

    Just my two cents.

    –CH

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