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Monday, June 15, 2020

Save the Cat! Explained: The End

With the beginning and the middle covered, it's time to finish up, with the end of the Save the Cat! story structure.

Break into Three (85)

After the hero is at his lowest low, he eventually comes to a realization--which came from the B story, from the conversations and experiences there, as well as from his last best attempt to defeat the bad guys.

Both the A story and the B story seem to meet and intertwine ("synthesize" as Snyder likes to call it), bringing forth a solution that the hero now needs to apply.

A great thing that can happen at this moment, is that the epiphany may actually solve the problems of both plotlines.

This moment breaks us into Act III, the end. 

In Spider-verse

As Miles sits tied up, what he's heard and learned from his experiences (including those of the B story with Peter) come together. He has deep personal insight as the thematic statements coalesce. Miles doesn't need to fear that he won't meet others' expectations; it's his choice what to do and become; and that choice is put into action by a leap of faith.

Empowered with these epiphanies, he's ready to be Spider-man.

Finale (85 - 110)

This is the bulk of Act III. It's where the lessons learned are applied. The character flaws are overcome and new skills are proven to be mastered.

It shows major change that will create a new world (or as I like to say, a "new normal.")

Snyder adds a point that others don't. Antagonists are typically addressed in ascending order. First, henchman die, then leaders, and up and up to the boss, the main source of the problem, whether that's a person or a thing. It must be defeated completely in order for a new world to exist successfully.

A new society must be born. "It's not enough for the hero to triumph," Snyder says, "he must change the world."

And however this is carried out, it must be done in an emotionally satisfying way.

It should be noted that this doesn't only contain the climax, but often part of the falling action (depending on the story). 

There is a lot I could add on my opinion of the end, but nothing about this structure in particular that I haven't already discussed elsewhere on my blog. In the future, I'll bring all those thoughts together into one place.

There are loads of great examples that fit here, whether it's from a Disney movie like Mulan, or a Harry Potter book, or Interstellar. What the hero has learned will be used to defeat threats in ascending order, typically.

In Spider-verse

At the collider, one by one, the heroes take on the villains--in ascending order to Doc Ock and then Kinpin--as they begin to go back to their proper dimensions (notice, too that the most important Spider people go last). Then, it's just Miles and Kingpin, where Miles proves he's learned his lesson in that he gets back up and perseveres. This makes way for a new world, which we see taking shape.

Final Image (110)

This is the counterpoint to the Opening Image. It's part of the falling action, but it's the last scene. This needs to embody how the protagonist and/or world has changed. If you can't show that in a scene, chances are, something is off about your story.

This is usually pretty brief. Buddy with his family in New York in Elf. Or a couple happily together. Or Scrooge being generous.

My Thoughts: I'd like to note that some stories are about how things don't change. This is rarer, but in a case like this, the Final Image may show a lack of change.

In Spider-verse

In a montage, the audience sees Miles applying what he learned (perseverance) to his life as he talks about how much better he is doing; it ends with him in his room at school (the same school he wanted to quit), recalling all his friends, one of which, seems to be able to connect with him, despite their distance.

Save the Cat! Evaluated

Save the Cat! is a highly effective story structure that resonates with many writers and includes basically the most important pieces of a story. Frankly, it's pretty similar to the Hero's Journey structure, but feels more modernized, which I think might make it easier for some learners to grasp. I like that it makes a point to include a B story in the structure and a thematic beat in the opening, as well as highlighting the importance of delivering on the "promise of the premise" in Fun & Games. It also includes some techniques that I haven't really seen anywhere else, and I appreciate Snyder's definition of a midpoint.

With that said, I also think it has some weaknesses. While I feel that the Hero's Journey uses too specific of terms (which makes it seem difficult to grasp at times), I sometimes feel that Save the Cat! uses too vague of terms and definitions. Don't get me wrong, some are as clear as day. But others leave me wanting. And sometimes when Snyder defines certain ones, it feels like he's just relying on examples, rather than explaining what it actually is. Sort of like "Well, it's like this and this," and at a couple of points he even says, "I don't know why." That's fine, I mean, story structure is really difficult to nail down and explain because it feels so incorporeal, and I'm sure I do the same thing quite a bit. But I would have liked to have had some of the concepts refined more, using language that is more specific.

Save the Cat! is definitely a story structure worth being familiar with, and another one you can use to troubleshoot problems. And if it really resonates with you--perfect!

But I hope by now you are starting to see, that surprisingly, a lot of these so-called "different" story structures, actually have similarities 🤔🤔, and the same story can actually fit multiple structures. . . .

So is this structure really the last one you'll ever need, as it claims? For some people, perhaps. For me, it is not enough. I'd like some more refining, and I think it's actually missing some pieces that could make it better. Is it comprehensive? Probably not. Helpful? Yes.

It should be mentioned, though, that the book Save the Cat! is also full of a bunch of other techniques and teachings, in addition to the actual story structure. You can pick up a copy here


  1. I don't think that the Save the Cat! book is particularly helpful for non-screenwriters. I've found the Book Save the Cat writes a novel to be far more helpful, It's a great reference, my copy actually fell to bits so I re-bought as an ebook :D

    1. That one is on my TBR list--I'm curious to see how it is different. Thanks for the input :)

  2. After I read Save the Cat! (Novel) I tried to apply it to the stories I'd already written. They didn't fit. I had not written in this sequence at all. Yes, there were some pieces that are described in Cat, but not in the same order. Seems like Cat is written for Adventure/Conflict stories, but not all fit into that mold.
    I should write out a comparable sequence of scenes for my stories, and see how they compare.

    1. I think many stories will fit it, but I also think there are a lot of stories that won't that have variations. For example, Save the Cat! wants you to write a positive change arc story, but there are three other types of basic character arcs you can write, like a negative change, or a steadfast arc.

      I think stories often have similar structural bones, but there are different ways to flesh them out. This is one way that works for a lot of stories, but not every story, and not every story will fit perfectly.

  3. I started adapting a couple of my novels into screenplays and found the advice in Save the Cat! invaluable. There were several times I was stuck trying to figure out how to condense a 350 page novel into hundred page screenplay so read and reread the tips there for guidance. Great book!

    1. It's a great resource. I'm so glad it helped you with those screenplays.


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