Now that we've had a solid overview of the Save the Cat method, it's time to dig into the famous Beat Sheet! Woot! Get ready to be excited, yo! Here's the sheet I like best to use, modified from Blake's book Save the Cat! and Jessica Brody's Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.
The Beat Sheet:
ACT 1 – The “thesis” world, or “things as they are.”
1. Opening Image (0 – 1%): A “before” snapshot of your hero and their world.
2. Theme Stated (5%): A statement made by a character (usually not the hero) that hints at what the hero’s arc will be—the life lesson he must learn or discover before the end of the book.
3. Setup (1 – 10%): A view of what the hero’s life as it currently is, including what’s missing from his life. Here we meet the supporting characters and learn the hero’s primary goal. In addition to the theme, we see why the hero is reluctant to change and what the stakes are should the hero not change.
4. Catalyst (10%): An inciting incident or life-changing event. This is an “action” beat that forces the hero to leave behind the world of the setup and move forward into the unknown.
5. Debate (10 – 20%): A reaction sequence in which the hero debates what they will do next. The purpose of this beat is to show the hero’s reluctance to change.
ACT 2 – The “antithesis” or “upside down” world.
6. Break into 2 (20%): The moment the hero decides to accept the call to action, leave their comfort zone and move forward into a new world or new way of thinking. This is also an action beat that requires a purposeful choice on the part of the hero.
7. B Story (22%): The introduction of a new character or characters who ultimately help the hero learn the theme. This could be a love interest, sidekick, nemesis, etc.
8. Fun and Games (20 – 50%): The hero in his new world, and he’s either loving it or hating it. This is where the adventure happens and new skills are learned.
9. Midpoint (50%): Literally the middle of the novel, where the Fun and Games culminates in either a false victory or false defeat. Suddenly the stakes are raised and the clock starts ticking down…
10. Bad Guys Close In (50 – 75%): If the Midpoint was a false victory, this section will be a downward path for the hero and things get progressively worse. If a false defeat, things start to look up—except the hero’s deep-rooted flaws (internal bad guys) are closing in.
11. All is Lost (75%): The lowest point of the novel. Another action beat where something happens to the hero that combined with her internal bad guys, pushes the hero to rock bottom.
12. Dark Night of the Soul (75 – 80%): A reaction beat where the hero takes time to process everything that’s happened so far. The hero should be worse off than at the start of the novel and this is their “dark hour before the dawn” when the hero figures out the solution to their big problem and learns the theme/life lesson.
ACT 3 – the “synthesis” world where Act 1 and Act 2 meet, combine, and create something new.
13. Break into 3 (80%): The “aha!” moment. The hero realizes what they have to do to not only fix all the problems created in Act 2, but also to fix themselves.
14. Finale (80 – 99%): The hero proves they have learned the lesson and enacts the plan they came up with in Break into 3. Bad guys are destroyed, flaws are conquered. Not only is the hero’s world saved, but it’s a better place than it was before.
a. Gather the Team
b. Execute the Plan
c. Hightower Surprise
d. Dig Down Deep
e. Execute New Plan
15. Final Image (99 – 100%): A mirror to the Opening Image, this is the “after” snapshot of who the hero is after going through this epic and satisfying transformation.