Save The Cat Beat Sheet – Jericho Writers
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Save The Cat Beat Sheet Template: Free Template For Authors


Downloading our FREE Save The Cat beat sheet is easy, and so is using it. Our beat sheet tool tells you what the Save The Cat beats are and where you should place them in your novel. You can input your desired page count and it will calculate at what stage of your book each story beat needs to happen without you having to do the calculations yourself.

Get ready to plot your book in a fast, fun and simple way with our free download!

What Is Save The Cat?

What’s the most effective way to plot a novel?

When it comes to story structure, there are many ways to plot a novel. But, one of our favourites, is the Save The Cat book method. In just fifteen simple steps you can outline your novel and write your book faster than ever. How? By using our FREE Save The Cat beat sheet template!

Save The Cat is a book by Blake Snyder that outlines a very simple formula for screenwriters and playwrights to use when plotting their stories.

Using the usual three act structure, Snyder explains every single ‘beat’ a writer needs to hit in order to provide a strong storyline – from setting the scene, to the ups and downs of the middle, to a satisfying conclusion.

Watch any movie (we’re about to ruin your fun here – sorry) and you will see, literally by the minute, how most films are split into these very specific sections.

Authors started to adapt these learnings for their own books…and it worked!

Which is when author Jessica Brody adapted Snyder’s technique and released a second book called ‘Save The Cat Writes a Novel’, which is the writing and plotting guide this article is based on.

Why You Need Our Save The Cat Beat Sheet Template

Our Save The Cat beat sheet follows the book’s very simple structure that involves splitting your story into fifteen parts, with each beat correlating to a different percentage of your book.

By knowing how many words you have to set the scene, to build up to the inciting incident, and at which point you need everything to come crashing down to keep your readers on the edge of your seats, you can control the pace of your book and not waste time veering off on unnecessary tangents.

A Readymade Beat Sheet Template

There’s nothing stopping you from creating your own beat breakdown in a notebook, or putting together an Excel spreadsheet, but why struggle with the maths when Jericho Writers have created a readymade Save The Cat beat sheet template just for you!?

Share your email address with us and we will send you a spreadsheet. Then simply type in your final intended word count and our template will automatically calculate at what point in your book you need to address each beat.

Magic!

Now let’s take a look at each Save The Cat story structure beat in more detail…

A Plot Structure That Works

Not all books follow the same structure of storytelling, but most stories do have to have a beginning, middle and end.

According to the Blake Snyder beat sheet, each story point must be met and given the space and respect needed to ensure a steady flow and story progression. So sticking to each Save The Cat beat ensures no single scene is more important than another, and that each plot point is covered and in the correct order.

The percentage marks below, at the end of each beat, correlate with the section of the book where that beat needs to be met. So the midpoint is at 50% (an easy one) and the opening image is right at the start (ie 0-1%).

So, without further ado, let’s start at the very beginning…

Opening Image – 0% To 1%

This is the part where we first visit the hero’s world; a snapshot of what their life looked like before ‘the very big thing’ happens.

The opening image is important as it provides essential context. The shocking event that’s about to happen won’t seem so shocking if we can’t see the contrast of what the protagonist’s life looked like before. It’s also a great place to start foreshadowing.

Here are some examples of striking opening images in literature:

In Orwell’s book, 1984, the book starts by striking thirteen and we see Winston Smith’s repressed life before he decides to rebel.

In The Hunger Games we see how simple and poor Katniss’ life is, how she’s good with a bow and arrow, and how much she loves her sister.

In The Wizard of Oz we see Dorothy’s life on a rural farm in Kansas.

Theme Stated – 5%

Every book, regardless of its genre, needs to have a theme or life lesson. Remember that the premise and the theme are two very different things.

The Great Gatsby is about a man obsessed with a woman, but the theme is the concept of the American Dream and the sociology of excessive wealth.

The Scarlett Letter is about a woman who commits adultery and becomes a social outcast, but the themes are puritanism, societal flaws, and female gender roles.

Save The Cat suggests you have someone other than your main character state the theme of the book within the first 5% of the the story.

Jane Austen didn’t wait that long, though. She stated her theme on the very first line of Pride and Prejudice:

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

She also had her protagonist say it – but we’ll let her off!

Setup – 1% To 10%

The set up is the part of the story where the characters are building up to the life-changing event.

In The Little Red Riding Hood she’s walking through the forest. We know there’s a big bad wolf on the loose, but the inciting incident (Little Red Riding Hood realising that the woman in the bed isn’t her grandmother but a wolf in disguise) hasn’t happened yet.

So once you’ve introduced your readers to the characters, along with a hint of their flaws and what life was like before the catalyst, that leads on to the most crucial part of the story…

Catalyst – 10%

This part is often referred to as the inciting incident (the part of the book that, should you take it out, there would be no book).

Some story examples include:

  • Katniss volunteering as tribute in The Hunger Games
  • Starr’s friend being murdered in the Hate U Give
  • Hagrid telling Harry Potter he’s a wizard
  • Amy’s disappearance in Gone Girl
  • Dorothy’s house, in The Wizard of Oz, being picked up by a tornado and landing in a strange land

Can you imagine any of these incidents being cut from the book and the storyline continuing? No. It’s impossible. Because these turning points ARE the entire point of the book.

If you state the catalyst too soon you run the risk of the audience not caring about your characters yet or understanding the world well enough. But if you state it too late you run the risk of readers getting bored and putting down the book because ‘nothing has happened yet’.

Debate – 10% To 20%

This is the part of the book where the hero’s life is about to change irrevocably (whether they like it or not), which means your character(s) needs to have a debate about the next stage, mulls things over and begin to prepare themselves.

If we go back to Little Red Riding Hood staring at the hairy beats pretending to be her grandmother, she went through the entire ‘my, what big teeth you have’ debacle before realisation hit and she realised she had to act fast.

In the case of Katniss Everdeen, she had to say goodbye to her family, meet the other contestants and start training before she was thrown into the Hunger Games.

Which leads us on to…

Break Into Act 2 – 20%

Never go quietly into the second act!

Your hero has realised what they must do and the scenery has completely changed. Time to give your readers the story they were waiting for!

In the case of Life of Pi, the hero, Pi Patel, survives a sinking ship and in act 2 finds himself on a life raft with a selection of difficult and deadly animals…including a ferocious tiger.

Bam! We saw Pi’s life in India before that, we saw the inciting incident (losing his family to the sinking ship) and here’s the beginning of the main story.

This is also the part where you introduce a new character (or two). In Harry Potter we see him start Hogwarts (and meet Hermione and Ron), and in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy begins her journey (both literally and metaphorically) and takes her first step down the yellow brick road alongside her three new friends.

B Story – 22%

This section is a little trickier. Of course you can only have one storyline throughout your book, but that can get a bit boring. Neither does it allow for many twists and turns or for the stakes to be upped.

The B story is actually very important, for reasons we will explain shortly.

So what is a B story?

In Dorothy’s case the B story is a thriller. Not only is she trying to get home but she also has the Wicked Witch of the West after her!

In Katniss’ case it’s a love story. Not only is she trying to win the Hunger Games and stay alive, but she’s torn between one love interest from back home, Gale, and another contestant, Peeta.

So if you have another story thread to weave in, it’s at this point that you start to incorporate it. If you try to include it right at the beginning then readers won’t realise what the main storyline is. And if you include it too late it will lose its power.

Act 3 will be the point where both plots will merge (spoiler: Katniss chooses Peeta and he’s the one who helps her win the games, and Dorothy must kill the witch to take that final step and go home).

So bear that in mind as you plot your main and supporting storyline.

Fun And Games – 20% To 50%

And now we get to the main premise of the book – the part where all the stuff happens. But don’t be fooled into thinking the characters themselves are having a great time; this is only fun and games for the reader because it’s the juicy part where all the ups and down, fun and laughter, or series of terrible events happen.

At this point we know who the character is, what life was life before, what they need to do to reach their goal, and you should have a an idea of what the ending will be like. This part is the path for them to travel to reach the end point.

Some writers fear the Fun and Games section of the beats as it’s where you are most likely to encounter a soggy middle with your story running the risk of losing momentum.

But do not fear, because the secret to keeping the pace going is to add plenty of high stakes, lots of plot twists, and keep putting your hero through hell.

Midpoint – 50%

Here is where you turning points happen – when the hero realizes that what they want is not the same as what they need.

In Katniss’ case, she realises she doesn’t have to do everything alone and that teaming up with allies (ie Rue) she can defeat her competitors. She wants to win, but she needs to work as a team to achieve that.

See the subtle change in direction?

Bad Guys Close In – 50% To 75%

But, no matter how well things are going for your protagonist, as we near the third quarter of the book they begin their downward path to failure.

In The Hate U Give, Starr is about to give up as she’s losing her friends, she’s getting threatened, and she’s too scared to stand up for what she believes in. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy nearly gives up as time is running out and she’s attacked by the flying monkeys.

Whether the bad guy is literally a bad person (ie the Wicked Witch of the West) or the hero is battling internal bad guys (ie their own self-doubt), this is the part where everything starts to unravel.

All Is Lost – 75%

Oh no! Something dreadful has happened and the hero’s world is upside down. All is lost! (Or so they believe).

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo believe Gandalf is dead and has no idea how to go on. In Disney’s Tangled, Flynn is captured and sent off to the bad guys on a boat.

Dark Night Of The Soul – 75% To 80%

The hero has reached their lowest point and hit rock bottom. They can’t go on.

Frodo is in the wood elf’s kingdom and the elf queen shows him the future. Rapunzel goes back to her mother and mopes about a lot. Dorothy sees a vision of Auntie Em in the witch’s crystal ball.

Their hopelessness stirs something in them and they finally realise what they must do!

Break Into Act 3 – 80%

It’s time to act and see through their quest/mission/point of the story.

In The Hunger Games, having realised she’s in love with Peeta but only one of them can win (All Is Lost), Katniss hatches a plan as to how they can overthrow the Capital and rig the games so they can both win.

Finale – 80% To 99%

The hero wins!! Well, of course, they do.

Final Image – 99% To 100%

The final image should be a mirror of the opening image.

So if you started your book with your hero about to jump off a building, perhaps in the final image he is also on the roof of a building…but this time with the one he loves looking at the stars.

Aah, we all love a happy ending!

Get Your FREE Save The Cat Beat Sheet Template

Hopefully we have inspired you to get plotting and tighten your story structure. To make planning your book even easier, don’t forget to download your FREE Save The Cat beat sheet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Beats Are In Save The Cat?

There are fifteen beats in the Save The Cat plotting method, all which correlate with a point in the book where they should appear.

  1. Opening Image – 0% to 1%
  2. Theme Stated – 5%
  3. Setup – 1% to 10%
  4. Catalyst/Inciting Incident – 10%
  5. Debate – 10% to 20%
  6. Break Into Two – 20%
  7. B Story – 22%
  8. Fun and Games – 20% to 50%
  9. Midpoint – 50%
  10. Bad Guys Close In – 50% to 75%
  11. All is Lost – 75%
  12. Dark Night of the Soul – 75% to 80%
  13. Break Into Three – 80%
  14. Finale – 80% to 99%
  15. Final Image – 99% to 100%

What Is The Save The Cat Beat Sheet?

The Save The Cat beat sheet is a template which helps writers (of both novels and movies) to plot their stories in a way that hits all the right plot points in the correct order. This helps with pacing and flow.

Is Save The Cat Writes A Novel Worth It?

We certainly think it is! Although we have shared lots of information about what it is, and included a FREE template download, the book itself goes into each plot point in a lot more detail along with examples from popular novels. Click here to buy a copy.