Save the Cat Story Cards!

*Full Disclosure: I was given this tool in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Outliners and Discovery Writers, do I have some information for you!! You are going to love this! First, if you are not sure what a discovery writer or an outliner is, check out this post.

Before I begin with this review, let me tell you how this might work for you. Outliners you can use this tool as a planning tool along-side your outline or as your outline. For discovery writers, you can still use this tool, but not before you write your first draft. Most discovery writers tell me that it totally kills the story if they do any planning prior to the first draft. I get it, but that doesn’t make this tool useless to you, it just changes when you use this tool. You can use this a tool for learn what is broken and what needs a little tweaking. Or you can use it if you get stuck. Many people who get stuck or get writers block in the middle of the story, actually have something in their subconscious telling them that something is broken with the story which is why they can’t move forward. This tool can help you find that thing your subconscious is fighting with, and fix it!

Save the Cat Intro (short version)

Save the Cat was first a book by Blake Snyder. about how to write screenplays. Then a book called Save the Cat Writes a Novel was written by Jessica Brody. The website describes the system like this: “Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet).” Each sheet breaks down the story into these 15 “beats” or moments in the story:

  1. Opening Image (1)
  2. Theme Stated (5)
  3. Set-Up (1-10)
  4. Catalyst (12)
  5. Debate (12-25)
  6. Break into Two (25)
  7. B Story (30)
  8. Fun and Games (30-55)
  9. Midpoint (55)
  10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75)
  11. All Is Lost (75)
  12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85)
  13. Break into Three (85)
  14. Finale (85-110)
  15. Final Image (110)

Index Card Solution

Now let’s get into the details! This product is totally awesome for writers who plan and write in a non-linear fashion and like the tactile feel of index cards in your hand!

There are two kinds of cards:

Beat Cards help you plan out your beats. There is a card for each beat. Of course you get more than 15 cards because each of Blake’s genres contains different beats. There are also duplicates of some cards. So if you like the feel of moving cards around on the floor or on a giant corkboard, these are perfect!

At the top of each card, in orange, is the name of the beat. Below, in gray, is a brief reminder of what the scene contains. The “Set-Up” card has this summary in gray: “Where we meet your hero, understand where they are, why we’re rooting for them, and the problem to be solved.” That’s quite a bit to remember. Good thing I’ve got this nifty little card to remind me and save brain power for story crafting! You could make your own. True. But these will save you a ton of time and hand cramps by not having to write the beats and little reminders.

I wrote the outline for my current WIP with these beats. I’ll spare you my messy handwriting for now. What I really like about these beats is that when you sit down to plan a story, you can go in an infinite number of directions. I’ve been told by friends that I have ADD, and I don’t doubt that. (I do not say this as a joke.) These cards help me focus my attention on the major aspects of the story instead of getting lost in the million tiny details of the story. I save that for the editing process!

I also love that these cards can be spread out and viewed as a whole, much easier than seeing it on a 15″ monitor. So, I can step back and, quite literally, get an aerial view of the story. I can see the holes and get a sense of the story’s personality.

Powerful Scene or Pointless?

You can also get Scene Cards. I’m finding these cards particularly useful for tightening my story. It has me analyzing each scene to make sure every scene has some kind of conflict and emotional change.

I have been known to get sucked into the worldbuilding trap. I originally put dragons in one of my short stories just for fun, because dragons are cool! I got feedback from people saying the dragons were cool but why were they even in this short story. Everyone agreed that I should keep the dragons, so I gave them a purpose. They became mentors to my main character. The scene they were in now had them pushing Albert to do something he didn’t want to do but needed to do. The story was made stronger by that added conflict to the scene. Or I could have deleted the scene, but you know, cool dragons!

Here is a peak at a card I made for a scene in my current WIP. (This novel continues with the main characters of my short story mentioned above.)

Image Text: Location- School, Art Class
Moment- mean girls bully Cassandra in art class. Albert can relate to being bullied but doesn’t like Cass’s smoking habit.
Emotional changes of the MC- Albert starts happy, end up sympathetic to Cassandra
Na and conflict, the good guy and obstacles- Albert feels sorry for Cass but doesn’t approve of her life choices.

Often, I read a story by an experienced author and there is something about the story that separates it from less experienced authors. There is some kind of polish to it that I can’t quite pinpoint. I’m not talking about books that are poorly edited or not edited and diseased with grammar errors, punctuation errors, and more. Those are just garbage. I’m talking about the difference between a good story and a really good story.

Some books just suck you in and never let you go. The writing falls away and you float or fly through the story without noticing the details. Then you get to the end and have to sit for a minute to process the adventure you just survived.

I don’t have all the answers, but I think that some of that has to do with the care in crafting each and every scene to live up to its best potential. One way we can do that is by ensuring each scene not only has a purpose, but also an emotional shift and some kind of conflict.

Both sets of cards are helping me push myself and grow my ability to craft a stronger story.

Lately, I have been feeling the weight of the world and it is rather distracting when I try to write. It is time for a virtual writing retreat. This retreat is designed for one person or for many. You can retreat into your office or rent a cabin in the woods and it will work perfectly! Click the image to find out more about it.

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