You must always save the cat in a screenplay. Never, never, never kill the cat when you are writing a screenplay. Actually, please have your main character save the cat when you write a story of any kind.
You see I am a cat. And I would never watch your movie or read your book if you were mean to a cat.
What Does Saving the Cat Mean?
Save The Cat! The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need, was written by Blake Snyder, a man who made millions selling screenplays. I wish I could have met him. He died in 2009. But, I will console myself by reading his book. Because I am a cat, I thought Blake Snyder was very wise to always have a story with a cat in it that needed to be saved.
Then I read the book.
Mr. Snyder said, “Save the Cat is the screenwriting rule that says: ‘The hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win.'”
Oh, it appears that I misunderstood the premise of the book. You don’t have to save a cat in every movie or in every story. The protagonist can do something else beside saving cats. The hero can help a lady pick up her apples when her bag rips. Or maybe the hero of the story gives up his seat to someone on a bus.
Does a Protagonist Have to Save the Cat?
Mr. Snyder said that not everyone agrees with his “Save the Cat” rule. “They find the idea of making the protagonist “likeable” to be cloying and dull, an exercise in kissing up to the audience.”
Well, I agree with the “Save the Cat” rule. Cats should always be saved. Never kill a cat in a story. I would never like a hero if they were mean to a cat. Never.
If I was reading a story where the hero was mean to a cat I would put the book in my litter box. If I was watching a movie and a character was mean to a cat I would walk out of the theatre and ask for my money back.
I like the idea of making a hero likeable. And I wouldn’t mind if a bank robber fed a homeless kitten. I would like the bank robber and would want him to get away. If that is kissing up to the audience then I would kiss the writer, or at least purr.
What about you? Do you think the Save The Cat rule is cloying and dull? Let me know in the comments section.
P.S. This really is the last book on screenwriting you will ever need. The book is full of constructive advice about writing screenplays. The advice applies to stories too. I highly recommend the book. You can get it here.
Write a scene in a short story, or a scene in the book you are writing, where your hero does something nice. Help me like your character. Let me see your hero’s nice side. Now, of course, I would prefer that you “actually” save a cat in your fifteen minutes of practice. However, you may write about anything you wish. I look forward to reading your stories.
All my best,