Save the Cat

date Nov 2, 2022
authors Blake Snyder
reading time 8 mins

Start with a logline


And concentrate on writing one sentence. One line. Because if you can learn how to tell me “What is it?” better, faster, and with more creativity, you’ll keep me interested. And incidentally, by doing so before you start writing your script, you’ll make the story better, too.

Summary or logline

In Hollywood parlance it’s called a logline or a one-line. And the difference between a good one and a bad one is simple.

Logline with irony or hook

ISN’T IT IRONIC? The number one thing a good logline must have, the single most important element, is: irony… And irony gets my attention. It’s what we who struggle with loglines like to call the hook, because that’s what it does. It hooks your interest.


What Colby identified is the fact that a good logline must be emotionally intriguing, like an itch you have to scratch. A logline is like the cover of a book; a good one makes you want to open it, right now, to find out what’s inside.

Encompassing the whole movie

A COMPELLING MENTAL PICTURE The second most important element that a good logline has is that you must be able to see a whole movie in it.

Who and how much?

AUDIENCE AND COST Another thing a good logline has, that is important in attracting studio buyers, is a built-in sense of who it’s for and what it’s going to cost.


A KILLER TITLE Lastly, what is intriguing about a good logline must include the title. Title and logline are, in fact, the one-two punch, and a good combo never fails to knock me out.

Similar for YouTube: Summary, Title and Thumbnail

I’m proposing that before you head off into your FADE IN: you think long and hard about the logline, the title, and the poster.

The 10 types of movies

Even the experts know hundreds of movies

Listen to Spielberg or Scorsese talk about movies. They know and can quote from hundreds.

10 types of movies I have categorized here are:

  1. Monster in the House – Of which Jaws, Tremors, Alien,
  2. Golden Fleece – This is the category of movie best exemplified by Star Wars; The Wizard of Oz;
  3. Out of the Bottle – This incorporates films like Liar, Liar; Bruce Almighty;
  4. Dude with a Problem – This is a genre that ranges in style, tone, and emotional substance
  5. Rites Of Passage – Every change-of-life story from 10 to Ordinary People to Days of Wine and Roses makes this category.
  6. Buddy Love – This genre is about more than the buddy movie dynamic
  7. Whydunit – Who cares who, it’s why that counts.
  8. The Fool Triumphant – One of the oldest story types, this category includes Being There, Forrest Gump, Dave,
  9. Institutionalized – Just like it sounds, this is about groups: Animal House,
  10. Superhero – This isn’t just about the obvious tales you’d think of, like Superman and Batman,

Monster in the House

The “house” must be a confined space: a beach town, a spaceship, a futuristic Disneyland with dinosaurs, a family unit. There must be sin committed — usually greed

Golden Fleece

“The Golden Fleece.” The name comes from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts and yet it’s always about the same thing: A hero goes “on the road” in search of one thing and winds up discovering something else — himself.

Out of the Bottle

In many ways what these adventures are is irrelevant. Whatever fun set pieces our hero encounters must be shaded to deliver milestones of growth for our kid lead.

Dude with a Problem

And eventually, the hero must learn that magic isn’t everything, it’s better to be just like us — us members of the audience — because in the end we know this will never happen to us.

Rites Of Passage

These painful examples of life transition resonate with us because we have all, to a greater or lesser degree, gone through them. And growing-pain stories register because they are the most sensitive times in our lives.

Buddy Love

The end point is acceptance of our humanity and the moral of the story is always the same: That’s Life!


We all know that evil lurks in the hearts of men. Greed happens. Murder happens. And unseen evildoers are responsible for it all. But the “who” is never as interesting as the “why.” Unlike the Golden Fleece, a good Whydunit isn’t about the hero changing, it’s about the audience discovering something about human nature they did not think was possible before the “crime” was committed and the “case” began.

The Fool Triumphant

The working parts of a Fool Triumphant movie are simple: an underdog — who is seemingly so inept and so unequipped for life that everyone around him discounts his odds for success


The “Superhero” genre is the exact opposite of Dude with a Problem and can best be defined by its opposite definition: An extraordinary person finds himself in an ordinary world.

What to do with the patterns

Your job is to learn why it works and how these story cogs fit together. When it seems like you’re stealing — don’t. When it feels like a cliché — give it a twist. When you think it’s familiar — it probably is, so you’ve got to find a new way.

Originality can only begin after knowing the rules

The rules are there for a reason. Once you get over feeling confined by these rules, you’ll be amazed at how freeing they are. True originality can’t begin until you know what you’re breaking away from.

Other elements

Main characters

So let’s add a few things to our list of what the “perfect” logline must include to be truly compelling: > An adjective to describe the hero > An adjective to describe the bad guy, and… > A compelling goal we identify with as human beings


The point is that amping up a great logline with the hero who makes the idea work best is how the idea comes to life. And let’s be clear, the trick is to create heroes who: > Offer the most conflict in that situation > Have the longest way to go emotionally and… > Are the most demographically pleasing!

Character developement

The best ideas and the best characters in the lead roles must have basic needs, wants, and desires. Basic, basic!

The 15 beats

  3. SET-UP (1-10)
  4. CATALYST (12)
  5. DEBATE (12-25)
  6. B STORY (30)
  7. FUN AND GAMES (30-55)
  8. MIDPOINT (55)
  9. BAD GUYS CLOSE IN (55-75)
  10. ALL IS LOST (75)
  11. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (75-85)
  13. FINALE (85-110)
  14. FINAL IMAGE (110)

The Board

The Board is a way for you to “see” your movie before you start writing. It is a way to easily test different scenes, story arcs, ideas, bits of dialogue and story rhythms, and decide whether they work — or if they just plain suck.

Four rows of the board

  • Row #1 is Act One (pages 1-25)
  • Row #2 represents the first half of Act Two up to the midpoint (25-55)
  • Row #3 is the midpoint to the Break into Act Three (55-85)
  • Row #4 is Act Three to the movie’s final image (85-110).

Index cards

Although you can write anything you want on these index cards, they are primarily used to denote scenes. By the time we’re done, you’ll have 40 of these — count ’em, 40 — and no more.

What do the cards have?

  • Where does the scene take place? Is it an INTERIOR or an EXTERIOR?
  • Color-coding characters
  • ”+/-“ sign represents the emotional change you must execute in each scene
  • ”><” denotes conflict


  1. Title
  2. Logline
  3. Genre
  4. Hero
  5. The Board
  6. The 15 Beats
  7. The 40 Scenes

The lead character

  1. Is your hero’s goal clearly stated in the set-up?
  2. Do clues of what to do next just come to your hero or does he seek them out?
  3. Your hero cannot be handed his destiny, he must work for it at every step.
  4. Is your hero active or passive?
  5. Everything your hero does has to spring from his burning desire and his deeply held need to achieve his goal.
  6. Do other characters tell your hero what to do or does he tell them?
  7. The hero knows and others around him look to him for answers, not the other way around.
  8. Does your hero have a flaw?