Scrivener & the “Save The Cat!” storycrafting method: Setups & Payoffs

I was recently asked by one of my readers how Scrivener, the writer’s writing app, can handle story setups and payoffs when a writer uses the “Save The Cat!” structuring methodology.

Short answer: Absolutely any way you want.

Longer answer: Because Scrivener is almost infinitely customizable, you can use any structuring model you want to with it — or none at all, if that’s your style.

As for how to actually implement setups and payoffs in the app, there are two specific methods that spring immediately to mind.

First, engage the Inspector in Scrivener — that’s the circular sky-blue icon with the white “i” inset into it. It’s in the right hand side of the menubar, looks like this:

Inspector Icon

Now you’ll see a pane along the right hand side of the app. Typically, this pane is horizontally divided, with a scene synopsis up top and variable content in the lower half Like so:

Inspector Example

(I did pixelate the actual synopsis content in that shot, because it’s for an upcoming novella.)

Now, take a loot at the bottom of the Inspector pane — you’ll notice two icons down there, one of which looks like a key, and the other of which looks like a tag. There’s our two methods for applying story setups and payoffs.

The first way, and the way I like to do it, is with metadata tags. Here’s a look at the Metadata pane:

Metadata Pane

I don’t have anything really to show you in that particular one, but notice the + symbol; you can use that to add setup or payoff data, via tags, to your scene. Doing it that way, you can refer to that information for each specific scene without cluttering the synopsis.

The second way to do it, which is actually probably more useful for those of you who need or want to have setups and payoffs be searchable, is to type the setups and payoffs as keywords associated with your scenes. Here’s the Keywords pane:

Keywords Pane

And that’s just the two ways of doing it that I can think of right off the top of my head. Personally, I tend to handle setups and payoffs from memory, without strictly writing them out; your style may vary.

But that brings us back to the beauty and the genius of Scrivener — the creators of Scrivener took into account that your style may vary — they made Scrivener specifically to accommodate that fundamental truth of writers.

I hope these suggestions help you in your writing. Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.


  • I’ve actually set up my custom template to include the beat sheet and logline info from StC! so it’s always right there in front of me. I use the inspector to exclude them from the compile. Then I can modify them on the fly. (I should note I write fiction, not screenplays, but the StC! methods works equally well for fiction.)


    • johncastlewriter

      Absolutely right! In fact, that’s how I use it myself. I use it for everything, from novellas and short stories to novels, screenplays, and everything in between.


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