Scrivener and Saving The Cat With Subtlety

I’ve made a lot of hay on this blog about how to use Scrivener with the Save The Cat! storycrafting method.

But I’ve also noticed a trend in big budget feature films since Blake Snyder’s wonderful and powerful storycrafting model has become widely known in writing circles:

Everybody is using it. And, to put it as politely as possible, not everybody is being very subtle about it.

So now writers, screenwriters in particular, face something of a dilemma: how do we do what works without burning the filament and causing what works to stop working?

By being subtle. We don’t have to crank the “rules” to 11. In fact, my personal conviction is that the rules work better the harder they are to spot.

Case in point: 2012’s highest grossing feature: The Avengers.

Can you spot the “Save The Cat” beat? How about the Catalyst beat? I can’t.

Actually, that’s a fib. You got me. I lied just then. I can spot them. All of them. Because that’s the secret: There are seven of each of Blake’s beats in The Avengers — one for each of the major characters, each of them executed with varying degrees of intensity and centrality to the overall story.

Examples? Captain America’s catalyst beat happens when Nick Fury approaches him with the file about the Tesseract. From the transition into this scene up until he leaves with the file, Captain America perfectly exhibits a subtle expression of Blake Snyder’s concept of “stasis = death.” He’s bored crazy, spending his day putting holes in punching bags out of frustration.

Iron Man’s Break Into 3 beat happens when he realizes that Loki’s “big play” is taking place at Stark Tower, an egomaniacal choice that galvanizes Iron Man to rethink his own egocentrism and become the team player which he had up to that point snarkily denied being.

And that’s how you apply a formula without being formulaic. It can be done. Vary the obviousness of the beats. Shift them from character to character. Rearrange the order of the less intense ones a little.

Know how to paint, but don’t paint by numbers. Understand why the beats work, not just where to put them in a puzzle.

There is one app that is, among all the other apps out there, uniquely qualified to enable you to realize this vision: If you guessed that I’m about to say that it’s Scrivener, you’re good at guessing.

Well, either that or you’ve been reading my blog for a while.

Building on previous topics, such as Character and Scene Tracking With Scrivener Tags, my post on Setups and Payoffs, and my posts on non-linear narrative using Scrivener (please read them if you haven’t yet), you should find it easier than ever to carefully and deliberately conceal the beats in such a way that they satisfy the audience (or readership) without aching like stubbed toes.

Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.

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