When you write, Save the Cat

save the cat

The hero’s journey. It’s what every novel, short story, movie, and show is based on. Kurt Vonnegut outlined a few versions of that journey: the Cinderella story, the Man in Hole, the Boy Meets Girl.

Authors use these plots to build the content you love. Most recently, however, they’ve been using something called Save the Cat. It’s a three-act structure that focuses on highs and lows. The hero is a mousy bookseller. She meets a mysterious stranger. Something threatens her – the stranger perhaps? After much inner turmoil, she takes on the challenge. For a moment, all is lost but through many troubles she comes to the end of the road, better, cooler, and stronger.

Every show or movie or book you’ve read recently unless it’s some artsy stuff follows this schema. John Wick? He got out, he had love, and he was happy. SPOILER ALERT: Someone killed his dog. He gets his gear, gets ready to fight, and almost dies… but not quite.

Slow Horses. Schlubs in MI5. They get convinced something is afoot. They band together. All is lost! But the heroes win and the other plot, the secret plot, is resolved while they solve the visible plot.

Every single Hallmark Christmas movie. If it’s a bad one it’s the Cinderella story – things are bad for the hero, she meets a dude, hates the dude due to a misunderstanding, he wins her back. If it’s a good movie then there are subplots involving best friends and a town banker dude who is going to shut down the orphanage on Christmas Eve or something. Suffice it to say, the screenwriter used Save the Cat.

Trust me. It’s all there.

So how does this help you?

Remember: compelling content follows a pattern. Folks have recently gotten into the habit of creating broetry.

Writing that uses short sentences for effect.

And looks like this.

Then you put it on LinkedIn.

And it’s awful and you hate it.


The eye loves broetry, but the mind doesn’t. The mind loves stories. The mind wants to follow your journey from beginning to end. You have an idea. You built the idea, you fought long and hard for the idea. You want to share the idea with the world. Use one of these plot structures to plan everything from a sales presentation to an About Us page. Tell a story. It doesn’t have to be the exact Save the Cat plot line. In fact, it rarely will.

But it’s a story. A beginning, a middle, an end. And in the end, you and your customer should come to a better place. Don’t force the plot if it’s not coming, but when you write think about the plot in your head, what it means to you and your business, your stakeholders, your friends. Tell that story.

In the same way you can’t stop binging Netflix, using proper plotting in your content will make your customers and the audience happy. 

Now go out and save those orphans from the mean old banker dude.

Need some help? Reply to this email and Typewriter will bring your cat to safety.

Want to try something fun? Our founder, John Biggs, started SingleWord where folks can upload their writing and get an instant AI critique. Check out out!

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