Saving the Cat

There’s this trope suggested by Blake Snyder in his book called (not surprisingly) “Save the Cat” that suggests a scene early in your story (screenplay, novel, whatever) that puts your hero in a situation that makes him look good. And not just makes him look good, but actually demonstrates the hero’s “goodness”.

It’s a shortcut. In screenplays, time and page real estate is expensive. If you can set up a page or two early in Act One that a) puts your hero in a difficult position and b) has them do something good that they could have easily avoided, your “Save the Cat” moment is done.

And sometimes, it’s literally saving the cat.

Lethal Weapon 3 (which doesn’t really need a “Save the Cat” moment because we already know Riggs and Murtaugh, and that they’re essentially good), opens with a scene where they rush into a building to defuse a bomb. Riggs fucks up, cut’s the wrong wire, and scoops up a stray cat as they rush out of the building before it goes ka-blooey. It didn’t even register with me what the screenwriter did, until a little bit later, with:

Martin Riggs: Hey, Ernie.

Ernie – Detective: Hey, Riggs. Cut any loose wires lately?

Martin Riggs: Nah, I haven’t done that for a couple days now.

Ernie – Detective: Right. Next time…

Martin RiggsErnie – Detective: Wait for the bomb squad.

Ernie – Detective: Yeah, wait for the bomb squad! It’s our job, remember?

Martin Riggs: Hey, I saved a cat. What else do you want?

There you go.

So, if you want a handy, efficient short cut to baseline your hero’s hero-ness, give him something good, but not necessary, to do early in Act One.

What do *you* think?