“Save the cat” scene in “Hang ‘Em High”

“Liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” — Blake Snyder, Save the Cat

Blake Snyder is a screenwriter, not a novelist. But it turns out that screenwriters have learned a lot more about what makes a good movie — that lots of people want to see — than novelists have learned about what makes a good novel.

Hang Em High

The science of screenwriting is more advanced than the science of novel writing. We novelists have some catching up to do.

(If you’re planning to write a novel that no one wants to read, go ahead, suffer for your art. Meanwhile, Blake Snyder is keynoting Write on the Sound this year, a Northwest convention of primarily novelists.)

Blake coined the term save the cat scene. It’s easy, it’s quick, and connects the reader to your character, so the reader is willing to go along for the ride. “It’s the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something — like saving a cat — that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him.”

Here’s a no-nonsense example I found. It’s in the first few seconds of the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie Hang ’em High (screenplay by Leonard Freeman and Mel Goldberg). In the movie, Clint (big shock) hunts down and blows away the dudes who wronged him. It’s a revenge movie — not an easy sell, unless we see some reason to believe that his character, Jed Cooper, is actually a good guy underneath it all, worth rooting for.

Here is that scene —

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3 Responses to “Save the cat” scene in “Hang ‘Em High”

  1. Another tool for connecting your reader to your main character is ENVY.

  2. Superb website you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get feedback from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thank you!

  3. Marcus says:

    Hey now, wait a minute! He saved the “cat” only so he could eat him later.

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