One of the best storytelling concepts in movies and novels, can be found in Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat. This concept highlights the importance of crafting a likable and relatable protagonist by featuring his or her humanity through selfless acts of kindness, and the like.
In other words, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat moment is predicated on the idea that we are more likely to root for a protagonist who performs a selfless and/or heroic act, and does so early on in the story. The moment humanises the character and establishes a connection between readers or audiences, and the protagonist, from the get-go. To illustrate this, let’s explore the recent blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Peter Parker’s Character Arc
In the movie, Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, grapples with the consequences of revealing his true identity to the world. As a result, his life and the lives of his aunt and friends become imperiled. Peter’s initial solution is to erase the world’s memory of his alter ego, Spider-Man, through a spell conjured up by Doctor Strange.
Save the Cat Moment through Action
But, it’s not just Peter’s dazzling powers and his endurance of the conflicts that beset him which endear us to him; it’s his humanity: Peter realises from the start that his actions have far-reaching consequences for those who know him as Spider-Man. In a moment of selflessness and empathy, he asks Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, to cast a spell that will erase not only people’s memory of his identity but also their memory of their relationships with him. He wants his loved ones to be safe, even if it means they have to forget about him entirely.
This decision is Peter’s Save the Cat moment in the film. It’s an act of great sacrifice, a willingness to shoulder the emotional burden of being forgotten by those he holds most dear. It is a moment that foregrounds his responsibility, empathy, and the moral content of his character.
“The Save the Cat moment occurs early in the story and reveals the hero as someone who is compassionate and kind, and willing to sacrifice his or her desires and ambitions for the benefit of others.”
As viewers, we are not only witnessing a superhero with incredible powers, but a young man who genuinely cares about others. This creates a powerful connection between him and the audience. We root for him not just because he can spring from skyscrapers or defeat terrifying foes, but also because we appreciate the moral quality of his choices, and empathise with his human struggles.
Spider-Man: No Way Home, then, exemplifies the power of the Save the Cat moment, a concept popularised by Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat! It reminds us that in storytelling, it’s the moments of our shared humanity that truly captivate us, that truly resonates with us.
What is the save the cat moment in your screenplay or novel? Don’t have one? Revise your work to include one in your story—it is the key to creating a memorable and beloved protagonist.
The Save the Cat moment encapsulates Blake Synder’s advice of how to write a story protagonist who is likable and relatable.