If you have read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, he devised a method to prepare for pitches. He noticed that whenever he pitched a movie concept to a movie executive, he always got the same questions.  He then recognized that the question was about specific beats in the story.  Eventually, he put them together as a guide to writing a screenplay because it increased the chances of the project being made.

Once he started teaching the method to students, he noticed a lot of confusion with getting Act 3 right. He created a bunch of additional beats to help students but passed away before ever writing a new book on mastering Act 3. I want to share some concepts for anyone struggling to get a solid final act. The ending is so important. When I write, I always start with the ending and work backward.

On a side note. This is a great resource. The Save The Cat Beat Sheet Calculator.  He also has a nice guide with quick summaries of each beat.

1 – Break Into Three

The “Break Into III” beat in the “Save the Cat!” method refers to a specific moment in the screenplay where the protagonist makes a proactive decision to move forward, typically in response to the “All Is Lost” moment and the subsequent “Dark Night of the Soul.” This beat marks the transition from the second act to the third act of the story.

Here’s a breakdown of the key elements of the “Break Into III” beat:

  1. Proactive Decision: The protagonist makes a conscious choice to take action rather than passively reacting to the challenges or setbacks they’ve faced. This decision is driven by their determination to overcome obstacles and achieve their goal.
  2. Synthesizing Skills and Lessons: The protagonist combines the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired throughout the story, including those learned in the second act (Act II). This integration involves merging their initial abilities (established in Act I) with the new skills and insights gained from their experiences, especially those from the B Story subplot.
  3. Overcoming the Main Conflict: The protagonist devises a plan to use their combined skills and lessons to confront and overcome the main external conflict or antagonist of the story. This plan represents a strategic approach to resolving the central conflict and achieving the protagonist’s goal.
  4. Bringing Acts I and II Together: Act I sets up the initial situation and establishes the protagonist’s starting point, while Act II presents challenges and obstacles that force the protagonist to grow and change. Act III combines these elements, synthesizing the protagonist’s journey and leading them towards the story’s resolution.

Overall, the “Break Into III” beat represents a crucial turning point in the screenplay, where the protagonist actively takes control of their destiny and sets the stage for the climax and resolution of the narrative. It’s a moment of synthesis and empowerment as the protagonist harnesses their newfound skills and insights to confront the final challenges head-on.

2 – Gathering The Team

The protagonist brings allies, resources, or support necessary for the final confrontation or resolution of the story. Here’s a breakdown of this beat:

  1. Team Assembly: The protagonist identifies individuals or groups who can contribute to their efforts in confronting the antagonist or achieving their goal. These team members may include friends, mentors, experts, or other allies who possess skills or resources that complement the protagonist’s own abilities.
  2. Reconciliation and Healing: In some cases, the protagonist may need to reconcile with team members who have been estranged or at odds with them earlier in the story. This reconciliation process involves resolving conflicts, addressing past hurts, and rebuilding trust or rapport.
  3. Gathering Resources: Along with assembling the team, the protagonist gathers any tools, weapons, information, or other resources necessary for the upcoming confrontation. This could include gathering intelligence, acquiring special equipment, or securing strategic locations.
  4. Integration of Knowledge: The protagonist combines their existing knowledge and skills with those of their team members, creating a unified strategy for facing the antagonist. This integration of knowledge may involve sharing insights, coordinating tactics, or leveraging each team member’s unique strengths.
  5. Preparation for Confrontation: The gathering process culminates in the preparation for the final confrontation with the antagonist. The protagonist and their team make final preparations, strategize their approach, and steel themselves for the challenges ahead.

Overall, the “Gathering the Team” beat mobilizes the protagonist’s support network, unifies their resources, and prepares them for the climactic showdown with the antagonist. It emphasizes the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and strategic planning in overcoming obstacles and achieving success in the story.

3 – Storm The Castle

This beat specifically refers to a moment in the story where the protagonist and their allies launch a final, decisive attack on the antagonist’s stronghold or base of operations. It often involves a literal or metaphorical “storming” of the antagonist’s fortress, with the protagonist leading the charge and facing significant resistance. “Storming the Castle” is a high-action sequence that serves as the culmination of the protagonist’s journey and their efforts to confront the antagonist head-on.
  1. Crazy and Insurmountable Odds:

    At this stage, the protagonist and their allies face seemingly impossible challenges and overwhelming odds as they prepare to confront the antagonist or overcome the central conflict. The situation appears dire, and success seems unlikely.

  2. Minor Character Arcs Complete: This beat provides an opportunity for minor characters to demonstrate growth and development by overcoming their individual flaws or obstacles. These characters may have undergone their own journeys throughout the story, and “Storming the Castle” is where they showcase the lessons they’ve learned and the changes they’ve made.
  3. Everyone’s Mojo is Working: Despite the daunting odds, the protagonist and their team find their rhythm and work together effectively. Each character is operating at their best, utilizing their skills and resources to contribute to the mission’s success. There’s a sense of unity and purpose among the group.
  4. Unexpected Twist or Setback: Just when it seems like everything is going according to plan, a sudden twist or setback occurs that throws the protagonists off course. This unexpected development raises the stakes even higher and adds tension to the climax of the story. It challenges the characters to adapt and overcome yet another obstacle on their path to victory.

Overall, “Storming the Castle” is a high-energy and action-packed beat that serves to push the story towards its climax. It showcases the protagonists’ determination, teamwork, and growth while introducing new challenges and obstacles that must be overcome before reaching the story’s resolution.

4 – High Tower Surprise

In the “Save the Cat!” method, “The High Tower Surprise” is a pivotal beat in the final act where the protagonist encounters an unexpected twist or revelation that significantly complicates their journey or raises the stakes. Here’s how to incorporate “The High Tower Surprise” into your story:

  1. Build Tension: Leading up to this moment, create a sense of anticipation and tension. The protagonist and their allies should be confident in their plan and nearing the climax of their journey.
  2. Reveal the Surprise: When the protagonist reaches the high tower (or whatever location symbolizes their ultimate goal), reveal the surprise: the expected outcome isn’t there. For example, if the goal was to rescue a princess, she might not be there, or the situation might be drastically different from what was anticipated.
  3. Challenge Expectations: The surprise should challenge the protagonist’s assumptions and expectations. It could be a realization that the antagonist was one step ahead, or that there are traitors within the protagonist’s own ranks who have sabotaged their efforts.
  4. Increase Stakes: The surprise should raise the stakes and make the protagonist’s goal even more challenging to achieve. It adds a new layer of complexity to the story and forces the protagonist to reassess their strategy.
  5. Character Reactions: Show the characters’ reactions to the surprise. They may feel shocked, betrayed, or demoralized. This is a moment of vulnerability for the protagonist and their allies as they come to terms with the new obstacle in their path.
  6. Adaptation: Despite the setback, the protagonist must quickly regroup and adapt their plan. They may need to improvise or come up with a new strategy on the spot to overcome the unexpected challenge.
  7. Push Forward: Despite the setback, the protagonist and their allies must push forward and continue towards their goal. This unexpected twist is a test of their resilience and determination.

By incorporating “The High Tower Surprise” into your story, you can add depth and complexity to the final act, keeping the audience engaged and invested in the protagonist’s journey as they navigate unexpected obstacles on their path to success.

5 – Dig Deep Down

In the “Save the Cat!” method, “Dig Deep Down” is a critical beat in the story where the protagonist faces their ultimate test, pushing them to delve into their inner resources and find the strength to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Here’s how to incorporate “Dig Deep Down” into your narrative:

  1. Recognize the Stalemate: The protagonist finds themselves at a standstill, unable to progress using conventional methods. This could be due to the unexpected setback revealed in the “High Tower Surprise” or other unforeseen circumstances.
  2. Letting Go of Logic: The protagonist realizes that their usual logical plans won’t suffice in this situation. They must abandon conventional thinking and embrace a new approach that requires them to step outside their comfort zone.
  3. Embrace Faith or Intuition: “Dig Deep Down” often involves the protagonist tapping into their intuition, inner strength, or faith in something greater than themselves. This could be a spiritual lesson learned earlier in the story or a newfound sense of trust in their instincts.
  4. Take a Leap of Faith: The protagonist makes a bold decision or takes a courageous action based on their newfound perspective. This decision may be risky or unconventional but is necessary for moving forward in the face of adversity.
  5. Character Growth: “Dig Deep Down” represents a moment of significant character growth for the protagonist. They demonstrate resilience, bravery, and a willingness to embrace uncertainty as they navigate the challenges before them.
  6. Overcoming the Obstacle: Through their act of faith or intuition, the protagonist is able to break through the impasse and make progress toward their goal. This may involve a surprising turn of events or a newfound solution that was previously overlooked.
  7. Reaping the Rewards: As a result of their courage and determination, the protagonist reaps the rewards of their actions. They move closer to achieving their objective and demonstrate their ability to overcome adversity through inner strength and conviction.

By incorporating “Dig Deep Down” into your story, you can add depth and complexity to the protagonist’s journey, highlighting their growth and resilience as they confront the most challenging obstacles on their path to success.

6 – Seize the Sword

To get the “Seize the Sword” beat perfect using the “Save the Cat!” method, you’ll want to ensure that this moment is emotionally resonant, thematically significant, and serves as a pivotal turning point for the protagonist. Here are some key elements to consider:

1. **Character Growth**: Ensure that the protagonist has undergone significant growth and development throughout the story leading up to this moment. “Seize the Sword” should represent the culmination of their personal journey and the realization of their potential.

2. **Internal Conflict Resolution**: Address any internal conflicts or obstacles that have held the protagonist back. This could involve overcoming fears, doubts, or character flaws that have been established earlier in the story.

3. **External Obstacles**: The protagonist should also be confronting external obstacles or challenges in “Seize the Sword.” This could involve directly facing the antagonist or overcoming other external forces standing in their way.

4. **Symbolism and Theme**: Tie “Seize the Sword” into the overarching themes of the story. Consider using symbolic imagery or motifs that reinforce the central theme and resonate with the protagonist’s journey.

5. **Empowerment and Agency**: Show the protagonist taking decisive action and seizing control of their destiny. “Seize the Sword” should be a moment of empowerment and agency for the protagonist, where they demonstrate their strength, courage, and determination.

6. **Emotional Impact**: Make sure that “Seize the Sword” packs an emotional punch. This could involve eliciting feelings of triumph, catharsis, or inspiration in the audience as they witness the protagonist’s transformation.

7. **Foreshadowing**: Look for opportunities to foreshadow “Seize the Sword” earlier in the story. Drop hints or clues that lead up to this moment, building anticipation and making the payoff more satisfying.

8. **Clarity and Resolution**: “Seize the Sword” should provide a clear resolution to the protagonist’s arc and set the stage for the climax of the story. Ensure that the moment is well-defined and impactful, leaving no ambiguity about the protagonist’s growth and readiness to face the final challenge.

By focusing on these elements and ensuring that “Seize the Sword” aligns with the principles of the “Save the Cat!” method, you can create a perfect and memorable moment that propels your story towards its climax and resolution.

7 – Execute New Plan

In the “Save the Cat!” method, “Execution of the New Plan” is a crucial beat in the final act where the protagonist implements a revised or last-ditch plan to confront the central conflict or antagonist. Here’s how this beat works within the framework of the method:

  1. Reassessment and Adaptation: Leading up to this point, the protagonist experiences setbacks or revelations that necessitate a reevaluation of their initial plan. They recognize that their original strategy won’t suffice, prompting them to devise a new approach to achieve their goal.
  2. Creation of the New Plan: The protagonist formulates a new plan based on the insights and lessons learned throughout the story. This plan may incorporate elements of the protagonist’s growth, as well as any newfound resources or allies gathered during their journey.
  3. Last-Ditch Effort: “Execution of the New Plan” represents the protagonist’s final, desperate attempt to overcome the central conflict or antagonist. They understand that this plan is their last chance for success and throw themselves into its implementation with determination and resolve.
  4. Implementation and Action: The protagonist takes decisive action to put their new plan into effect. This could involve a series of strategic maneuvers, confrontations, or other dramatic actions that move the story towards its climax.
  5. Success and Victory: Despite the odds, the protagonist’s new plan proves effective, leading to a significant victory or breakthrough in the narrative. This success reaffirms the protagonist’s growth and resilience, demonstrating their ability to overcome obstacles through adaptability and determination.
  6. Turning Point: “Execution of the New Plan” serves as a turning point in the story, marking the protagonist’s decisive action in response to the challenges they face. It propels the narrative towards its climax and resolution, setting the stage for the final showdown with the antagonist.

Overall, “Execution of the New Plan” is a pivotal beat in the final act of the story, showcasing the protagonist’s ability to adapt, innovate, and ultimately triumph in the face of adversity. It underscores the central theme of growth and transformation inherent in the “Save the Cat!” method, as the protagonist demonstrates their capacity for change and evolution over the course of their journey.

8 – Finalie

For the “Finale” beat in the “Save the Cat!” method, which typically encompasses the climax and resolution of the story, there are several key elements to keep in mind to ensure it’s effective and satisfying:

1. **Emotional Catharsis**: The finale should deliver emotional catharsis for both the characters and the audience. It’s the culmination of the protagonist’s journey, so it should evoke strong emotions such as triumph, relief, or catharsis.

2. **Conflict Resolution**: The climax should resolve the central conflict of the story in a satisfying way. This could involve a final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist, or the resolution of a key problem or obstacle that has been driving the narrative tension.

3. **Character Growth**: The finale should showcase the protagonist’s growth and transformation over the course of the story. They should demonstrate the lessons they’ve learned and how they’ve changed as a result of their experiences.

4. **Closure and Resolution**: Provide closure for the various story threads and character arcs. Tie up loose ends and ensure that the audience feels a sense of completion and satisfaction with how the story concludes.

5. **Theme Reinforcement**: The finale should reinforce the central themes and messages of the story. It’s an opportunity to drive home the story’s core ideas and leave a lasting impression on the audience.

6. **Surprise or Revelation**: Consider incorporating a surprising twist or revelation that adds depth to the resolution. This could be a plot twist that changes the audience’s perception of events or a character revelation that adds new layers to the story.

7. **Visual Spectacle**: If appropriate for your genre and story, the finale can include visually stunning or action-packed sequences that enhance the overall impact. However, ensure that any spectacle serves the narrative and character development rather than feeling gratuitous.

8. **Resonant Final Image**: End the story with a final image that encapsulates the essence of the protagonist’s journey and reinforces the story’s themes. This image should leave a lasting impression on the audience and provide a sense of closure.

By keeping these elements in mind and ensuring that the finale aligns with the principles of the “Save the Cat!” method, you can create a compelling and satisfying conclusion that resonates with your audience.

9 – Final Image

Remember, this is the opposite of the opening image. Creating a perfect final image using the “Save the Cat!” method involves tying together the central theme or lesson learned during the story with a memorable and emotionally resonant closing scene. Here’s how you can approach crafting a final image:

  1. Reflect on the Theme: Consider the core theme or message of your story. What is the central lesson that your protagonist has learned or the overarching idea you want to leave the audience with? This theme should be reinforced in the final image.
  2. Consider Character Arcs: Think about how your protagonist and other key characters have evolved throughout the story. How have they changed, grown, or resolved their internal conflicts? The final image should reflect this character development.
  3. Review the B Story: The B Story subplot often provides a secondary theme or lesson that complements the main plot. Reflect on how this subplot has influenced the protagonist’s journey and consider integrating elements of it into the final image.
  4. Visualize Symbolism: Look for visual symbols or motifs that represent the central theme or character arcs in your story. These symbols can be incorporated into the final image to reinforce the story’s message on a symbolic level.
  5. Create Emotional Impact: Aim to evoke an emotional response from the audience with the final image. This could be a moment of triumph, reconciliation, reflection, or transformation that resonates with viewers and leaves a lasting impression.
  6. Consider Visual Composition: Pay attention to the visual composition of the final image, including framing, lighting, and setting. These elements can enhance the emotional impact and thematic resonance of the scene.
  7. Think About Audience Satisfaction: Consider what the audience wants or expects to see in the final moments of the story. Aim to provide closure, resolution, and a sense of fulfillment that leaves viewers satisfied with the overall journey.
  8. Draft and Refine: Write multiple drafts of the final image scene, experimenting with different approaches and refining the details until you achieve the desired effect. Solicit feedback from others to ensure the scene resonates as intended.

By following these steps and staying true to the core principles of the “Save the Cat!” method, you can create a perfect final image that leaves a lasting impression and reinforces the thematic depth of your story.