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I'm curious to know if it can apply to an episode, volume, season, or an individual book of a trilogy. If it does apply, how do you apply those individual episodes into a whole story whilst following the beat sheet?

For the people who don't know what Save the Cat is, it's basically A story structure method that uses 15-beat blueprint writers can follow to craft engaging, well-paced, and satisfying stories.

The 15 beats are:

OPENING IMAGE (THE IMAGE THAT WELCOMES THE READER INTO THE STORY’S WORLD)

THEME STATED (A BRIEF BUT CLEAR STATEMENT OF THE STORY’S THEME)

SETUP (A LONGER BEAT THAT INTRODUCES RELEVANT DETAIL AND THE CHARACTER’S STATUS QUO)

CATALYST (THE EVENT THAT BREAKS THAT STATUS QUO AND PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY)

DEBATE (THE PROTAGONIST DEBATES WHETHER THEY SHOULD ACCEPT THE OPPORTUNITY)

BREAK INTO TWO (THE PROTAGONIST DECIDES TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE OPPORTUNITY. A PLAN IS SET IN MOTION)

B STORY (A SUBPLOT IS INTRODUCED, OFTEN AT THE BEGINNING OF AN IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP)

FUN AND GAMES (THE PROMISE OF THE PREMISE PLAYS OUT AS THE GOAL IS SOUGHT)

MIDPOINT (A TURNING POINT OF CONFLICT. OFTEN A MOMENT OF FALSE SUCCESS OR FALSE DEFEAT)

BAD GUYS CLOSING IN (THE STAKES RISES AND THE FORCES OF ANTAGONISM BECOMES MORE THREATENING)

ALL IS LOST(IT SEEMS THERE IS NO WAY FORWARD FOR THE PROTAGONIST)

DARK KNIGHT OF THE SOUL (THE PROTAGONIST MUST LOOK INWARD AND FIND STRENGTH TO MOVE FORWARD)

BREAK INTO THREE (A NEW PLAN IS HATCHED AS THE CHARACTER FIND STRENGTH TO MAKE A FINAL ATTEMPT AT THEIR GOAL)

FINALE (THE MOMENT OF HIGHEST TENSION IN THE STORY, WHERE THE GOAL IS EITHER WON OR LOST)

FINAL IMAGE (THE FINAL IMPRESSION THE STORY LEAVES ON THE READER)

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    Can you clarify what "Blake Snyder's Save the Cat" is? Ideally, people shouldn't have to look it up in order to be able to answer your question.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 28 at 9:57
  • @F1Krazy Done :D
    – Dewux
    Aug 28 at 12:08
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It seems to me that the structure described in the question could apply to any self-contained story, even if it is part of a larger story or series, as an episode or a part of a trilogy. However, if the episode or book does not stand alone, but is really just a segment of a story separated for convenience, then this structure is unlikely to work for it. In particular "middle books" that contain neither the initial motivating incident nor the conclusion of a plot will not fit this structure well.

It should also be noted many excellent stories do not fit this structure at all, or omit parts of it.

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  • "It should also be noted many excellent stories do not fit this structure at all, or omit parts of it." If I could upvote multiple times for this, I would. Aug 28 at 21:35
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The framework provided seems to allow for some recursion. Looking it over, I would generally consider this a framework for any single literary/screenwriting unit. In a pinch (which is when it usually happens), you can split the arc into two stories, typically somewhere in the "All Is Lost" and "Dark Night Of The Soul" moments.

This is very common in successful movies made into trilogies, think Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean. The first movie is the above arc, beginning to end, leaving the final image open-ended but with enough of a conclusion that the audience is satisfied they've heard a complete story. That takes you into the second movie, where things continue to develop as the result of the events of the first movie, stepping up the conflict between "good" and "evil", then playing it out to give "evil" an "episodic win" (Avengers: Infinity War is another example), thus basically ending Movie 2 at or near the "All Is Lost" moment (thus making the "Midpoint" beat the "Finale" of this movie), before restarting the arc in Movie 3, fleshing out the "Break Into Three" and "Finale" into a full 15-beat arc.

So, the answer is that it can work as a framework for a large, multi-episodic story arc, however you need to pick your cutoffs in this main arc carefully, and supplement them with recursive STC arcs within the "episodic" content of each standalone narrative unit.

As an aside, Save The Cat is useful for retrospective literary analysis, but IMHO, don't take it as gospel. There are plenty of very successful, compelling, engaging stories where many of these beats are subdued and/or absent.

The excellent 1983 film Testament basically makes an entire movie out of the "Fun and Games" beat; the Catalyst is a global thermonuclear war 5 minutes in, and the rest of the movie is the characters dealing with the (literal) fallout. The Finale is merged with the Dark Night Of The Soul and the Debate, all in the last five minutes of run time; at the end of life as we know it, with a premature, painful death more likely than not as evidenced by the entire movie, do we continue to try to survive?

The more recent and more well-known 2011 film Contagion is similar; we're basically watching a representative sample of the human race dealing with a deadly virus. It's not really about whether we'll beat the disease, and how heroic the human race has to be to do so; we're watching our cast of characters each making their own way through the storm (or not), and the engaging, real interactions they have with each other in the midst of an existential crisis.

Other movies that don't keep the beat, so to speak, are "window in time" movies. The reader/viewer happens across a setting with a cast of characters, and watches some interesting stuff happen. The 2002 cult favorite Rules of Attraction is a good example; it openly defies the STC storytelling model (and perhaps as a result, it got strongly mixed reviews). A more successful example that seems to defy STC is A Star Is Born; if you dissect the movie under a microscope, you can find the major STC beats in there, but on first watch they're hard to point out, especially in the runup to the finale, and most of the movie presents as a juxtaposition of the opposing career/life paths of two musicians in love.

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