Writing Blog #2- “Save the Cat” Theme-Stated

Happy Sunday everyone!

Welcome to Part 2 of the 15 part writing series on Blake Synder’s Save the Cat. In this post, I am going to talk about the second beat on the BS2, “Theme-Stated.” Before we talk about what is included in this beat however, we need to talk about the difference between plot and theme. Plot is what happens in the story. Theme is what the story is really about.

For example, the plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is about Rey, Finn and Han Solo trying to track down the map that can help discover Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts. It’s theme is identity. Several characters in the film–Rey, Finn and villian Kylo Ren– struggle with their identity and spend most of the movie questioning who they are. By the end of the movie, they discover the beginning of an answer. Rey has an incredible power and the potential to be a great Jedi, Finn is a Resistance fighter, not a storm trooper, and Kylo Ren is a conflicted warrior who may be more compassionate than he wants to admit.

Another great example of theme vs. plot can be seen in the film Rocky. While the main plot of the movie is about Rocky taking on heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, the theme is an underdog finding the value in himself.

Sometimes nailing down a theme can be difficult. I often do not figure out what the theme of the novel is until a draft or two is finished. Once I can determine what the theme is, I use that to guide my writing process.

In the BS2, the “theme-stated” beat is where a character discusses the theme with the protagonist. A scene that does this effectively is in the original Spiderman film. Worried about his nephew, Uncle Ben has a heart to hear with Peter Parker in the car, telling him that “With great power comes great responsibility.” The plot may revolve around Peter learning to use his powers, but the theme is about him accepting the equally awesome–yet devastating–power he has inherited.

The theme is the backbone of a story. Every scene, every conversation, every action, should lead up to the theme. It doesn’t really matter where the “theme-stated” beat appears, just as long as it is somewhere in the beginning of the story.

Check back next week for the third part of the series, “Set-Up.” Until then, kill your darlings, slay your dragons and keep writing.

Read Part 1 “Opening Scene” if you have not already.

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