Writing Blog #3 Save the Cat: Set-Up

Happy Sunday everyone!

Welcome to Part 3 of the 15 part writing series on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. In this post, I am going to talk about the third beat on the BS2, “Set-Up.” This is where the writer builds the exposition of the story which, at times, can be the hardest bit of writing. The last thing you want to do is what is referred to as “info-dumping,” or just tossing all of your story’s exposition on the page to get it out of the way. The set-up must be skillfully done in a way that engages the reader.

I like to use the Star Wars prequels as an example of this. In these films, most of the important background information is conveyed through long drawn out scenes of walking and talking. There is nothing innovative about those scenes, nothing to excite the audience.

Compare that to a similar scene in Star Trek. Important, plot related information is being conveyed, but it is done in an interesting way. By comparing these two scenes, we are able to see which one is more effective and why. This is something to keep in mind when writing exposition.

It is important to sprinkle information for the set-up through the story, not to dump it in one place. We should also discover more about the character and the world they live in, not just background related information.

There is no one way to write exposition. Most writers struggle with this part. I know I have had to re-write the set up in my novel several times. Usually, it’s difficult to tell what information you will need to include until you have written at least one draft of the story.

Check back next for Part 4 of the series “Catalyst.” Until then, kill your darling, slay your dragons and keep writing!

Read Part 1 “Opening Scene.”

Read Part 2 “Theme-Stated.”


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