Happy Sunday everyone!
Welcome to Part 4 of the 15 part writing series based on Blake Synder’s Save the Cat! In this post, I am going to talk about the fourth beat known as the catalyst. This is the beat where the story truly begins. Prior to this, we had our opening scene, which establishes our setting and characters, our theme-stated and our set-up, which provides the reader with more background information. The catalyst is probably the most easily recognizable beat in any story structure. It’s also known as the Call to Adventure or the Inciting Incident. Our hero, whom we’ve gotten to know in our set-up is now face with a challenge, a chance, an opportunity to better themselves and to better the world in which they live. It’s a moment of change and no matter what kind of story you have, the catalyst must always be present.
One of the most notable Catalysts is in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. J.K. Rowling masterfully builds the plain Muggle world in which Harry lives while simultaneously hinting at something greater. When Harry receives his first letter from Hogwarts however, that when the story truly begins.
Another notable Catalyst moment is in Star Wars when Luke stumbles across a hologram message of Princess Leia while cleaning R2D2. He watches in awe as the beautiful princess repeats “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” Suddenly, Luke is no longer worried about staying on the farm forever. He has a mission, a purpose. He needs to find Obi-Wan. His life has changed forever.
The catalyst however, does not always need to be a positive moment. Think about the Batman movies. The inciting incident, or the moment of change for Bruce Wayne is when he witnesses his parents murder. This moment changes him and sets him on the path to becoming Batman. In my novel, the catalyst is definitely a down moment for my protagonist, but it strengthens her resolve and challenges her to achieve her goal.
So whatever you do, do not forget your catalyst. You need to figure out how to get the ball rolling, how to move your characters from one point in their life to another. The catalyst helps with that.
Check back next for Part 5 of the series “The Debate.” Until then, kill your darling, slay your dragons and keep writing!
Read Part 1 “Opening Scene”
Read Part 2 “Theme Stated”
Read Part 3 “Set-Up“