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Saving the Cat and Telling Your Story: How to Use ‘Save the Cat!’ to Write a Memoir

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Chances are you're already familiar with “Save the Cat!”

This book, written by Blake Snyder, is a guide to writing successful screenplays. And since its release, it has grown into a full-blown franchise of how to structure different stories. There's Save the Cat Writes a Novel, Save the Cat Writes for TV, and half a dozen more about screenwriting and storytelling.

But did you know that “Save the Cat!” can also be applied to memoir writing? That's right!

By following Snyder's principles, you can write a memoir that hooks readers in and keeps them engaged from start to finish.

So what exactly is “Save the Cat!”?

At its core, it's a storytelling principle that suggests every protagonist should have a moment early on in the story where they do something likable and endearing. This moment is called the “Save the Cat!” moment because it often involves saving an actual cat (or any other helpless creature).

By showing your protagonist in this positive light early on, you're more likely to earn your reader's sympathy and investment in their journey. But how does this apply to memoir writing?

Think about it: memoirs are a specific type of storytelling in which you use your personal experiences to convey a message or lesson to the reader. In order for readers to connect with your story, they need to feel invested in your journey from the beginning.

And just like in fiction writing, one way to do this is by establishing yourself as a likable and relatable character from the get-go. In this article, we'll dive deeper into how you can use “Save the Cat!” principles to write a memoir that captivates readers.

We'll talk about finding your own “Save the Cat!” moment, establishing yourself as a likable character despite any flaws or vulnerabilities you may have, creating an effective narrative arc for your story, and using dialogue and detail to bring it all together. So let's get started!

Finding Your “Save the Cat!” Moment

One of the most important aspects of memoir writing is finding your “Save the Cat!” moment. This term comes from a screenwriting technique coined by Blake Snyder, where a character does something early on in the story that makes audiences root for them. This moment is crucial in memoir writing as it establishes you as a likable and relatable character and hooks readers from the beginning.

What is a “Save the Cat!” moment in memoir writing.

A “Save the Cat!” moment in memoir writing is an event that shows you at your best, doing something kind or admirable that makes readers connect with you on an emotional level. It could be anything from donating money to charity, standing up for someone who's being bullied, or simply sharing a vulnerable moment with someone close to you. The idea is to show your humanity and make readers empathize with you right off the bat.

Examples of memoirs with clear “Save the Cat!” moments.

One great example of a memoir with a clear “Save the Cat!” moment is Cheryl Strayed's Wild. In it, she shares how she impulsively bought a ticket to hike the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother passed away. Her decision was risky and unconventional but also brave and inspiring, making readers root for her throughout her journey.

Another example is Trevor Noah's Born A Crime, where he tells us how he used his wit and humor to escape difficult situations growing up in apartheid South Africa. He shows us his resilience and cleverness at an early age, making us admire him before we even know him well.

How to identify your own “Save the Cat!” moment.

Identifying your “Save the Cat!” moment can be challenging, but it's essential for a successful memoir. Start by listing moments in your life where you felt like you made a positive impact on someone else or experienced personal growth.

Think of times where you overcame adversity or stood up for something you believed in. Another approach is to ask yourself what sets you apart from others and what makes you unique.

What values do you hold dear, and how have they influenced your life? Remember that your “Save the Cat!” moment doesn't have to be grandiose or life-changing.

It could be something as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries or learning to forgive someone who hurt you deeply. Your “Save the Cat!” moment should showcase the best version of yourself and make readers feel invested in your story.

Take time to reflect on what makes you special, and don't be afraid to ask friends and family for their input. With some effort, finding your “Save the Cat!” moment can be a deeply rewarding experience that sets your memoir apart from others.

Establishing Your Character

Writing a memoir requires a deep understanding of yourself as the main character. You have to establish yourself not only as the protagonist, but also as a likable and relatable character in your story. Being relatable can be challenging because it involves exposing your flaws and vulnerabilities.

But don't worry, showing your imperfections doesn't make you any less endearing. One way to establish yourself as likable is by showcasing your humor.

Being able to laugh at yourself and the situations you're in can help readers connect with you on a more personal level. Another method is to share your passions and interests with readers; this humanizes you and shows that despite whatever hardships you've faced, you're still an ordinary person with unique interests.

However, don't forget to show your faults too. It's essential to display the moments when you were not so likable or when things didn't go well for you.

By being honest about your mistakes, readers will be better able to connect with you on an emotional level. To make sure that your character development is strong throughout the memoir, it's essential to remember that people are multi-faceted beings.

There's no such thing as a perfect hero or villain in real life; everyone has good days and bad days. Embrace this aspect of humanity in writing about yourself too.

Showing Your Flaws And Vulnerabilities

Showing vulnerability can be daunting, but it is one of the most effective ways of establishing connections with readers through storytelling in memoirs. One way of revealing vulnerabilities is by sharing our fears or insecurities.

Readers will understand our anxieties because they have their own struggles too. Another method for displaying vulnerability is by discussing mental health issues like depression or anxiety openly in the memoirs.

These topics are often stigmatized but bringing them up makes us more human rather than just admirable characters. Additionally, it is essential to talk about your flaws in the story too.

Nobody's perfect, and by discussing our faults, we provide the readers with an opportunity to connect with us on a deeper level. Share mistakes that you made while growing up or how you learned to overcome certain challenges.

Combining vulnerability with humor can make a character more relatable. The honesty of sharing your faults in conjunction with a well-timed joke will strike a chord with readers.

Well-Developed Character Memoirs

Memoirs often teach the readers something new; at the same time, they allow readers to see themselves in others. In “Eat, Pray Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert portrayed herself as a flawed but humorous character who experienced life-changing events like divorce and depression.

Readers can empathize with her struggles because she showed her vulnerabilities throughout the book. In “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed revealed herself as an imperfect person who took on a daunting task of hiking through Pacific Crest Trail alone after going through drug addiction and family loss.

By showing vulnerability in her story and not portraying herself as someone special or extraordinary, Cheryl created an inspiring memoir that speaks to many people. Another well-developed character memoir is “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.

She depicts her journey from being raised in poverty by unorthodox parents to becoming a successful writer. The author faced unimaginable difficulties throughout her life but never lost hope or humor.

Establishing yourself as a character that is likable yet vulnerable can be challenging while writing memoirs using “Save the Cat!” method. It requires us to showcase our flaws and vulnerabilities whilst still being endearing. Revealing our humanity makes for compelling storytelling that captures reader's hearts.

In order for your character development to be strong, remember that nobody is perfect; everyone has good days and bad days so embrace this aspect of humanity while writing about yourself. Take inspiration from memoirs that have well-developed characters, such as “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Wild,” and “The Glass Castle” to create a memoir that readers will cherish for years to come.

Creating a Narrative Arc

What is a narrative arc?

In storytelling, a narrative arc refers to the structure of the story. It's how the plot unfolds over time, with build-up, conflict, and resolution.

A well-crafted narrative arc is important in memoir writing because it helps to keep the reader engaged and emotionally invested in your story. Without a clear arc, your memoir may come across as disjointed or lacking direction. How to structure your story for maximum impact:

One popular way to structure a memoir is using the three-act structure. Act one sets up the story – who you are, where you came from, and what led you to this point in your life. Act two introduces conflict – obstacles that you faced along the way and how you overcame them.

In act three, there is resolution – how you grew and changed as a result of your experiences. To flesh out each act further, consider using mini-arcs within each section.

For example, within act one there could be smaller arcs that focus on specific events or relationships that shaped who you are. Within act two there could be arcs related to different conflicts that drove your personal growth. Examples of successful memoirs with strong narrative arcs:

One example of a memoir with a strong narrative arc is “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. The first act sets up her backstory: her mother's death and turbulent family life leading up to her decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone. The second act centers around her struggles on the trail – physical challenges such as blisters and hunger but also emotional challenges like loneliness and self-doubt.

The third act shows her transformation into a stronger person who has learned valuable lessons about herself. Another great example is “Educated” by Tara Westover which also follows a three-act structure.

The first act introduces her isolated childhood in a survivalist family, the second act details her difficult journey to get an education and break free from her family's belief system, and the third act shows her healing and reconciling with herself and others. The narrative arc doesn't have to be strictly linear, as long as the reader can follow along.

Elizabeth Gilbert's “Eat, Pray, Love” uses a circular narrative which circles back on itself by the end of the book. Regardless of structure, a clear narrative arc is essential for any successful memoir.

Incorporating Dialogue and Detail:

When it comes to writing a memoir, details are everything. They are what make your story come alive in the mind of the reader. The same goes for dialogue.

Your conversations should be as realistic as possible, so that your readers can feel like they're right there with you. When you incorporate dialogue and detail into your memoir, you create a more immersive reading experience that draws the reader in and keeps them engaged.

Recreating Conversations from Memory:

When trying to recreate conversations from memory, it can be challenging to remember every single word that was said. However, it's important to get as close as possible. The best way to do this is by using sensory details – what did the other person look like?

What were they wearing? What was their tone of voice?

These details will help you bring the conversation back to life. Another technique is to use context clues.

Think about where the conversation took place, who else was there, and what was going on at the time. This can help trigger memories of what was said.

Don't be afraid to use some creative license when recreating conversations from memory. While it's important to stay true to what happened as much as possible, sometimes a little embellishment can make for a better story.

Examples of Memoirs That Effectively Use Dialogue and Detail:

One great example of a memoir that effectively uses dialogue and detail is “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. The book is full of vivid descriptions of Walls' unconventional upbringing and includes dialogue between her family members that feels authentic and true-to-life.

Another example is “Angela's Ashes” by Frank McCourt. McCourt uses rich sensory details throughout his book to transport his readers back in time to his impoverished childhood in Ireland.

He also includes dialogue that is authentic and captures the unique dialect of the region. A third example is “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.

Strayed's memoir includes a lot of internal dialogue, as she hikes alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. She also effectively incorporates conversations with others who she meets along her journey, making for a rich and immersive reading experience.

When writing a memoir, it's important to remember that the devil is in the details. By incorporating dialogue and detail into your story, you can create a more immersive reading experience for your audience.

Remember to use sensory details when recreating conversations from memory and don't be afraid to take some creative liberties if it makes for a better story. Look to other successful memoirs for inspiration on how to incorporate dialogue and detail effectively into your own work.

The Power of “Save the Cat!” in Memoir Writing

Congratulations, you've now learned how to use “Save the Cat!” to write a memoir! By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a compelling and relatable story that will resonate with your readers. Remember that while it's important to have a strong narrative arc, it's equally important to establish yourself as a likable character and show vulnerability.

One of the great things about memoir writing is that everyone has a story to tell. No matter how ordinary or extraordinary your life may seem, there is value in sharing your experiences with others.

By using “Save the Cat!” techniques, you can turn your personal journey into an engaging and meaningful memoir. As you begin writing your memoir, don't forget that it's okay to take breaks or make mistakes along the way.

Writing can be a challenging process, but it's also incredibly rewarding. Keep pushing forward and remember why you started writing in the first place.

Using “Save the Cat!” techniques can help strengthen your memoir by providing structure and allowing readers to connect with your story on an emotional level. By finding your “Save the Cat!” moment, establishing yourself as a likable character, creating a narrative arc, and incorporating dialogue and detail into your writing, you can tell a powerful story that will resonate with readers for years to come.

So what are you waiting for? Start writing today and share your unique voice with the world!

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