7 Point Plot

ETA: Don’t worry about having to keep with the links! I’ve compiled a list at the bottom of this post!

One of the things I hear most about Save the Cat is that it’s damn complicated and what the shit is a theme and why does it have to be in the form of a question? This is a BOOK, Liz, not a freaking episode of Jeopardy!

Pantsers especially, I’ve noticed, are hella skeered of the beat sheet. And I guess I can understand why. Breaking your book down into 15 steps when you don’t even know what your book is about yet does fall under the heading of “intimi–wait for it–dating”.

But fear not, you writerly peoples, you! For there is a solution for you heathen pantsers!

The 7 Point Plot System

Developed by Dan Wells, who attributes it to Star Trek RPG, the 7 Point Plot System gives you all the goods of Save the Cat, but with fewer, less intimidating steps.

Here’s what it looks like:

The 7 Point Plot System

The beginning. The mirror image of the end.

Turn 1
Introduces conflict and bridges the gap between the Hook and the Midpoint.

Pinch 1
Something bad happens.

Bridges the gap between the Hook and the Resolution.

Pinch 2
Something even worse happens.

Turn 2
Bridges the gap between Midpoint and End.

The climax. Everything in the story leads to this moment.

There’s more to it than that, but I’m not going to go into it because he does it so much better. Fortunately for you, the workshop presentation is on YouTube!

He’s even made the PowerPoint slides available for download: 7 Point Plot System slides!

I would strongly recommend watching the workshop and going over the slides if you have a free hour this weekend, because not only does he go over the different steps using examples from Harry Potter and The Matrix, but he also goes into some hardcore layered plotting, and breaks it down in a way that it’s so simple to use, even for the most die-hard pantser.

(For those of you saving it for later, here’s a direct link: 7 Point Plot System. You can also download a PDF of the PowerPoint slides here: 7 Point Plot System PDF.)

How it Works with Save the Cat

I’ve been over this a hundred times with Liz Poole, and I can say unequivocally, it matches up near perfect with Save the Cat.

Here’s the breakdown:

7 Point Plot System

Save the Cat
  • Hook
  • Opening Image
  • Theme Stated
  • Setup
  • Turn 1
  • Catalyst
  • Debate
  • Pinch 1
  • Break into Act II
  • B-Story
  • Fun & Games
  • Midpoint
  • Midpoint
  • Pinch 2
    • Bad Guys Close In
    • All is Lost
    • Black Moment
    • Turn 2
    • Break into Act III
    • Finale
    • Resolution
    • Final Image

    So you can see, it matches up pretty well. For a better example, I went ahead and did a Beat Sheet and 7 Point Plot worksheet for Wicked (the musical, not the book):

    (If you hate Scribd, don’t worry–there are links to downloadable PDF versions of these at the bottom of this post.)

    7 Point Plot Worksheet – Wicked
    Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels – Wicked

    If you’re one of the people who tried Save the Cat and it just didn’t work for you, I hope this helps to fill in that gap. These days, I find it’s easier to scratch out a loose plot using the 7 Point Plot system, work with the story for a few pages, and then fill in the blanks on the Save the Cat beat sheet as they come to me. A lot of the intimidation that comes with the Save the Cat beat sheet comes from the feeling that you have to have this enormous chunk of information before you even begin writing, and I like how the 7 Point Plot System simplifies that so that you’re only working on one aspect of the plot (action, romance, betrayal) at any given time.


    Part 1 of the Story Structure (7 Point Plot) workshop: YouTube
    Story Structure (7 Point Plot) slides: PowerPoint | PDF

    Beat Sheet example for “Wicked”: PDF
    7 Point Plot example for “Wicked”: PDF

    Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels: Excel

    7 Point Plot Worksheet (Printable): PDF
    7 Point Plot Worksheet (Layered): Excel

    Thank You

    I love that so many people have found the Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels helpful. As always, if you have any questions or comments (or corrections!), feel free to let me know.

    More beat sheet stuff is coming this summer! It’s gonna be awesome!