Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! provides a kind of anatomy for the skeleton of the screenplay – 15 beats (plot events) which he claims belong in every good story. It’s a pretty ballsy claim – and one I want to question by looking at his 4th beat: the Catalyst.
As you’ve probably guessed from the name, the Catalyst is the moment that sets the wheels of the story into motion. It usually takes the form of an offer (Inception; The Talented Mr Ripley) or an assignment (Casino Royale; The Departed) or a threat (Toy Story; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) – basically anything which will inevitably lead our hero to abandon his previous world and enter one which is entirely new. This is a beat Blake is very strict about, as he writes:
Cut it down and put it where it belongs: Page 12. … If it’s not there, the reader will get antsy. Your coverage will read: “No Plot” because you’ll have lost the reader’s attention. Page 12 – Catalyst. Do it.