Anyone who knows me knows of my deep affinity for cats. 🙂
In his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years Donald Miller shares a tool that writers use to get their readers to care about what happens to the protagonist in their story. It’s called “saving the cat.”
Here’s what Donald Miller shares about having a character “save the cat.”
In the first twenty minutes of the story…your protagonist has to do something good. He can be crabby and have a drinking problem and even be a bit of a jerk, but unless he does something good, the audience won’t want things to work out for him, and they’ll lose interest in your story.
P. 81, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
I see this all of the time now.
I like the TV show The Office. One of the stars of that show is a character named Micheal Scott. Just when you think that Michael is the biggest jerk of all time and you are just about to give up on him, the writer’s of the show will have Michael do something that endears him to the audience. One example is in the episode entitled Business School. Pam is displaying her artwork at a local art gallery and none of her coworkers come to see her artwork—except for Michael. He says it’s great, buys it, and hangs it up on the wall outside of his office.
One of the greatest examples of this is in the movie, Rocky Balboa. Where a Rocky—as a 75-year-old boxer fights somebody and beats them. 🙂 Early in the movie, Rocky has befriended a single mom. He’s very good to her. In one scene their standing on her front porch, the porch light is out, and Rocky reaches into his pocket and pulls out a light bulb and screws it in. The director of the movie does this so that we’ll care about Rocky.
If he (the director) didn’t do all those things we wouldn’t care whether he (Rocky Balboa) went twelve rounds or not. We’d have gotten to the end of the movie and not cared a bit. We wouldn’t know why we didn’t care; we’d just say it wasn’t a very good movie. But the reason would have been that the guy who won in the end wasn’t really a good guy. He was just a normal guy.
P. 83, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
God writes great stories full of great characters who do good things.
That’s why we care about what happens to Mordecai in the book of Esther. Early in his story he “saves the cat” when we find out that he’s raised his cousin as his own. He also “saves the cat” when we see him saving Xerxes’ life by exposing an assassination plot.
That’s also why we care about what happens to Esther. She “saves the cat” when she faces her fear and saves her people.
What if she’d let fear win?
What if she’d said, “No, I’m pretty comfortable now in the castle, surrounded by all of this wealth, and I enjoy being alive. I’ve been through a ton of bad experiences—life hasn’t been fair to me—and I think I deserve to be happy”? She wouldn’t be a great character.
A great character has great character.
When was the last time you “saved a cat”?
When was the last time you did something that made people care what happened to you?
Are there lives that wouldn’t be blessed if you died today?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody care that you and I exist?
Are we living the kind of life that matters to other people?
Are we living the kind of lives that matter to God?
How do we “save cats”? To save cats one has to…
1) Care…about cats.
2) Act…to save cats.
But I’m not writing this post because I care about saving cats. Even though, I actually do. I’m writing this post because I care about saving people.
Do you want to know how to save people? Here’s what we must do if we want to help people find salvation through Jesus Christ.
1) Care…about people.
2) Act…to save people.
If we do these things, we will become great characters in the story God is writing through our lives.