No, I’m not talking about self-publishing vs traditionally publishing. And no, I’m not talking about whether book reviewers should or could be writers too. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that winter has hogged the stage and needs to exit stage left. Or whether I should eat the last homemade chocolate chip cookie.
I’m talking about the Debate section in Act I that Blake Snyder talks about in Save the Cat. Honestly? I’d never heard of this before. And it’s a concept that isn’t really talked about and often overlooked.
Seriously, had any of you heard of it before reading STC?
The inciting incident, or catalyst as Blake calls it, happens in the first couple chapters. It’s an event that turns the protagonist’s world upside down. And between this event and the Act I Climax, our character needs to make the final no-turning-back decision. Is she/he going to do it? Can they? This is the debate section. And the Act I climax can be what finally convinces our character to say yes.
Why have a debate section?
- Introduces internal conflict because usually it’s a huge decision. And no real person just runs off to slay a dragon without giving it some thought. (At least I wouldn’t.)
- It’s a time to draw the reader into the life of the main character and establish the goal, conflict and stakes.
- Showing your character in conflict makes the reader care. It builds emotion.
- Showing your character take the time to decide makes your character and story believable.
- And if your character made the decision right away, you’d be stealing thunder away from your Act I climax.
On my sidebar are links to my break down of How To Train a Dragon and Princess for Hire. Each has a debate section. In HTYD, Hiccup must decide whether he really wants to kill dragons, which at the start, he thought he did. But then he meets Night Fury. During this debate section, I connected with Hiccup and then gasped when he made the decision not to kill and then his dad finally tells him he can.
Do you think about this big debate when writing or revising Act I? Can you think of stories that do this well? Or do you think this concept isn’t needed in all books? Can you think of books you love that don’t have this section? ( I can)