Five-Point… Fun & Games?
I get a lot of questions about how to fill out that Fun & Games section. Aside from the Finale, it’s the biggest Save the Cat! beat.
In a movie, the Fun & Games section spans 7-9 scenes and typically at least 25 minutes of the second act. Twenty-five pages of writing for one beat!
Fun & Games should be the easiest beat to fill out—it’s the movie the audience came to see! If you wrote up a good logline that clearly states your Story DNA, that’s the Fun & Games.
THE DNA OF STORY = THE DNA OF FUN & GAMES
As Blake Snyder discusses in his three Save the Cat! books, the key elements of Story DNA are:
- Hero: The protagonist or main character of the story. This is the character the audience will be rooting for and following throughout the screenplay.
- Goal: The specific objective or desire that the hero wants to achieve. It’s the central motivation that drives the hero’s actions throughout the story.
- Obstacle: The challenges, conflicts, or antagonistic forces that stand in the way of the hero achieving their goal. Obstacles create tension and drama in the story, compelling the hero to take action and face adversity.
- Stakes: The consequences or what’s at risk if the hero fails to achieve their goal. Stakes add a sense of urgency and importance to the hero’s mission and raise the emotional investment of the audience.
Loglines express Story DNA in a single sentence pitch.
The Hangover is about groomsmen with no memory of the previous night trying to retrace their steps to find a missing groom before the wedding.
Toy Story is about a group of toys that set out on a rescue mission to find a lost new toy.
And for a recent example, Oppenheimer is about a conflicted physicist who must overcome scientific challenges and ethical dilemmas to build the world’s first atomic bomb before the country’s enemies construct their own and win the war.
Here’s the cool part: these simple loglines summarize the Fun & Games beats of each of these movies.
Your logline and your Fun & Games are linked. The logline is the promise of the premise and the Fun & Games is the promise delivered! If you’re stuck on what your Fun & Games is, you can pencil the logline right into your Fun & Games beat.
Seems easy, right? The trouble comes when it’s time to translate that little sentence into 25-30 pages of promise-of-the-premise trailer moments. A lot of students or consulting clients I work with fail to get 25-30 pages out of their Fun & Games. Often these writers just bang out a montage and move right into the Midpoint. Sometimes they write 5-10 pages and tap out. Or they cobble together a collection of episodic trailer moments to fill the space. Their scripts will ultimately come up about 15 pages short.
For many of us, the Fun & Games needs more beats and more guidance.
In the first Save the Cat! book, the Finale had a similar issue: finale beats felt like singular moments and writers would finish their scripts with a quick 5-10 page wrap up, leaving about 10-15 pages on the table. They’d scratch their heads and wonder… how do I fill this out?
Because of this, Blake Snyder introduced the Five-Point Finale in his third book, Save the Cat! Strikes Back, essentially adding five beats to map out your Finale.
Let’s have a look…
Gathering the Team
The hero assembles their team or gathers their resources to confront the main obstacle or antagonist. It could be a literal team of characters or simply the protagonist finding the necessary tools or knowledge to tackle the final challenge.
Executing the Plan
The hero puts their final plan into action. It’s their last attempt to overcome the main obstacle and achieve their goal.
The High Tower Surprise
At this point, things may seem to be going well for the hero, and they might believe they have triumphed. However, a surprise twist or setback occurs, raising the stakes and making the victory less certain.
Dig Deep Down
The hero faces their most significant inner challenge. They must use the lessons they’ve learned along the way and find the strength, courage, or wisdom to confront their deepest fear or flaw. This moment of internal reflection is crucial for character development and growth.
The Execution of the New Plan
Having faced their inner challenge and learned from their past mistakes, the hero modifies their plan and approaches the final confrontation with a fresh perspective. This new plan often incorporates the lessons they’ve learned and allows them to overcome the main obstacle.
Finales and Fun & Games have a lot in common. They’re about heroes executing plans and facing obstacles and surprises. So I came up with a tool to help plot out Fun & Games called the Five-Point Fun & Games!
It’s not necessarily a requirement, but I find it helps me map out this tricky beat. It uses the same basic points as the Five-Point Finale with some modifications. The Finale brings about victory, exemplifies character arc, and brings an end to the story. The Fun & Games is still in the first half of the story, so it can’t totally resolve the story and needs to show a flawed hero.
Coming off the Break into 2 beat, your hero should have a goal and an obstacle (remember the logline we penciled in). The five points become about the hero achieving the goal. I find it useful to know my Midpoint too. The Midpoint is essentially the spoils of what happens in this Five-Point Fun & Games, which builds a bridge between the goal decided upon in Break Into 2 and the Midpoint.
Gathering the Team
The flawed hero takes steps to execute their goal. They might need information or need to assemble their team or gather resources to overcome the obstacle in their way. It could be a literal team of characters or simply the hero finding the necessary tools or knowledge to tackle the final challenge. This mini-beat might comprise a few scenes or just be one quick planning scene. It’s important to keep the character’s main flaw at the forefront of the tactics they use. This character will grow but at this point, they’re doing things the wrong way.
Executing the Plan
The hero puts their plan into action. They come face to face with the obstacle. Again, this scene could be a single set piece or a couple of attempts and reactions to setbacks. You can even have mini-surprises in this scene that make the hero change tactics (in this way, there could almost be a series of five-point Fun & Games within the Fun & Games).
A surprise twist or setback occurs—something the hero doesn’t expect that stops the hero in their tracks. It shouldn’t be a game-changing twist (save those for the Midpoint or All Is Lost or the Finale’s High Tower beat), but this beat should be something that says “This is harder than I thought” and the road will be filled with conflict.
UH-OH… Now What?
Because of the stakes presented in the Story DNA, the hero can’t just quit. Now we get to see how they think on their feet. No real Dig Down Deep here. The flawed hero comes up with Plan B still focused on their want not their need. Again, remember the hero’s flaw. This is still a character that needs to change.
The Execution of Plan B
They execute plan B. This Plan B might be a second set of scenes or a big set piece similar to the Execution of that first plan. Ultimately it will culminate in a Midpoint false victory or false defeat in much the same way the first plan leads to the High Tower Surprise.
Here’s a quick version of this using Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’s beats—again, not meant to be an analysis of the film, just an example of how this technique could flesh out your own outline:
Story DNA: Hero: Indiana Jones. Goal: Find the Lost Ark. Obstacle: Mystery + Nazis. Stakes: If the Nazis get it first, they’ll conquer the world.
Gathering the Team
Before Indy can even start his adventure, he must get the headpiece to the Staff of Ra. He travels to Nepal to convince ex-galpal Marion Ravenwood to give it to him. After an action set piece, she agrees to give it to him if they partner up.
Execution of the Plan
They arrive in Cairo and start their adventure, gathering allies and searching for someone to read the markings on the headstone. Things are going well until…
… sword-wielding baddies attack. Marion and Indy are separated. In an accident, a truck blows up with Marion in the back of it! Oh no! It’s almost an All Is Lost moment right here in the Fun & Games.
UH-OH… Now What?
Indy’s in almost Dark Night of the Soul territory. After a confrontation with Belloq, he decides to move on now without his partner Marion. (This is his Plan B—he’s flying solo now.)
The Execution of Plan B
Indy has the marking of the headpiece translated. Turns out the Nazis are digging for the Well of Souls in the wrong place. Indy sneaks through the Nazis to the Map Room to find the correct site to dig.
The Midpoint ultimately is the false victory of this Plan B: Indy digs up the Well of the Souls, but the Nazis are immediately on to him stealing the ark and seal Indy inside.
In addition to these five sub-beats, Fun & Games is also fleshed out with B-Story moments where in between the plot-driven action the hero is likely tackling the theme of the story in a head-on way.
Oh, and bonus… the Bad Guys Close In beat can be fleshed out using the same strategy!
Bad Guys Close In is similar to the Fun & Games except with more tension (both internal and external) being brought about from the Midpoint. The Bad Guys Close In culminates in an All Is Lost moment, which is typically a catastrophic derailing of the hero’s overall plan.
One thing to keep in mind, this five-point Fun & Games is a strategy to tackle your Fun & Games, but it is not a requirement. Here’s a checklist of what your Fun & Games should do:
1. Focus on your hero trying to achieve the goal described in the logline/Story DNA.
2. Show your hero trying to overcome obstacles and thinking on their feet.
3. Demonstrate the promise of the premise—be chock full of trailer moments and genre beats, and be painted with whatever makes your concept cool or unique.
4. Lead to the hero’s first big victory or defeat at the Midpoint.
And most of all – make sure it’s not a montage!