Sunday, September 07, 2008

Book Blog - Save The Cat

I admit that I jumped on the bandwagon of Save The Cat after hearing about it from several people. Then I knew that the author, Blake Snyder, was going to be at RWA Nationals...and THEN I heard that he really wowed the people attending his workshop. So...Save The Cat came to me along with some other books from Amazon.

(First of all, a bit about amazon. I know brick and mortar stores are wonderful, but I can't tell you how many times I've gone in for a specific book and it is not stocked. If I want a new release, or a best selling author I know will have backlist on the shelf, in I go. If not, though...all my craft books come from amazon. Same with research books, and any fiction I read that I doubt I can find elsewhere. It's one stop shopping, I spend MORE money and I get free shipping each and every time.)

Right. Back to Save The Cat.

There are things about this book that appeal to me and scare me to death. The logical part of my brain says "YES!" to the idea of mapping out your story. It makes sense. His beat sheet makes sense, in a "let's make this book tight" and a pacing sort of way. However this also frightens me. I have gotten to the point where planning so much makes me feel like I'm in a box before I've even started the actual writing. The saving grace is that Snyder does say that after you've gone through the process of creating your "board" - of laying out your beats for your story - you MUST be willing to throw it all away in the face of actual writing. In other words, what you thought would work might not work at all, or you might have an insight that changes everything. See, this I can get on board with. I tend to know my characters, but don't think too much about planning out every scene. When I let my characters guide me, that is when the magic happens. So I'm of two minds when it comes to laying it all out before hand. It makes me feel like I'm a slave to MY story instead of being the conduit through which my characters tell THEIR story. Not sure if that makes sense or not.

That being said, what if I took this idea and made it my own in that I write the story, THEN do the beats, and that way I can find the holes and fix them before I send it off to my editor? Similar to when I did a colour coded synopsis a la Jennie Adams. It showed me where my holes were. It also showed me structure, because you will be heavier on some elements than others in different areas of the story.

Ok..moving on.

There are other absolute gems in this book and IMO every new and aspiring author should read chapters six and seven several times. Screenwriting is very similar to writing romantic fiction (and possibly most genre fiction). So the "rules" he lays out - Save the Cat, Pope in the Pool, Black Vet, The Covenant of the Arc (possibly my favourite) - they all apply. And it would save a lot of beginning writers A LOT OF TIME if they knew this before hand. Same with chapter seven - the first heading is The Hero Leads and BOY do I remember being at fault of this!

I also love the idea of the logline. A logline is like finding your centre while doing Thai Chi. When you feel at sea, go back to your logline. Remember what your story is about, and go from there.

All in all a highly recommended book on craft, conversational, clear, and funny. Now I'm thinking I should get Save The Cat Goes To The Movies.


  1. This bit got me thinking. In the section on 'Buddy love' p35(The category he places romances in)
    Blake Synder says 'At first the "buddies" hate each other (where would they have to go if they didn't?' But their adventure brings ouit the fact that they need each other.'

    Do you think having the H and h initially really dislike each other is a good start?

    I wish he'd publish that Save The Cat Falls in Love talk that he does. :) Maybe I can find someone who's been to the talk and will pass on their notes.

    Janet Ch.

  2. They don't have to hate each other. But what works is when their goals are in opposition. Something in your story is going to make it so they need to be on screen together - whatever the adventure is that they are on. But their reasons for being on this adventure are different and so conflict arises.

    Of course hate is a strong emotion and closely tied to's very passionate. So do they truly hate each other or just think they do? I am starting a new story today and the 2 characters have a volatile relationship but it's really a cover. Their goals are in opposition...but somehow they have to get to the point where they realize they are supposed to be together.

    Does that help at all?

  3. Anonymous10:46 a.m.

    Donna, I'm with you about plotting. If I plot too heavily, I feel as if I've already written the book. I would definitely find the beat sheet useful during revisions.

    Best of luck with the new book.


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  5. It can work depending on the idea. Say for example, a couple teams up to win a million dollars. They work together to achieve this goal. And yet...their motivation for wanting the million dollars might be very different. They might have different life philosophies. They might need each other and have a common goal, but what if they don't LIKE each other? In this case the external goal is the million dollars. But their internal goals are at odds...maybe he wants it to fund a new project and she wants it for some completely altruistic reason. And along the way, they fall in love...yeah, there's lots of room for conflict AND romantic development.

    It's all in the execution. Just remember that the higher the stakes, the higher the emotional quotient and that's what you're aiming for. If characters are already happy and just happen to fall for each makes it hard to get invested and really root for them, you know?

    In my current project, the H/h are married. She wants a divorce. He doesn't want to give her one. In the end they each have to reach a point where what they wanted at the beginning isn't what they want NOW and somehow get to a HEA.


  6. Thanks again, Donna.
    I'll let them have the same external goals.

    Janet Ch.

  7. According to Blake Snyder at the talk he gave at Nationals he is currently writing 'Save The Cat Falls In Love'. So we should have it very very soon.

    The talk was excellent and I have just finished the book. Intellectually I know the beat sheet is a good idea but my entire non-logical side shies away from it!!

    Maybe for the next set of revisions!


  8. I'd heard that, Biddy. You can be sure I'll get it. There were lots of little gems in there that made sense. The language is also really accessible which helps a lot.