Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Save the Cat!

Welcome to the Progressive Book Club. Time for my book report.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
source

Loved it! So much useful information. Makes me want to write a screenplay!

Blake Snyder's voice is optimistic, energetic, and realistic. He shows we need to be able to step back and recognize, then laugh at, our silly mistakes. He encourages everyone to stick with it and gives upbeat analogies and examples to show how possible it is to write a great story. The only drawback was the section on casting - but it is written for movie makers, after all.

Here are some highlights.
Save the Cat - I had no idea what this meant and now I love it. I even have a Save the Cat scene in POP TRAVEL without trying! (my MC saves a muddy dog for an old lady, aww) Save the Cat shows the MC's inner character, making the reader like him. SHOWS.

Loglines - so necessary to have one! "...single most important element is irony." (p. 6) Irony hooks interest. It's what makes a story worth telling. That unexpected twist! Don't forget a Primal Urge - what's your MC's motivation? (p. 54) And make sure you "road test" it. (p. 12) Be brave and ask strangers, see if it hooks them. Talking about it to random people will give you a new viewpoint. My attempt at a logline for my new MS, SIMULATION - 
A well worn detective and a green FBI agent work together to prove a protected congressman is really a high tech android with a murdered man's DNA.

Top ten story types - a new look at genre by what happens in the story and not the emotion (p. 25)

The famous "Blake Snyder Beat Sheet" - he breaks down a story by pages of a screenplay, which is substantially shorter than a novel. So I converted it by percentages to compare it to a 300 page MS, so page numbers are approximate... (p. 70)
  1. Opening Image (p. 1, ch 1) - first impression - you want reader to think, "This is gonna be good!" (p. 73)
  2. Theme Stated (by 4.5% - p. 13, in ch 1) - know your story, it has a theme! and the theme is an arguable point
  3. Set-up (pp. 1-27) - show the character traits that need to change by the end
  4. Catalyst (11% - p. 33) - get to this quick or you lose the reader's interest
  5. Debate (pp. 33-69) - the pros and cons of dealing with the Catalyst are debated...
  6. Break into Two (23% - p. 69) - decision is made, time to go
  7. B Story (27% - p. 81) - secondary story with supporting characters who will be crucial later
  8. Fun & Games (pp. 81-150) - just like it sounds, the getting to know each other, honeymoon, teasing phase... it's fun!
  9. Midpoint (50% - p. 150) - can be a high or a low, a turning point either way.
  10. Bad Guys Close In (pp. 150-204) - coming from a high, or false low of the midpoint, the bad guys regroup and show they aren't going to give up
  11. All is Lost (68% - p. 204) - do you smell that? It's the "whiff of death" necessary in every story that makes the MC ask "What will I do now?" (p. 86)
  12. Dark Night of the Soul (pp. 204-231) - what the character feels and goes through in this dark time after hitting rock bottom
  13. Break into Three (77% - p. 231) - the solution is discovered
  14. Finale (pp. 231-300) - the solution is carried out, bad guys are thwarted
  15. Final Image (100% p. 300) - the opposite of the opening image, the transformation of the MC is evident
The Board - Blake Snyder loves office supplies and wasting time. But these elements are essential for organization! The Board takes the Beats and turns them into scenes that flow. (p. 97) Add some color coding for more organization. (p. 108) And the cards even help with conflict & emotional change in each scene (p. 110)

Favorite chapter title - The Immutable Laws of Screenplay Physics. Blake Snyder's quirky rules of do's and don't's (p. 119)

The Bad Dialog Test: read some dialog without tags of who is speaking - can you tell who is who? Is there a difference in the way they talk? And sometimes it all sounds like you, the author! Each character needs his own voice. (p. 154) Each character also needs "a limp and an eye patch," something that will make him memorable. (p. 157)

Quotes:
"...the competition for our attention spans has gotten fierce." & "There are too many choices." (p. 3)

"...we must learn about characters by what they do, not by what they say." & "... be more concerned with what's happening now than what happened before the story started." (p. 148)

That's enough. Want more? Read the book! I completely recommend it! And due to the A to Z challenge, I won't be reading the next book, though I am learning a ton. Thanks so much to M. L. Swift and all the participants. This online writer's book club is just what I needed!

Read SAVE THE CAT? So glad I did! Any thoughts? 

30 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My favorite writing book! The fifteen beats was the best part. And I now find loglines easier to write than a synopsis.

Suzi said...

Haven't read it, but so many people recommend it, I should.

Fida Islaih said...

I've heard about this book, yet I haven't read it :( Thanks for sharing the highlights of it! (:

Julie Luek said...

Hi Tara-- great overview of the book. I first heard of Save The Cat when I was working with a revisions group. Some of them actually calculated the placements of their beats beats based on the pages in their novel. I think the formula translates well into writing an intriguing, audience-catching book. Thanks for such a great review!

Dana said...

I haven't read this book, but I need to now! Thanks for the review. ☺

Melissa said...

Very thorough report! I love STC. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book. I'll put it on my list. Thanks for the review!

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I loved this one. :) I totally went and bought a board when I finished it!

mshatch said...

You've reminded me I want this book!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I'm reading it now. Thinking I should have taken notes too. I'll never remember all that good stuff!

Al Diaz said...

I like your summary!

Gwen Gardner said...

I'm hearing a lot about this book. Will have to pick it up. Thanks for the very thorough review, Tara!

Rena said...

Yes! Save the Cat! I got my copy over the weekend, and I've been tearing through it ever since. I didn't even realize I was following his beats so clearly, but I was!

Now though, it's hard to watch movies because I'm all "Oh, and here's the Dark night of souls..."

great book. (and yeah, now I'm secretly thinking about writing a screenplay)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

This book has been recommended by so many. I need to read Save the Cat.

Christina Lee said...

On my bookshelf! *pats self on the back*

Carrie-Anne said...

I've heard a lot of people recommending this book. I'd need a breakdown of something that's a lot longer than just 300 pages, though! I have some historicals that are like 3-4 times that long!

M Pax said...

One of my crit partners just lent me this book. I look forwarad to reading it.

farawayeyes said...

I have got to read this book. Thanks for the tips.

LD Masterson said...

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for this book was spoiled by an unfortunate comment made by Mr. Blake which I found offensive. But I certainly agree it has a lot of useful information and would be an asset for any writer.

VikLit said...

Sounds like a great book and certainly I've found the beat sheet useful!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

If we had a Top Ten writing books blogfest, this would be number one for me.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I think this book is my new favorite writing book! It made me see some of my plot problems more clearly and I loved the section on loglines, and the beat section too.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Oh, and I love your logline!

Christine Rains said...

I'll have to add this to my TBR list. I've heard of Save The Cat before, so I know what it means, but that's a cute hook for the book.

Brinda said...

I keep saying that I will read this book. I love your breakdown.

sydneyaaliyah.com said...

The beat sheet was an eye opener for me. I am a plotter, but never seen it quite broken down in this way. It will be fun to try it out on my WIP. See if I come close.

Lynda R Young said...

I love that you broke the beats down to novel relevant lengths.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for all the comments - I am very glad I read this. I felt like I was missing out! Sounds like I'm not the only one =)

mlswift.me said...

GREAT synopsis of the book and so glad you enjoyed it, Tara! I love how you laid it all out for me!

Before I chose STC, I was working on my manuscript and in my research, was directed to a screenwriting website that was SO beneficial for writers, too. It talked about the same stuff. Where conflict should first enter (page numbers and stuff). It helped me immensely with my ms. I can't remember the site anymore, though!

Thanks so much for this! You write such good wrap-ups! Again...sorry I wasn't able to participate for the discussion (and getting to your post so late). It's been KUH-RAZEE!

mlswift.me said...

GREAT synopsis of the book and so glad you enjoyed it, Tara! I love how you laid it all out for me!

Before I chose STC, I was working on my manuscript and in my research, was directed to a screenwriting website that was SO beneficial for writers, too. It talked about the same stuff. Where conflict should first enter (page numbers and stuff). It helped me immensely with my ms. I can't remember the site anymore, though!

Thanks so much for this! You write such good wrap-ups! Again...sorry I wasn't able to participate for the discussion (and getting to your post so late). It's been KUH-RAZEE!