by Kelly BaughI’ve been to a handful of writer’s conferences in the last few years, and at every single one of them, I’ve heard someone say, “You should read Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder.
“But it’s a book on screenwriting,” I usually think to myself. “Why would I waste my time reading a screenwriting book when there’s so many other writing books I need to read?”
After I’d heard the recommendation several years running, however, I decided to purchase the book and I’m so glad I did. As I burned through the pages I found myself wondering, “Why didn’t I read this book years ago? Why did no one tell me about it?” Oh, wait …
The chapter I’ve dog-eared to death deals with the tight constraints of screenwriting and the structure a good story must have. As Snyder says, “Screenplays are structure. Precisely made Swiss clocks of emotion” (108). With my latest manuscript, I know I don’t have a Swiss clock; I have a failing-EU-country one. My story has a good plot, interesting characters, snappy dialogue, but weak structure.
Save the Cat! gives me a great springboard for the structure I need to weave my story around, and the approximate page number it should show up. Snyder breaks down a story into the following segments:
1. Opening Image (1)
2. Theme Stated (5)
3. Set-up (1-10)
4. Catalyst (12)
5. Debate (12-25)
6. Break into Two (25)
7. B Story (30)
8. Fun and Games (30-55)
9. Midpoint (55)
10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75)
11. All is Lost (75)
12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85)
13. Break into Three (85)
14. Finale (85-110)
15. Final Image (110)
Obviously, my novel may march to a slightly different, less constrained beat, but I’m excited to use Snyder’s list to transform my work into a more Swiss-like manuscript. Also, Save the Cat! will now occupy the coveted nightstand position in my book hierarchy.
What books are your go-to resources on writing? (I don’t have to wait for another conference to get my next nightstand treasure).