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Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting…
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Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (2005)

by Blake Snyder

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There is nothing new in this book. It's all about the Hero's Quest--the classic story structure that goes back at least to the Greek myths, and is the quintessential embodiment of a compelling plot.

So if there's nothing new why did I give it 5 stars? Because Snyder brilliantly created a detailed blueprint that allows any writer to take an idea and sculpt it into the bones of a good story that follows the elegant form of the Hero's Quest. He makes a strong case that the bones of the story are the most important part of any work of fiction. Get the plot structure right, and your readers will be hooked by the premise, drawn into the fictional world, thrilled by the action, and deeply satisfied with the ending. This is a must-read for any writer. ( )
  DanielLieberman | Aug 31, 2014 |
Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder provides a guide to screenwriting from an industry perspective, focusing on what a writer needs to do to prep for the act of writing. These techniques include creating a logline (or one-line), watching and analyzing movies in your chosen genre, creating a beat sheet, and building a board to layout scenes as a form of outlining. Skipping over actually writing process, he then reveals some screenplay "rules" and somethings to look for during edits if the finished draft isn't working.

The Importance of Structure

I've heard a lot of praise for this book, both from screenwriters and from novelists, and a lot of this praise is in regards to Snyder's discussion of structure. As both a novelist and a screenwriter, I found this valuable. Understanding the beat points of a story helps a lot in the actual writing process. The beats* let the writer know where important points of action should fall within the story, such as the catalyst that leads the heroine into adventure. (The Save the Cat! website includes a breakdown of the beats in a variety of popular movies, along with other valuable tools, which is awesome.)

Structure is especially vital to screenwriting, where space (i.e. movie length) is limited. Snyder talks about specific page numbers where certain plot points should fall (midpoint on page 55, for example). In the movie industry, these specific plot points are the kinds of things executives and decision makers are looking for, especially from new writers.

For the novelist, this strict structure seems less relevant, but there's oodles of more leeway. Though it can help create a framework around which to build the giant story that is a novel.

Simple Tools

Another great piece of advice Snyder gives for both kinds of writing is being able to sum up the story in a single sentence or two, called a logline. The logline should state the heroine's objective, highlight obstacles, and have a hook. For example:
Legally BlondeWhen a blonde sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to follow him to law school to get him back and, once there, learns she has more legal savvy than she ever imagined. (from IMDB)
The simple summary helps the writer (screenwriter or novelist) get clear on their story before writing, provides an anchor as they work through actually writing, and gives them an easy, simply summary to use if they get the chance to pitch to an agent. Kristen Lamb has a great discussion of this bit of advice on her blog.

The book is full of simple to follow advice like this (if not always easy to execute).

What Drove Me Bananas

Save the Cat! is written in a snappy, conversational tone, which is great because it makes it an easy read. But it also came off sounding pompous, like I could see his smug smile reverberating through the text, and sometimes grated on my nerves. It's clear Snyder had a preference, he wrote and mostly enjoyed family and romantic comedies. So, it's when he talks about the genres he's not into and is less comfortable with that I found myself wanting to rage and beat him over the head with his own book.

Clearly, this was a bias on Snyder's part. He doesn't get these kinds of flicks and seems to not be hot on ind flicks. That's fine, but it annoys the frack out of me that he's including this bias as part of his "rules" and it distracted me from focusing on the valuable tools he was teaching.

I've put the ranty bits on my blog, for those who are interested.

Taking Action

Ultimately, none of these annoyances detract from the core tools and the value of any writing or advice book is whether it inspires the reader to actually take action and get to work. After reading Save the Cat!, I immediately jumped to work. I started creating loglines for all the novel ideas I've been working on and planning and I bought a board to lay out the scenes and acts in a tactile manner (I've been needed a new way to approach my current novel). The book also has me thinking about all the screenplay ideas I have on hold. I've learned oodles of valuable tools and my creative juices are flowing, so this book is a win. ( )
  andreablythe | Jun 27, 2014 |
Review originally posted here: http://emmamaree.com/reviews/save-the-cat/

A clear, well-written guide to presenting your story to other people. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but it’s also a well-known tool for fiction and non-fiction writers. A lot of the information (such as know your genre, have a one line pitch) will be familiar to anyone who’s been following writing blogs or lurking in the query trenches, but if not then it’s a great place to start.

It covers lots of essential information, including genres, character archetypes, and my personal favourite the ‘beat sheet’, which breaks down most plots into a simple structure and can be very helpful for working out pacing problems and structural issues.

Blake can come across as irritating with his every-other-page self-promotion. I loved when he pulled out popular movies for examples of genres and styles, but I got sick of him reference his own ever-so-successful films and TV ideas. I’d never heard of any of them. This would have been fine in a smaller dose, but there was just too much of it.

I think I’ll dip into this book occasionally when I need a refresher on cliches, tropes, and plot structures – but it’s a difficult book to read from start to finish without Snyder’s comments getting on your nerves. ( )
  EMaree | Feb 11, 2014 |
I loved this book. I've always thought I was a pantser, but this book has helped me create a clever way to plot. Excellent! ( )
  Toni_Kenyon | Jan 26, 2014 |
Some great storytelling tips here, whether you're writing a screenplay or a novel. The author writes with a very casual voice, making this book more accessible than some others. Recommended. ( )
  wethewatched | Sep 24, 2013 |
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We've all had this experience...

It's Saturday night.

You and your friends have decided to see a movie.

One of you is picked to read the choices from the newspaper while the others listen and decide. And if you are an inspiring spec screenwriter, you're about to learn a very important lesson.

If you've ever had the honor, if you've ever been the one elected to read the film choices for a group of gathered friends...
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"One of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters tells all in this fast, funny, and candid look inside the movie business. "Save the Cat" is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying - and saleable. This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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