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Save the Cat Goes to the Movies Interview

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Enjoy! https://writerunboxed.com/2021/03/13/rewind-2008-a-conversation-with-blake-snyder-author-of-save-the-cat/

I debated where to put this, in Research or Kidlit Genres or Book Talk and given how Blake Snyder (RIP) put stories into categories such as Monster in the House, Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, Buddy Love, Whydunit, Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized or Superhero I thought we could have this wonderful resource in Genres. But we can move it depending on where the discussion goes.  :eastereggs

He makes a really good point that "If you say you’re writing a sci-fi movie, it doesn’t tell me anything. If you say you’re writing a western, I’ll go, “That’s nice, but what is it?” I can name westerns that fall into each of my ten genre categories. And that is more specific. I think that’s what I’m really driving at here. What I love is that since the book’s been out, I’ve been getting questions from writers like, “I have this pitch, and I can’t decide if it’s an Out of the Bottle or something else.” The truth of it is, that’s exactly the discussion you should be having. That’s exactly how you should get to the what the heart of your story is."

I loved Save the Cat and Save the Cat Goes to the Movies. It was highly instructive and his beat sheet is one of the best for plotting.
#1 - March 13, 2021, 01:34 PM
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Gotta say, Blake Snyder both ruined and enhanced movie watching for me! I've lost track of the number of times I've looked at my watch and noted, "Yup. 'All is Lost' moment coming right on time!" or "OK, this character's going to die."

OK, that one might not be Blake Snyder's fault. But as a fer-instance, if you ever see a scene where the soldier/voyageur/guy on a lost expedition looks at the photo of his sweetheart OR talks about the home in Montana he wants to buy (lookin' at you, Hunt for Red October), you know the character's toast.

So -- like Vijaya, I recommend the book highly. Any of the Save the Cat books, actually. The first time you read it you go "I'll never write to formula" and then you see some truly effective films/read an amazing book and realize you can only subvert the tropes effectively if you know what they are in the first place.
#2 - March 13, 2021, 02:39 PM
« Last Edit: March 13, 2021, 02:42 PM by AnneB »

Writing by numbers according to canonical archetypes and Hero's Journey beat sheets may (arguably) be okay until a writer learns the craft, but sooner or later the training wheel gotta come off.

Many remarkably predictable, artistically awful, and financially disastrous movies have been (and continue to be) spawned by Save the Cat, yet that work is widely considered the gold standard template for screenwriting and, increasingly, for fiction-writing.
#3 - March 13, 2021, 03:38 PM
« Last Edit: March 13, 2021, 03:42 PM by A. S. Templeton »
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

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I've never read Save the Cat, but I wrote those beats naturally in my Middle Grade. (I attended a workshop on it and went through the workshop using that book.) I think this shows how ingrained these structures can be in the works around us. I'm assuming I absorbed it.

Of course, there are other structures that also work, but none are coming to mind. (Isn't that the way.) Some things do seem to suit some stories too.
#4 - March 13, 2021, 06:22 PM
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I studied writing and screenwriting at university a few years before this book came out, so I haven't (yet) read it.

But there are some points to the Hero's Journey structure that leak into good stories whether an author is aware of it or not.

So much of my degree was picking books and movie scripts to pieces and seeing the similarities in plot structure across the board.
#5 - March 13, 2021, 06:49 PM

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Thanks for the link, V.  :star2 I enjoyed reading the interview.
#6 - March 14, 2021, 12:33 PM

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Gotta say, Blake Snyder both ruined and enhanced movie watching for me! I've lost track of the number of times I've looked at my watch and noted, "Yup. 'All is Lost' moment coming right on time!" or "OK, this character's going to die."

Haha! I was doing this well before and my family basically told me I cannot predict what's going to happen. As Debbie says, a lot of us have absorbed the elements of story/beats because it's in our nature. But a formal study helps so much. But it can also hurt if you overthink.

Writing by numbers according to canonical archetypes and Hero's Journey beat sheets may (arguably) be okay until a writer learns the craft, but sooner or later the training wheel gotta come off.

AST, I don't think of structural guides as "paint-by-numbers" but rather a rough roadmap to what would be a satisfying journey. Snyder makes a really great point in his interview about not showing your technique: "So your job is to, like any artist, learn how to know the structure and hide it." I think of ballet dancers, how effortlessly they leap and practically float in the air--there's a method to it but we in the audience are lost in its beauty. Great stories are like that--the page disappears.

I will always be an apprentice when it comes to writing because there is so much to learn and one of the best ways is to dissect stories you love and discover their patterns. That's what Snyder did. And what a gift. Anyway, if you haven't read the interview, do so. It's a great pleasure.
#7 - March 14, 2021, 01:01 PM
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I decline to pedestalise the late Mr. Snyder, who is far better known for Save the Cat than any of his actual creative writing, the most notable of which include a handful of kid's TV show scripts from the 1980s-1990s and the script for a marginally successful 1990's Stallone flick.

"So your job is to, like any artist, learn how to know the structure and hide it." -- Fine words, maybe, but rarely accomplished in practice. In 90% of movies produced in the past 15 years, I can practically set my watch by STC's prescriptive story beats. This is Mr. Snyder's real legacy.

I once eliminated a prospective developmental editor from consideration after she waxed rhapsodic about Save the Cat: "I very much follow the Save the Cat beat sheet and its three acts. When I build the book map, it allows me to better see that each of the beats have been accomplished and that they're placed well throughout the story... [All story] structures fall well into the 3 acts from Save the Cat where you have 2 plot turning moments that lead into the next act."

Is this what creative writing has come to? Writing and even editing according to fill-in-the-blanks beat sheet checklists, guided by the dead hand of Aristotle and his three acts?
#8 - March 14, 2021, 02:08 PM
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I decline to pedestalise the late Mr. Snyder,

So don't. I started this thread to share a lovely interview. Save the Cat is just another tool in my arsenal. My real talent lies in daydreaming...now if only the stories would flow seamlessly from my head to my hands.
#9 - March 14, 2021, 05:59 PM
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I once eliminated a prospective developmental editor from consideration after she waxed rhapsodic about Save the Cat

I would have done the same. It's a bit closed minded to only focus on one method. But I do believe in being familiar with theory, even if just to break it in practice. If I think about it, I view grammar rules the same way. If there is a story reason to break the rule, I'm a gonna break it to pieces. (Not that I'm suggesting any structure theory is actually a rule.)


My real talent lies in daydreaming...now if only the stories would flow seamlessly from my head to my hands.

This. I'm working on a YA based on a a continuous story I've been daydreaming (and sometimes night dreaming) since I was 14. But in my daydreams, I don't have to worry about things like ho old a character was last time we met them. I can just play. In the novel, I have to make it all make sense for the reader who hasn't been in my head for over 30 years. So definitely not seamless.
#10 - March 14, 2021, 08:35 PM
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