Save the Cat and other ways to ruin a good book

My post title might lead you to believe I’m against such techniques, but that is not the case. My meaning will, hopefully, become clear below.

Recently I read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and was amazed by how much of what he suggests is already out there in the world, in the blogosphere. I knew what his title meant at least 2 years ago. I still learned plenty and I’m so glad I read it. I don’t know yet how much it will inform my writing and/or plotting, but I love learning new techniques and new ways to look at books and movies.

However, the downside to reading books on writing craft is that you never read the same way again. Books and movies aren’t mere entertainment anymore. They are learning opportunities, offering both positive and negative examples.

Then again, it’s fun, in a really dorky way, to recognize techniques in a movie and get all excited about seeing them in action. That’s how I felt when I watched Cowboys and Aliens a few years ago and saw the Save the Cat moment for the antagonist who now had to learn to work together with the hero. I think I actually grabbed RocketMan’s arm and whispered, eyes wide and bright, “He just saved the cat!”

If you’ve somehow missed all the stuff Blake Snyder has put out on the web for free, click here. But you can easily find the book at your local library, at your local indie book shop, or online. It’s definitely worth the read, even if you start watching movies (or reading books) and yelling out things like, “Pope in the Pool!” or “Laying Pipe!”

You’ll never read a book the same way again. But you’ll also never plot or write the same way again.

If you’ve read Save the Cat, what’s your favorite Blake-ism? If not, what’s your favorite plotting advice?



Filed under Reading, writing

10 responses to “Save the Cat and other ways to ruin a good book

  1. Next book I am reading!! Can’t wait. And I already do that, why I can’t enjoy reading or movies anymore…

  2. The Beat Sheet is my favorite tool from the book, by far. It’s not comprehensive – at least, I haven’t been able to use it on its own for plotting any novels. But it’s very helpful just the same, and I love the approach.

  3. Hardily recommend it as well, VB. It really demystifies common storytelling techniques and convinces you that anyone can tell a good/entertaining story if they simply know how the pieces fit together. And it’s true, of course. 🙂

  4. Margo Berendsen

    I totally do that!!! At least with Save the Cat moments and Pope in the Pool. But I forgot what laying the pipe means. Oh no! I have to go dig out my copy now.

  5. Sometimes I wish more of these editing tips would stick in my head, especially when I’m revising my own stories. I never feel like I’m doing enough!

  6. I’m a huge Save the Cat fan. I’m actually able to turn off the technical blips in my brain and still get lost in books and movies. However, when I used to work as an art director in TV, it would be jarring when I would see “rental house” furniture I knew show up in movies and TV. That suspended my disbelief, especially if it was a piece I had used.

  7. Lisa Gail Green

    Save the cat is awesome! I think the beat sheet is the perfect way for me to outline. It’s been immensely helpful.

  8. I think I’ve been living under a rock. I’m the only one who hasn’t read Save the Cat.

  9. You are so right! Once I started studying craft, I stopped reading for mere pleasure. I just can’t do it anymore. Even movies. I dissect everything I read and watch. I’m pathetic.

  10. That’s so funny how you grabbed RocketMan’s arm and whispered, “He just saved the cat!” You’re so right about not ever viewing movies and television the same way again. But I figure it’s all time spent studying craft. Right?

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