Save the Cat and other ways to ruin a good book

I am reposting this from January because I think it could really help all of my writing friends out there preparing for NaNo. I have chosen to skip NaNo this year, after much internal discussion, because I have too many manuscripts needing revision. My resolution for 2013 was to improve my craft. So, working on revision seems more important than drafting something new.

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?

Good luck with NaNo!

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4 Comments

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

  1. Okay, I know what “Save the Cat” means — but I really want to know what “Pope in the Pool” means! Without reading the book, that is. (I’m lazy like that, plus I’ve never read a craft book and I don’t want to break my streak!)

  2. I don’t remember the other terms, just Save the Cat. I did like how he talked about different types of stories, like “buddy” stories and such. And the beat sheet is the first thing I use when plotting a new book.

  3. I just bought Save the Cat Strikes Back. Can’t wait to dig in.

  4. Andrew Casson

    Pope in the Pool means give exposition through dramatic action, ex. 15 Minutes, before we meet Robert De Niro’s character we learn about him via an argument between executives at a tabloid office

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