Noticed how for the last couple of months ‘read books about craft’ has been a constant on my monthly to-do list, and yet no books about craft were getting read? Yeah, me too. I’m hoping to read and review one craft book a week throughout 2018, starting now.
Writing friends, if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to share! I’ve got next week’s book picked out, and a list I’m hoping to work my way through, but I’m always up for suggestions.
Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need.
I put off reading Save the Cat for ages, mainly because while I was still living in Japan, I had a writing friend who read it and was not impressed. I forget what her objections were now, but I think it was along the lines of the fact that Blake Snyder overly simplified things, and didn’t really take into account all of the differences of genre. Other writing friends have been underwhelmed by it, so I went into it with very low expectations. As a result, I really enjoyed it.
At this point in my writer’s journey, most of the advice in Save the Cat were things that I’d encountered before, but I really appreciated the simple way that Snyder presents them. Sure, a lot of them are obvious, but take it from me, it is really, really easy to overlook the obvious. I do it on a regular basis. Take Snyder’s title for example: save the cat, a beat near the start of the story where the hero does something that puts the audience on their side. This is usually, though not always, done by having your protagonist do something heroic, e.g. help someone, do something selfless, or otherwise engage our sympathy. The point isn’t that they do something heroic, a distinction which many people, myself included, miss. The point is that they engage reader’s sympathy. This is something I overlooked in Ibiza on Ice. As a result, many readers reported struggling to feel any sympathy for my unlikeable hero, Aston. Whoops!
I also really appreciated the refresher on structure and Snyder’s beat scheme, which tallies very nicely with the advice of James Scott Bell, and Michael Hauge, my writing go-tos for plotting. But Snyder said something else, which I have never encountered before. When writers set up their writing outline, in this case a board, and play around with cards, pins, colour coding, and stationery choices, we are not simply wasting time, we are allowing the story to sink into our subconscious. I fully subscribe to this theory! I mean, it explains a lot about writers and our love of stationery/procrastination.
There were things that grated. Snyder’s likes and dislikes are clear and he paints them as examples of things that don’t work rather than as things that didn’t work for him. However, I was willing to forgive him this, because he considers Legally Blonde one of the best films ever made, which it is. So yes, I enjoyed reading this, and while I’m probably not going to rush out and purchase a copy of it for myself immediately (I borrowed this from the Christchurch City libraries), I think it will be a really useful reference to have and one I’ll probably pick up in the future as a reference.