Saving the Cat and Other Adventures
Thanks to a tweet by an author I follow, I was recently introduced to the screenwriting self-help book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. Deciding that I could use all the help I can get, especially with plotting, I bought it and dove in. As I’ve read through it, I’ve been alternately elated and crushed by what Snyder has to say: elated because this will make Book 2 so much stronger from the get-go, crushed because it points out so many flaws in Book 1 (which I’m currently trying to revise).
Right now, I’m struggling most with Snyder’s list of fifteen key “beats” that every good film script (or, as I’m extrapolating it, novel manuscript) has. When I started dissecting Draft Zero (my NaNoWriMo draft) to figure out how my plot was structured, and how it needed to change, I split it instinctually into five sections:
- Introduction: Ramp Up to Problem
- Sinking Teeth In: Beginning to Grapple with the Problem
- Danger! Time: Problem Beats Heroine Down
- Regrouping: Time for a Training Montage
- Finale: “I Must Face the Peril!”
As I look over Snyder’s beats, I realize I’m on the same general wavelength. My sections align not-too-poorly with his list of beats:
- Opening Image
- Theme Stated
- Break into Two
- B Story
- Fun and Games
- Bad Guys Close In
- All Is Lost
- Dark Night of the Soul
- Break Into Three
- Final Image
Somewhere along the line, during all those years of reading, I seem to have internalized good story structure; some of the main elements of storytelling are there. But several others are missing. My timing still sucks, and the beats I’ve got aren’t strong enough. I’m in trouble.
I thought the last couple weeks—slogging through weak verbs with a machete—were rough. Something tells me they’ll be nothing compared to the upcoming ones. But I’m committed to seeing this thing through.
All right, Plot, look out! It’s time to go all Dr. Frankenstein on your pathetic hide!