Saving the cat, one story at a time.

I’m finally dipping into Save the Cat this weekend. Written by Blake Snyder, it’s a craft book for screenwriters that is highly recommended for writers of fiction. Basically, the concept is that if you want people to invest themselves in your novel, your protagonist needs to do something fairly early in your story that makes your reader feel sympathetic or empathetic towards him or her. It has to be meaningful enough to provide some insight into why a reader should hang out with your character for a few hundred pages.

We watched St. Vincent the other night, starring Bill Murray as an alcoholic curmudgeon. The writer starts Save the Cat moments very quickly tapping into Murray’s grumpy quirkiness as he feeds the neighbour’s son sardines, insists the kid buckle up in the car, and funds a hooker’s ultrasound. As a result, you’re rooting for this loser to find his way out of the quagmire of his life.

In Cutting to the Chase, Lizzy is not a likeable protagonist. She’s not meant to be. Told through her point of view, she is an angry teen submerged in pain. Yet she has a Save the Cat moment fairly early in the story. We get a glimpse of Lizzy’s core when her father bails on her brother’s basketball tournament. She steps up and goes to the tournament in place of their father. Interesting that it’s there even though I did not consciously choose to insert a Save the Cat moment. Of course, as Lizzy’s life unravels, we get more and more insight into what is going on, but the tournament is where we first see clearly that there are layers to this unhappy girl.


There is much more to the book and I look forward to exploring Snyder’s concept of beats. For now, my husband is thrilled because I actually want to watch another movie this weekend. He loves movies and I’m just not a big fan of sitting and watching television. So he will be getting his fix, while I get to apply and analyze the craft of scriptwriting. It’s a win-win!


4 comments:

  1. People keep talking about that book. I'm going to have to sit down and read it some day. Soon.

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  2. I'm not good at craft books, but I do know I have to save the cat early.

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    Replies
    1. I find there is always a take-away, a new lens or frame for something in my own writing.

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