Save Your Script with Save the Cat
I’m going to start by telling you all something I’m very proud of; I’m a panster.
I rarely plot a novel, I have a few images in my head and an end scene usually and that end scene in my head often drives the rest of the story. The sense of discovery and how it comes to that point. Sometimes it’s in reverse and I have an opening idea, a character a scene, that throws me into the mystery of it all.
And I write. And I write a fuckload. I talk about sprinting often through writer’s block but here is what I want you to know; it’s not always a good thing.
We aren’t always who we say we are on the screen and I’ve been hurting for about six months. I’ll keep it short; it is because my stories were all broken. In little ways, but broken all the same. They were good ideas. They had creative spark. All the feedback from publishers, agents, editors, critique partners, and betas was that they liked it, but there was still something fundamentally wrong.
This came to a head a few weeks ago where the spark just left me and I decided I had to do something about it if I wanted to get better.
I’d previously dismissed Save the Cat for novices who weren’t sure what made good storytelling because of one thing I’d been reassured was that I told good stories. But it wasn’t enough. I had to fix what was wrong with all my current stories, that little flaw so different in each one came back to a similar problem. I sat down again and decided I would read this book, properly, and use it for the script I’m going to submit to PitchWars this year.
AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY.
One of the things about having Aspergers is that learning new stuff is intimidating as fuck for one reason alone; you will either just “click” and get the premise, or it will be a serious struggle to learn, even if its explained very simply and easily. Sometimes your brain just doesn’t understand the new information.
Learning is hard. Save the Cat is not.
The reassurances from the author throughout the book against how difficult it is to plot, how its not any more formulaic because ALL stories follow a similar pattern, the examples, its all just…
Let me start by stating one of the key takeaways for me was the break down which as a panster was a bit of a hurdle. However, once I read the book and understood the points I just wrote down a single line for each one because I knew that was all I needed. You don’t have to over plot this; the book makes it clear this isn’t a case of writing down every nuanced detail. It even goes into how the beat points will probably change during the course of writing it, and that is fine.
Understanding those points of the story, and what was truly happening was made very easy to understand by the use of examples.
What I appreciated most about these examples was the diversity of genre. We all write different stories, surely its not all the same! Welp, point of fact it is – but especially if you want to make your book commercial.
From Sci-Fi to romance books, at each stage there were easily recognizable points to the stories I’ve known all my life. In the way they are alike and this is where the book excels because it brings in a different kind of story-identification as well.
The story of a hero, rites of passage, dudes with problems, and none of this is going to make sense to you unless you go read it because we don’t just break stories into “categories/genres” but also what happens. A mystery/thriller/horror can be all about “whydunit”, a term in the book used to describe a mystery to be solved, during which there are shocking revelations. Using this type of genre then helps how you develop the story. Not only does the story go into explicit detail for all these different types of genres, it then helps you figure out how to do something that’s magic.
That’s right; you get to learn magic.
Any one of you who’s ever had to sit down and write a pitch or synopsis I am going to give you the golden stamp for why you would need this book. It tells you exactly how to do it. Not a hint or guesswork or vague instructions you somehow have to manipulate. Very, fucking, specific, instructions.
For those querying, you need this. It’s your query letter, elevator pitch, and tweet for pitmad.
For those self pubbing, you need this. It’s your sales tweet, back cover blurb, and Amazon sales point.
And that’s what matters to many of us; the difference between whether an idea is attractive enough for a reader to buy the book in any form.
For those who think; I don’t want to write commercial formulaic fiction that is okay. This might not be for you. You may be writing a new breed or genre of story that’s specific and unique and I wish you the best of luck with that.
But most of you I know what to sell your stories. No, be honest, if not with me than yourselves. You’re selling to an agent/editor/publisher. You’re selling your work to an audience via Amazon. What you get out of it may not be money (not much at all in point of fact) but the feeling that someone loved your story. They cried, laughed, and spent time lost in your world of words.
The kicker here is that story telling is all the same. But you’d never compare The Handmaiden’s Tale to the Great Gatsby, would you? Yeah? Well, go read Save the Cat because it tells you exactly why.
When its broken down into these points all you are doing is what we’ve done since the dawn of time, and as Save the Cat is quick to point out and prove; stories are all fundamentally the same.