Writing Book of the Month: November
"Save the Cat! Writes a Novel" by Jessica Brody
I will always have a soft-spot for Save the Cat! and the late Blake Snyder.
For the uninitiated, "Save the Cat!" is the moment in a story where the protagonist endears himself/herself to the audience by doing an action like (gasp!) saving a cat. And, it also refers to a popular series of writing books created by Snyder.
Like the other great writing gurus, Robert McKee and Christopher Vogler, Snyder presented his system of the "beats" he claimed could be found in every successful story — opening image, set-up, theme stated, catalyst, debate, break into two, B story, the promise of the premise, midpoint, bad guys close in, all is lost, dark night of the soul, break into three, finale, and the final image.
Many of these "beats" are similar to the hero's journey made famous by Joseph Campbell (and George Lucas's epic original "Star Wars") and later expanded by Vogler, but Snyder's beats are more screen-specific. Until now.
Brody took the STC! model and found a way to apply it to novel writing, and the results are mostly successful. In the opening pages, Brody addresses how applying the STC! method won't result in "cookie cutter" stories or predictable storylines.
And this has really been the crux of the STC! critics from day one, writers who see any kind of formatter as a hindrance to their originality.
However, I will say that I think used properly the STC! model can add to your originality. It's really just a list of steps that your story could/should follow. That's all. How you get there is what makes your story, well, yours.
If you look at Vogler's books and some of the STC! books, I often find the authors really reaching to make a movie or story fit into their modality. It's literally like trying to squeeze thirty-pounds of shit into a two-pound bag.
I used STC! software to "beat" out my award-winning screenplay "Awaken." The story was 100% me and my vision, but I stayed on track by beating it out. I was fortunate enough to share my success with Blake, who was one of the most generous teachers I've ever met.
At the end of the day, there's nothing new here. Brody doesn't reinvent the wheel, but explains how you can hack the wheel to work better for you and your novels.
Regardless of whether you're an outliner or a pantser, Brody will leave you pumped up and ready to write. Like Snyder, she writes in an accessible, easy to digest voice. She's honest about the process, and her own process as a successful published author, and approaches the material with the right amount of lightness to keep you interested — unlike McKee.
And that's why I love STC! and Snyder. Anyone who can get you excited by a blank page is worthy of your time, in my humble opinion.
Check it out! Brody and STC! might just help you get over your latest case of "writer's block."
See you on the other side!