Save the Cat
by Blake Snyder
This is one of those that is going to be hard to review, because it's a book on screenwriting. Most of that probably doesn't apply to 95% of the people who are ever going to read this, because I only know a handful of people who even care about screenplays in more than the most passing of fashions.
That said, if you're ever going to write a screenplay, I heavily advise taking a look at this book first. This book is one hell of a primer in organizing a story, figuring out how a movie works and what's necessary to make the screenplay fire on all cylinders before you even begin.
For a book on writing, there's very little fundamental writing advice. This book is all about the setup and the organization, all about getting everything in a row so when you sit down and pound out your story, you know exactly how to do that in the most efficient manner. As such, it's not a book for someone who doesn't know how to tell a story. You have to figure out your story, this book is just going to tell you how to turn that story into a workable idea.
I've always stood by my 'shoot from the hip' approach to storytelling, but this is the one book that's illustrated for me, unlike any other, the benefits of outlining. So compelling was the argument, and so clear and concise were the examples, that as soon as I had finished reading it I outlined my own script. That kind of result is absolutely stunning, in my estimation.
My major problem with the book stems more from the writer than his advice. The book is written for people trying to break into the big studio hollywood system, and as such it has more than a whiff of "we're in this for the money, not the art" to it, which goes against my ingrained sense of artistic self-importance and genuine respect for the medium.
Be that as it may, anyone who's going to try writing a screen play could do worse than giving this book a look see. What's in here is a treasure of solid, practical advice without any obfuscation or ornamentation. It'll clearly lay out what works in a story and what doesn't, and then challenge you to go out and see if you don't agree. I did, and I do.
This Book Is... Solid. (****)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Save the Cat