Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Review: Save the Cat! Strikes Back

 Last year, I reviewed the first in the Save the Cat! series by Blake Snyder. This time I’m reviewing the third and last book in the series called Save the Cat! Strikes Back. (I’ll explain why I didn’t buy the second one in a bit.)

The series was recommended by the fabulous author and writing instructor, Les Edgerton.

Years ago I took a screenwriting class, not because I wanted to write for Hollywood, but because I could see that the pace and structure of books was becoming more “movie-like.” I wanted to learn how screenplays were structured. This third book, like my copy of the first, is now part yellow from all the highlighting I did. It is full of advice that you can easily apply to your writing.

For example, here is some of what Snyder said about Loglines:
The template:
On the verge of a Stasis = Death moment, a flawed protagonist Breaks into Two; but when the Midpoint happens, he/she must learn the Theme Stated, before All is Lost.
You might read that and go, huh? But Snyder goes on to explain what each bolded word or phrase means. When you finish reading his explanation and example, you go, Ah-ha.

Here’s another quote that you already know, but when I read it, I paused and thought, of course.
All stories are about transformation.
Writers always talk about the dreaded Elevator Speech where you are called upon to pitch your book within a minute. If you’re interviewing at a conference, you may get ten minutes. For scripts, it’s called simply The Pitch. Snyder shares a Guide that came from one of his students, Betty Ryan:
1. Opening Image - A brief “who” of the hero
2. Catalyst - The thing that sets the story in motion
3. Break into Two - The essence of the story and poster
4. Midpoint - The complication that challenges the hero
5. All is Lost - How the hero loses everything
6. Break into Three - The solution to the hero’s dilemma
7. Final Image - How he is transformed by this story
The book is great, in my opinion, for both scriptwriters and bookwriters. Of course, a class with Blake Snyder would be fabulous and very intense, but we won’t get that opportunity since he passed away in 2009.

Barnes and Noble

I like this series so much, I’m creating a new rating just for him: Hel-of-a-Teacher.
FTC Disclaimer: I bought this book myself and while that did NOT influence my review, it did influence my reading. Dang it if I’m gonna spend money on a book and not read it. Which brings me to why I didn’t buy the 2nd in the series, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. When I browsed through it, I thought it would not help me much, as a book writer, since it focused on the analysis of movies. I’m not much on analyzing movies. I just go to them and enjoy them. Now, after reading Book 1 and Book 3, I will get the one in-between. I want to see how he breaks down movies, especially the ones I’ve seen. He diagrams books the way I used to diagram sentences in high school. I don’t think they even teach that anymore. But through these books, you can learn to diagram your story.


  1. That's actually really interesting. I've read several books lately that read more like screenplays than novels. Perhaps those writers read this series too.

  2. I've read the first book and found a lot of useful tips for writers. Will have to read this one as well.

  3. I haven't read his first one. Do you think I need to read both? Or pick one over the other?

  4. Jennifer, I liked them both, of course. I found the first beneficial to my thinking about writing. The third one gave me lots of ideas for querying and pitching the book.

  5. I actually understood all those bolded words, something I wouldn't have done this time last year. I guess I am learning :)

  6. I bought the first book after your review last year. It's still sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. I guess I should do that!

  7. Laura, I read and highlight. I admit I read quickly on the first read-through, so highlighting lets me go back and re-read the stuff I felt was important or new to me or worth re-reading.

  8. Fascinating. You've got me wanting to read it.

  9. I loved save the cat! I didn't know it was a series. I'm going to have to check them out. Thanks for the review!

  10. You're welcome, Elle. I'll be looking for the second book in the series.

  11. Thanks for the review, sounds like a good series for sure - and that's one helluva-rating!

  12. A must book for my how-to-writing library. Thanks for featuring it, Helen.

  13. Thanks for introducing me to these books. I had not heard of them before. Somehow I missed your review last year of the first book. Wish I had this latest for the screenwriting workshop I am giving next week. Too late to order it and get it in time.

  14. I like the idea of diagramming our stories. As writers, the more we can break a story down into logical pieces that suit one another, it seems, the stronger the story. It gives us a better grasp of the construction.

  15. While diagramming my WIP, I found two threads that I had completely dropped.

    For me, these books are not ones I can read and never look at again. I highlight so I can re-read what I thought was important. And figure out how to put to use in my writing.

  16. I wish I'd had those 7 points for "the pitch" when I've had to promote my business at workshops. It's so much better than the ones I've been given- they make me want to gag.I hate self promotion, but I think I could adapt that and not feel queasy.

  17. I've heard of this and have considered taking a stab at screenwriting this year. Good Will Hunting was recommended to me to use to get an idea of formatting. I don't do well with "the pitch." I start off, get a blank look from the agent and then ignore my practiced speech and babble on for the other 8 minutes!!!! One agent actually started passing me her business card and withdrew it, stacked it with the others and put it in her purse.

  18. Interesting. Which book would you recommend we start with?

  19. Thanks for this -- I just reviewed Save the Cat (and linked to your two reviews), but didn't know it was a series!


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