Berg's Book Club

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder| Berg’s Book Club

Save the cat cover art. A cat swings using rope.

Book Title: Save the Cat
Author: Blake Snyder 
Book Series: Save the Cat
Book No.: Book 1
Genre: Non-fiction, How to guide
Published: November 2016
Publisher: Michael wiese productions
Star Rating: ★★★★


Introduction

Save the Cat! No, not a real one. Save the Cat is a book for aspiring screenwriters on how to write a screenplay. I mean it has to be useful or it doesn’t fulfil its purpose really, does it?

For my independent project in Creative Writing, I have chosen to write a 60 page TV show or 90-page screenplay. So over the summer, I bought half a dozen or so books based on writing for screen and TV. There was a great Drama Bookshop in New York that had a whole shelf for screenwriters! It was like a dream bookshop.

I’m calling this a book review but it seems to be a mixture of a book review and writing tips… but then, what do you expect from a book on writing?

Save the Cat Book Review

Save the Cat is one of the many books I bought (not from the drama bookshop).  It claims to be:

The last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.

I have to admit that so far every book I’ve read after this one repeats most of the content contained in Save the Cat. But is it the only screenwriting book you’ll need?  Nope. Other books have more information on developing ideas and techniques that are explored in Save the Cat. They also have information that has not been included in Snyder’s book. There are also many things it does leave out but this book would be perfect for any beginners or anyone who wants to refresh their knowledge.

However, I do believe it is the book I have made the most notes on. It is probably a good start for someone who has never written a screenplay before as it gives excellent advice and the author’s tone of voice is one of passion. The language used is engaging and encouraging. I think the reason this book has more notes than others is because I read this book early on, but I do highly recommend it.

Building the perfect beast

Here are the suggestions in the chapter: Building the Perfect Beast

  • Get a Board.
    • Cork board, black board, White Board – any board you prefer (I prefer cork board)
    • It is a good way to waste time and still be productive
      • Sdyner says you spend hours looking for the right size, deciding where it goes on the wall and the story seeps into your consciousness
  • Use the masking tape to break the board up into 4 equal rows
    • Each row represents an act and rough page margins.
      Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 18.20.43
      • The above is based on a feature film – 2-3 pages, 3-8, 8-13 and 13-15 would be a rough guide for a 15-minute short film.
  • Use index cards
    • This Helps you see the movie before you write it
    • It gives you the chance to shuffle each part of the script
      • See what works where and what needs to be cut
  • Colour Code Each Character’s Story
    • This lets you see the character arc
      • What needs more development
      • Do they disappear for too long?
    • The character relationships
      • do they change or stay the same?
  • Use only 40 card
    • This should be more than enough for a feature
      • Snyder says if you need fifty, you have a problem
  • Have conflict in every scene.
    • Films and TV Shows are all about conflict.

New Cork Board

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This week I bought a cork board.

I love it. I have already started to plan my story and started making progress on my script. Although I have to admit I forgot about the masking tape. I had another one from WHSmiths previous to this, A3, but the pins stuck out from the back and I could only get 9-12 cards on it so I could not split my screenplay into acts.

While this board’s pins also go through to the other side, It will be hung on the wall (once I lug it to uni with me) and I can get at least 30 index cards on there so I will be able to split my screenplay into the different acts. I can’t wait to try this I am really excited. Already the story for my independent project is spinning and weaving itself in my head, differently from what I saw it would be in the summer.

This is a different writing technique for me. Due to my disability, I struggle writing and my hand hurts after writing for a period of time so I am usually 100% reliant on technology. So why did I buy a physical cork board over an app?

Digital cork boards

I use Final Draft for writing screenplays and it has a digital cork board, but I find that I cannot see the index cards in the same way I can on an actual board. Half of them are hidden by a scroll, you cannot make rows and so having a physical one allows me to see my script better. I also find it easier to shuffle my script by using real index cards.

Once I have an idea of my screenplay, I can then use a mixture of both the physical and the digital cork board.

I am looking forward to using it in my final year of my BA and hope that I will help me with future screenplays that I plan to write.

IMG_0326

Update:

At the time of writing this, I am now in my master year. I did find the cork board useful in getting my thoughts down and now have piles and piles of index cards so that I am able to use this technique whenever I need to.

I do also use the digital cork boards along side this. Mixing both boards really helped me. I recommend trying both to other screenwriters.

My creative project for my undergraduate went well, I received a 2.1 (equivalent to a B), so I’m really happy about that.


Thanks for Reading

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have, why not read some other book reviews. There are plenty on here: Blame and La Belle Sauvage, just to name a few. And please do follow me on here, Facebook or Twitter.

~Shannon~

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