Okay, so I wrote a pretty positive little write-up of the first chapters of Save The Cat last week, right? Then I finished reading the book. And now I feel obligated to provide a disclaimer, because I ended up with mixed feelings.
My problems started at page, um, 51%, when the author, Blake Snyder, went off on the film Memento. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who I think makes some of the most excellent, intelligent movies around right now, this movie garnered a 93% freshness score on rottentomatoes.com. Blake sarcastically calls it a "low-performing art house gem," blasts it as gimmicky and invites debate on "the value of Memento in modern society." Whoa Blake, them's fightin' words.
Meanwhile, throughout the book Snyder keeps pumping up his biggest hit, the 1994 Disney groaner Blank Check. Freshness score: 14%. But hey, it made $30 million at the box office! Something doesn't add up here. And then I saw that Snyder's argument against Memento is apparently based on how much money it made in the box office. Ding! That's the sound of a (noisy?) lightbulb turning on in my head.
Blake Snyder claimed to have written at least 75 scripts at the point of publication. 75?! Clearly he spends a lot of time agonizing over making the most original, unique, meaningful films around. Ahem. He promotes formulaic writing where the catalyst always happens on page 12, the B story always begins on page 30. He is the Francine Pascal, the Fern Michaels, the R.L. Stine of the writing world. And though he may have
That is not to say that I immediately deleted my digital copy of this book and set my Kindle on fire. There are some good and useful tips hidden tucked away amidst the trash talk. I liked his discussion of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis in the course of a story. I liked some of his funny rules, like the Pope in the Pool where he talks about how to hide expository sections by distracting the audience with some sort of interesting action or comedy. And I think the troubleshooting section at the end, where he provides a list of things to check for (proactive hero, distinguishably unique dialogue for each of your characters, a complex plotline, etc.) is pretty great. Great enough that I would still suggest that newer writers give it a read--just read it with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Anybody else feel this way about Save the Cat, or any other writing books?