Friday, June 3, 2011

Saving the Cat

Recently, I received some--and I quote--"life changing" advice from a fellow-soon-to-be-published-writer, Nikki Loftin. She gave an absolutely FABULOUS presentation at the Houston Writer's Conference in May. She was seriously so stinkin' hilarious! My sides were painfully bruised from all the laughing. How did my ribs get bruised from laughing? I don't know. But they did. I heart Nikki.

And it didn't hurt that she handed out chocolate.

I heart chocolate too. Teehee.

ANY-whoo. During the course of her oh-so-awesome presentation, and whilst in the middle of nibbling on some delectable chocolate, Nikki adamantly recommended a book called Save the Cat, about which she said (and I quote again) "Page 70 will change your life."

Now if that's not motivation to read a book, I don't know what is. So of course, I acquired a copy of Save the Cat.

The first thing I did after acquiring said copy, was flip to page 70, eager to meet my "life changing" moment head on! Unfortunately, instead of jumping up and down with elated joy over happy life changes, my face looked something like this:
For those of you who have never before tried jumping into the middle of a book with the full expectations of understanding all intricate details the author is trying to convey, I suggest you try it. Then, your face too can look something like that.

It took me all of five seconds to realize that page 70 wasn't going to be my life changing miracle without reading the rest of the book first.

But, on the never ending quest to search for that golden piece of advice that will forever alter my writing universe as I know it, I read the context surrounding page 70.

No... not the whole book. Just the chapter.

But it was enough.

Page 70 is a compilation of the "Blake Snyder Beat Sheet," or in other words, Blake Snyder's really-awesome-guide-to-writing-a-superb-plot! I'm going to include it here in the hopes that because you can't really understand it without reading the WHOLE chapter (believe me, I've tried), that I won't get sued for copyright violations.

Blake brakes the story arch into 15 parts:

(1) Opening Image
(2) Theme Stated
(3) Set-up
(4) Catalyst
(5) Debate
(6) Break into Two
(7) B Story
(8) Fun and Games
(9) Midpoint
(10) Bad Guys Close In
(11) All is Lost
(12) Dark Night of the Soul
(13) Break into Three
(14) Finale
(15) Final Image

Now you see why my face was confused? Just remember, it makes sense after reading the rest of the chapter. Granted, this advice is meant to apply to screen writing... but I think it works just as well with outlining a novel plot, and I applied it as such.

The results? Fabulous!

I just outlined my new mermaid story today (yes, I decided to go through with my genre jumping... see post below), and with Blake Snyder (bless his soul!) as my guide, I was able to complete said outline in just a few hours! Outlining the Snyder way really made me think about all my intricate plot details in an organized fashion. Suddenly all of my oh-so-awesome story ideas about mermaids in the Scottish highlands were play-doughed into a cohesive, sensible and very intriguing story arch.

Read it, people. Love it. It really will change your life. 

P.s. If I ever get around to reading the beginning of the book, I'll do a follow up post on why the book is called "Save the Cat."


Nikki said...

You rock!

I'm so glad something I said helped. And even more glad something I said made you laugh.
Good luck with the writing!

Julie said...

Yes, it TOTALLY helped! It was weird, because as I was reading that chapter I found myself picking out my story ideas--which previously had no home, but were just floating about aimlessly in my head--and place them in Snyder's various categories. By the time I was done with the Beat Sheet chapter, I had a story arc!

Bottomw line? You're brilliant. AND stinkin' hilarious... don't forget it ( :