Structure/Plotting: Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder

This advertises itself as “the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.” I can’t verify that, but it is a great look at structure. I think I have Helen to thank for alerting me to it.

Screenwriter Blake Snyder has sold quite a few spec scripts, none of which I’ve seen. But what he says here about structure–and conflict–makes a lot of sense to me.

The key chapters from this perspective are 4 and 5, which together make a nice system for plotting out a book. Which I’m doing now, so it seemed like a good time for a post.

The “Blake Snyder Beat Sheet” breaks the story down into 15 pieces like Catalyst, Debate, and All Is Lost, some of which are sections and some single events. (He gives the page numbers for where each item should appear in the script, which is not obvious how to translate to a novel.) Filling out the beat sheet for my book–even if I’m not going to follow the structure precisely, which I’m not–was useful just for making me think some more about the plot and the various ways I can add conflict and water moccasins tension.

The other thing I like about his approach–other than that it uses index cards and puts my awesome magnetic white board to good use–is that for each scene he notes down both the conflict and the emotional change the character experiences in each scene. Which is similar to what I was doing when I was looking at the Swain/Bickham scene and sequel structure.

That’s just two chapters of the book. If you’re interested in story structure or looking for a tool to help you plot out your next novel, Save the Cat is worth a look.

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