Why a cat’s safety matters to writers

It is a little late in the day to call this a “Mimosa Morning” effort, but this week got away from me. I kept thinking I have time…and then, I didn’t.

That said, I was mulling over what I wanted to write, and now I have time to sit down and share my thoughts about a workshop I took a week ago. The subject was “Save the Cat!”  which I’m sure you have heard about.  The book by the late Blake Snyder is about screenwriting.  It’s not a new book, but it has been getting attention lately from authors who have no intention of writing a movie or TV show.

I suppose with an audience whose find the hour-long TV program or movie pattern the norm, we writers need to get on board. It’s like children whose attention spans have been shortened by the 30-second commercial or sound bite — teachers have had to change their methods in order to get their lessons across before the kids start squirming and asking when the commercial recess is coming.

Actually, thinking of a novel as a three-act play is not that new. We all learned in high school English class about the introduction, the climax, and the denouement. Act I introduces the characters and the conflict, Act II ends with a jaw- and curtain-dropping revelation, and Act II clears everything up.

Still, I am intrigued by the idea of having an outline, or blueprint to work from. I have always started writing with a vague idea of where I want to end up, and happy to take detours along the way. I can’t say it’s been successful, outside of the fact that I have found a few publishers willing to take a chance on me. Deep down, I have always felt that having read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books in my life time ( two-three a week since third grade when I mastered chapter books and got hooked on Alcott), I had to have absorbed at least some of the rudimentary rules of writing. I know if something works or if it doesn’t.

But I’m tempted to give this a try. We’ll see if I can stay the course or if I get a really great idea for a plot twist halfway thought and march off to the beat of my own drum.

And, I’m still not sure of what “Save the Cat” means. I read some reviews (surprise, a few writers hate the entire concept or Snyder himself, it was hard to tell which) and it appears it means having your hero (or villain) find sympathy with your audience/reader by doing something kind like saving a cat, I presume from a tree or roof. Or by not throwing it out by the tail when it jumps on your keyboard and deletes that wonderful paragraph you just worked on for four hours.

What do you think? Can you write a book by following a blueprint? Does the concept help or hinder the free flow of ideas?

I”d love to hear from you.





2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Helen Pollard
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 14:53:24

    The thought of writing to a blueprint goes against my natural instincts. There’s bound to be the basics, of course – beginning, middle, end – in a romance maybe attraction/conflict/resolution – but I would hate to feel too constrained. Although I always have some idea of where I want to go, I like to let the characters take me along for the ride rather than the other way around – and the characters haven’t always heard of a blueprint.
    Having said that, I would recommend ‘How Not to Write a Novel’ by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark. It’s funny, irreverent – and often too close to the bone as you read it and think “Oh no, do I do that?” and “Oops, I definitely do that and shouldn’t.” If you don’t like the kind of book that tells you how you should go about your writing, then this might be worth a read.


  2. Sandy Bruney
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 15:37:26

    Thanks for the tip. I think I need some kind of outline, not a blueprint, just so I keep my mind on a straight path. But I definitely enjoy my characters telling me they have a better idea!


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