After the publication of SAVE THE CAT in 2005, Blake Snyder thought he’d said everything he needed to say about screenwriting. After all, the subtitle of SAVE THE CAT is “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.” So why did Snyder write SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK four years later? Because he started teaching. In Snyder’s writing workshops, students came with questions. They challenged his assumptions. They called him out when his explanations weren’t clear enough. SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK was born directly out of those workshops. The result is a book that’s even better than SAVE THE CAT, and believe me, the original was already amazing.
Like the original, SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK is about story structure. Because long-form story structure doesn’t change much from medium to medium, all of Snyder’s advice works just as well for novels as it does for screenplays. Using what Snyder calls the “beat sheet,” a writer can easily see the big turning points of the story and where they fit on the story arc. The writer has to know, from the moment he sets pen to paper, how the hero will change and the best way to show that change. Snyder gives many pointers on how to keep the spine of the story straight so that the audience happily goes along, perhaps surprised but never confused.
But structure does not mean formula. To Snyder, these are not formulas, but universal storytelling rules, as unbreakable as the laws of physics. Telling a story in a certain way, with scenes in a certain order, simply enhances the reader’s experience. Those who don’t believe it should read the original SAVE THE CAT where Snyder demonstrates how movies as diverse as “Jaws” and “Sister Act” have the same turning points at the same places in the show.
Snyder also devotes considerable time to handling rewrites, especially rewrites at the request of movie executives (novelists can substitute editors or beta readers, here). His 50-point checklist for revision is the best I’ve seen anywhere. Again, it’s not unique to screenplays. There are ways to make every story better and Snyder knows how.
Of all the books I’ve read, the SAVE THE CAT series has taught me the most about story structure. If I had to pare down my overflowing bookshelves to just a handful of volumes, SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK would easily make the short list. I can’t imagine writing a novel without it.
And you shouldn’t, either.
rating: 5 stars
pie slices: 1 slice inspiration, 7 slices craft
This book is best for: intermediate to advanced writers
I recommend this book.