Showing posts with label blake snyder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blake snyder. Show all posts

Friday, December 30

Blake Snyder and the Six Things that Need Fixing

Blake Snyder and the Six Things that Need Fixing

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder writes:

“The first 10 pages is also where we start to plant every character tic, exhibit every behavior that needs to be addressed later on, and show how and why the hero will need to change in order to win. She's an isolated writer who lives in a make-believe world (Romancing the Stone); he's a hip, slick, and savvy foreign-car importer who's as glib as he is cold (Rain Man); she's a ditzy airhead who doesn't appear to have much substance (Legally Blonde).

“And when there's something that our hero wants or is lacking, this is the place to stick the Six Things That Need Fixing. This is my phrase, six is an arbitrary number, that stands for the laundry list you must show — repeat SHOW — the audience of what is missing in the hero's life. Like little time bombs, these Six Things That Need Fixing, these character tics and flaws, will be exploded later in the script, turned on their heads and cured. They will become running gags and call-backs. We, the audience, must know why they're being called back! Look at Big and its primary set-up: "You have to be this tall to go on this ride." On the list of Six Things That Need Fixing there are other needs besides a height requirement. The kid in Big can't get the girl, have any privacy, etc. But in Act Two he gets all those things when he magically turns Big. And those call-backs only work because we have seen them in the set-up.”

I had heard about this idea of Things that Need Fixing before I read Save the Cat—Dwight V. Swain talks about tags and traits in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer—but I like the way Blake Snyder spells it out.

A Thing that Needs Fixing

1. A tag or trait the protagonist has and wants fixed, or ...
2. A tag or trait the protagonist doesn’t have but wishes he did.
3. Something that needs to be shown in Act One and then ...
4. Used as a running gag or call-back in acts two and three.
5. Resolved in Act Three.

(If you're unfamiliar with a three act structure, see: A Story Structure in Three Acts.)

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1. A tag or trait the protagonist has and wants fixed.

Blake Snyder mentions Big and that movie does contain terrific examples. The protagonist wants to be taller, wants to be able to talk to girls, wants to have privacy, and so on. During the course of the movie he has each of these desires fulfilled but things don’t turn out quite they way he thought they would. The end result of experiencing these changes is, toward the end of the movie, a renewed appreciation for being a kid.

2. A tag or trait the protagonist doesn’t have but wishes he did.

In The Matrix Neo wants to meet Morpheus and learn the truth about The Matrix. Throughout the rest of the movie Neo has this wish fulfilled on various levels. At the Lock-In he learns, physically, what The Matrix is—it spews his physical body out and, in the process, nearly kills him. At the next level Neo enters The Matrix and learns, in a limited fashion, how to control it. Then, at the end of the movie, Neo transcends the matrix and can alter it in any way he wishes.

3. Something that needs to be shown in Act One and then ...

When the protagonist—or any main character for that matter—is introduced, they are introduced doing something (even if this is just talking to someone), they are introduced with some sort of initial goal, and we give them tags and traits. In this opening scene we somehow manage to show the audience, get them to understand, the protagonist’s deep desires. (Generally a main character will have an internal and external desire, but one will take precedence over the other in the plot.)

4. Used as a running gag or call-back in acts two and three.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. It’s a character tic, and it’s called back in Act Two when he’s thrown into the Well of Souls along with a few hundred snakes.

5. Resolved in Act Three.

Continuing from the last point, Indy’s fear of snakes is never (to my knowledge) resolved, but I wouldn’t want it to be! It is a minor weakness in an otherwise courageous character, something that makes him more human. In Big, though, the protagonist realizes that, despite all the things that irritated him about being a kid, he wants to go back. Now, because of his adventure, he sees himself in a new light.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m recommending the beautiful Moleskine Classic Notebook. I’ve written before about how I write my Zero Drafts in longhand. I know this won’t work for everyone, but I find that ideas come to life easier when I have a pen in my hand and write longhand (see: The Benefits of Handwriting). Of course a Moleskine notebook isn’t a requirement for that! But if you want to treat yourself I can wholeheartedly recommend this journal. I buy myself a Moleskine if I’m celebrating something, or treating myself for reaching a long anticipated milestone.

That’s it! I hope you have have very merry and safe Happy New Year! I’ll talk to you again on Monday. In the meantime, good writing! :-)

Saturday, September 29

Save The Cat! The Importance Of Sympathetic Heroes

Save The Cat! The Importance Of Sympathetic Heroes

I love Blake Snyder's book Save The Cat so I was delighted to read Elizabeth Craig's blog article on the subject. When I first came across the book I wondered about the title. It seemed like an odd choice for a book on screenwriting. Here's how Wikipedia describes it:
The title Save the Cat! is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice—e.g. saving a cat—that makes the audience like the hero and root for him. According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story, but is often lacking in many of today's movies. (Wikipedia, Blake Snyder)
Elizabeth Craig writes:
Snyder said that it was incredibly important for your audience (he, naturally, means filmgoers, but it works for readers) to like or at least pull for your protagonist. He casually mentions the importance of making your protagonist do something likeable in one of the first scenes of your film/novel.

This sounds incredibly simple (and is incredibly simple), but I’d never thought of it in such a concrete or deliberate way before.
.  .  .  .
But you want readers to at least pull for your character. You don’t want them to give up on your book. So, Snyder’s advice is to throw in a scene that displays the protagonist in a good light….early.

So, when readers are trying to decide if they want to invest their hard-earned free time with your character for the next few days or week, we’re giving them a reason to stick with them.

Before reading this book, I’d definitely thrown in a scene or two with a softer Myrtle at some point in the mystery. But usually it wasn’t near the start of the story.
Excellent advice! Red the rest of Elizabeth Craig's article here: Save the Cat

Other articles you might like:
- John Locke Paid For Book Reviews
- Tips For First Time Writers
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following

Photo credit: Unknown

Wednesday, March 14

Writing: The Starburst Method, Part 1


We've all developed our own writing methods. If there's a million writers in the world then there's AT LEAST a million methods. No one method is better than another, just different. This method might suit you and it might not. My hope is that you'll find something in it you find useful.

A few months ago I sat down at my writing desk after a particularly grueling shift at my day job and tried to write but the words wouldn't come. I asked myself, "How do I write a story?" How do I approach the initial idea and transform that into a story? That's when I began putting this method together. If you like it, try it out!


There are about 10 steps to this method so, to keep the size of my posts manageable, I'll roll it out over the next several days. Today, we'll take a look at the first step.

1. Formulate a one sentence description of your story

This comes from two screenwriters, Blake Snyder author of Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, an iconic book on screenwriting, and Michael Hauge, author of The Hero's 2 Journeys. One thing these men have in common is the advice that, before you do anything else, formulate a log-line or a one-line; a sentence that summarizes your story.

Why do this? Why start from a one-sentence summary of your story? For one thing, it will help prevent you from straying from your initial idea and drifting off point. That said, if you intentionally decide to change your story's focus because you discover the idea isn't working for you, that's fine.

Also, and this is from Save The Cat, you need to make sure that your idea for a story creates a "compelling mental picture". In order to do this it needs to have all the elements of the story in it, only compressed.

Now, I'm not sure that Blake Snyder meant exactly this, but one of Nathan Bransford's posts was enormously helpful to me in understanding this technique, specifically his excellent post Query Letter Mad Lib. Here is Mr. Bransford's formula for how to compose your one sentence description:
[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].
For instance:
Hexanon Pennystripe, a man who describes himself as the greatest detective on earth, has just accepted a case no one believes he can solve -- including himself. But when an ancient curse takes another man's life, Hexanon knows he must put his vanity aside and capture the killer in order to restore order to the world.
The death of a wealthy English archeologist sparks talk of a curse when three other people involved with the expedition die from seemingly unrelated causes.
Now, I'm sure you can do much better than either of those examples, but you get the idea.

Next time we'll talk about the next step: expanding your sentence into five sentences that, taken together, mirror the 3-act structure of a play.

Thanks for reading!

The Starburst Method, Part 1: Creating a one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 2: Developing our one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 3: Creating a five paragraph summary
The Starburst Method, Part 4: Developing characters
The Starburst Method, Part 5: Creating a five page summary
The Starburst Method, Part 6: Developing scenes
The Starburst Method, Part 7: The character grid
The Starburst Method, Part 8: The rough draft and narrative drive