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Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Save The Cat’s Nine Lives

The classic, Save the Cat!, was written by Blake Snyder as a book on screenwriting technique, but it’s principles apply to all fiction. Its title means that moment, generally in the first scene, when the writer humanizes a character. The writer uses shorthand or a quick beat(s) to establish a more likable character, i.e. usually someone the reader/movie goer can begin to identify with. The writer doesn’t need to save a cat, although it has been done. In a story I wrote, right on the first page my heroine, in interior monologue, denigrates the hero (her opponent). But in a moment’s thought worries if he is all right. Injured, he had survived an assassination attempt.
There’s a common misunderstanding about this moment. The save-the-cat moment never ends with one beat or one moment or one character. One should never forget to humanize a typically flawed character who is on a journey of change. Change is the essence of good fiction and change for the better is the essence of all happily-ever-afters. This means the writer should not drop the cat once the technique is shown. The character grows from the beginning, through the middle and to the end. It ain’t over until the fat cat meows, and we go to black.
But don’t get preachy unless it’s an inspirational. In any case, show, don’t tell.
Saving the cat is like moving a subordinate phrase to the beginning of a sentence, ahead of subject, predicate and object. That is to say, before the reader/movie goer knows much at all.
Don’t overuse the technique, but don’t forget it. Always plowing straight ahead can cause a monotonous, somnambulistic effect on a dwindling audience.
Some recommend counting to ten, before letting go of your manuscript. Just count to nine.

An excellent example of saving the cat at various strategic moments by both hero and heroine and throughout the story occurs in the Hallmark movie, Unleashing Mr. Darcy, which premiered last night. The movie is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice.

 

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