I love movies. I’ll watch almost anything once, be it the horrifically bad original movies that they broadcast on the Science Fiction Network with people who used to be someone (I’m looking at you Tiffany and Debbie Gibson) to the old black and white movies. I’ve even gone to the theatre to see Gone With The Wind on the big screen. So, yes, you can say that I’m fond of anything movie related. (Pssssst, I went to see The Expendables. Loved it.)
The point of all this movie love is to segue into my observations of their almost (I would leave many indie movies out of this) formulaic construction that you see emerging over a period of time. I started to notice many of the scenes from the trailer didn’t occur until well into the movie, sometimes almost near the end. (and in some cases scenes from the trailer don’t even appear in the movie, a move which I really don’t understand, but that’s another blog post for another day). I also started to notice the climax scenes which would quickly filter down to the end.
Enter “Save the Cat”, a book by Blake Snyder. In this book, he outlines the types of movies we see and well as the parts of the formula found for each one. This book really opened my eyes on how to set up a narrative that would resonate the most. The best part is, Mr. Snyder gives detailed information in this book as well as the second book “Save the Cat Goes to the Movies”. Both of these books are easy to read and full of helpful insight not only to screenplay writing, but for story crafting in general.
Briefly, there are several types of movies: the Buddy Love (which, he says is just a romance with two guys or girls w/out the sexual overtones, think Thelma and Louise, Rainman), the Monster in the House ( Alien Movies, Desperate Hours) and Dude with a Problem – (Speed). These are only three out of ten types. His assertion that every movie made can be categorized into these types.
Each movie has “beats” that move the story ahead. The setup, the call to action, the debate…. all these sections of the script (story) serve to help the audience fall in love with the characters as well as buy into the story. Which is the same thing that we want to do as authors.
For more information, run a search for “Blake Snyder” or “Save the Cat”, you’ll find plenty of free information as well as numerous movies that people have broken down according to the Save the Cat outline. I’ve found it quite helpful when I am story crafting and get stuck.
This is not to say that I’ve perfect my craft. Personally, I don’t think any writer ever truly feels that s/he is at the summit of perfection when it comes to crafting stories. Even Stephen King said that he liked the ending to the movie The Mist more than the ending that he wrote himself. This should tell all us hard working writers that the work never stops.