This summer I’m spending some time taking another look at a number of classic screenwriting books. Last week I reread Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need. First published ten years ago, it’s a quick and easy read and although some writers have objected to his more “commercial” approach to tackling the development of a story idea into a viable script, what he lays out in basic, no nonsense terms still pretty much holds up.
Snyder focuses on the common sense basic dramatic ingredients that one way or another need to be operating in your story if it’s going to work. He uses the Hollywood insider lingo and even has a long glossary of terms at the back of the book he’s labelled “From A to Z, a review of every slangy expression and Hollywood-inside-the-310-area-code term.”
In my opinion, his Chapter 4 is one of the most valuable. It’s titled “Let’s Beat It Out,” presenting a simple, easy to follow breakdown of how a story in one way or another needs to be structured for a screenplay.
You may find his overall approach too “Hollywood” for your own approach to the writing process, but the book still serves as a good and concise review of the basics–something I find useful from time to time.
p.s. Snyder also has two companion books that have appeared since. They are Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told (2007) that breaks down structurally fifty successful films of the last forty years and Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into…and Out of (2009) that further refines his approach to developing viable stories for the screen. Both are also well worth a look.