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Save the Cat!

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need

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This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

215 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Blake Snyder

5 books158 followers
In his 20-year career as a screenwriter and producer, Blake Snyder has sold dozens of scripts, including co-writing Blank Check, which became a hit for Disney, and Nuclear Family for Steven Spielberg. His book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, was published in May, 2005, and is now in its eleventh printing. It has prompted "standing room only" appearances by Blake in New York, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, and Barcelona. Apparently it is not quite the last book on screenwriting youll ever need, as the eagerly awaited sequel, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told, was published in October, 2007 shooting to #1 in the Screenwriting, Screenplay, and Movies History and Criticism categories on Amazon.com. Blake's method has become the "secret weapon" of many development executives, managers, and producers for its precise, easy, and honest appraisal of what it takes to write and develop stories that resonate. Save the Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You'll Ever Need has codified this method in an easy to use CD-Rom. Blake is a member of the Writers Guild of America, west. Please visit www.blakesnyder.com for more information.

With Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies Snyder is determined to set a collective new dialogue about the realities of professional screenwriting; this is exactly what his sincere and heartfelt books set out to do and accomplishes. Snyder once again takes his place as one of the most successful, visionary, accessible, pragmatic screenwriters who writes about the craft of all time.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,866 reviews
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books861 followers
May 13, 2019
This book is often hyped as the bible of screenwriting, but I would take it a step further and call it the definitive go-to for all storytelling. Trade secrets are fully revealed and once you read them you can't watch a movie without seeing the formula scroll right in front of your eyes. Exactly--to the minute. The formula is so precise that Snyder has it shrunk down to page numbers. On page 75, for example, you have to have an "all is lost" moment, or a "darkest just before the dawn" moment. Doesn't matter if it's a comedy like "Elf" or a drama like "Pulp Fiction" you must have this moment. And you know what? He's right.

The formula is the highlight of the book, but there are no non-highlight pages. I'm not working on a novel not a screenplay, but the advice transcends genre. The title "Save the Cat" rule is simple yet easy to miss. Whether it's Aladdin giving his stolen apple to a more-hungry family or literally saving a cat from danger, protagonists need moments like this to resonate with the audience. It has to be there. 100% of the time. Why fight it?

I found great inspiration in his rule on conflict as well--it has to be something a caveman would understand. Issues so primal that it's in our DNA. Love, for example, or fear of death, family, hunger, etc. Doesn't matter what the conflict is, as long as it roots back to our primal emotions. He's right. Of course he's right.

Those who argue that his examples are too focused on romantic comedies, kids movies, or general mainstream "trash" are right. But they also fail to realize that the formula doesn't change. Whether it's a war drama or something you'd see on IFC, the rules of good storytelling remain the same. The good news is that you can be as creative as you want. You don't have to have characters literally save cats in every script--but you do have to have something like that. Disguising it is part of the fun, and why some movies feel original and other movies feel cookie-cutter.

For all my writer friends out there, of screenplays, novels, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, or anything else, you gotta read this.
Profile Image for Alex West.
100 reviews13 followers
June 5, 2018
Save the Cat: The Last Book on Writing Painfully Banal PG-13 Hollywood Comedies You’ll Ever Need

This book provides the perfect guide to writing movies I loathe.

It may be true that Miss Congeniality and Elf made good money at the box office, but you know what? If I’m going to sacrifice my work and family time to write, I’m going to write about something slightly more meaningful and less demeaning than whether a Hollywood star pretending to be a badly written FBI agent looks smoking hot in a beauty pageant. And if my goal is to make money but to hate what I’m doing, I will get a job in corporate law.

At first, I slogged through these painful examples because the book was recommended to me, and the explanations of the beats were concise. The name-dropping was annoying, but not atypical for this kind of book.

Then I hit the part that really made me question why I was taking advice from this guy. It’s the part where he goes off on a tangent to complain about the film Memento because it did not follow his One True Structure, in which he asserts repeatedly that any argument it had any value is wrong because ‘guess how much it made’ and ‘I know how much money Memento made.’

I didn’t even like Memento. I thought it was gimmicky and overrated. But by the time the author was done trashing it, the only thing I was convinced of is that I never want to watch a movie written by Mr Snyder. This is a man who armours his bravado with more bravado, and name-drops so defensively he might as well be firing bullets. His screenplays might be perfectly structured, but it was hard to imagine they would not be shallow and inane.

Sadly, this is appears to be the case.

Mr Snyder has only two screenplay credits to his name. After reading his book and writing most of this review, I looked them up. I flicked to the review by Roger Ebert of the first one. It says, and I am not making this up:

“Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” is one of those movies so dimwitted, so utterly lacking in even the smallest morsel of redeeming value, that you stare at the screen in stunned disbelief.

It is moronic beyond comprehension, an exercise in desperation during which even Sylvester Stallone, a repository of self-confidence, seems to be disheartened.

Ebert goes on to say:

There isn't a laugh in this movie. Not a single one, and believe me, I was looking.

He gave it half a star.

Maybe Mr Snyder’s other film would fare better? Marketed as ‘If you loved Home Alone, you’ll love Blank Check!’ it was not off to a good start, but not quite as bad a start as the Austin Chronicle gave it:

“Blank check” must be what these filmmakers had when they made this movie. Not that it reeks of extravagance in its workmanship, this movie simply reeks. With an unbelievable premise, Blank Check does little to fill out its bare bones structure. … More than the execution, the script itself is the major problem. … Perhaps the movie's implausibilities would be more acceptable if they were presented with a lighter touch that allowed for more character and plot developments rather than resting on its meager high-conceptual laurels.

The reviewer gave it one star.

Mr Snyder himself may well be a nice guy, and I appreciate that he’s put himself out there and shared his particular method for constructing a screenplay (which is basically the 3-Act structure plus detailed instructions about how to lay out index cards) but this is highly unlikely to be the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.

In addition to his breakdown of the structure, he provides some tools of varying usefulness. The titular ‘Save the Cat’ stands for one of the author’s ‘Immutable Laws of Screenplay Physics’ (I wish I was making that up and the quotation marks denoted sarcasm, but it is a quote from the book and the author is deadly serious), namely that your story must have a hero and a villain and the hero must be more sympathetic than the villain. By this criterion, basically every Stanley Kubrick film ever ought not to exist, including the ones based on books by Stephen King and Vladimir Nabokov.

Mr Snyder’s method is so prescriptive that if you followed it as a novelist, you’d end up with a novella. It has too many beats for a short story, and not enough for most novels. Of course he is not purporting to give advice for novellists. But I think the advice is possibly too prescriptive even for film. Mr Snyder says movies that deviate from this will tank miserably at the box office because they have ‘too much pipe’. I can only assume he’s unfamiliar with James Cameron’s body of work. And while it’s true that a producer is unlikely to fund an amateur screenwriter’s three hour epic, I suspect the limitation has more to do with film industry economics than whether it is possible to tell a longer or shorter story which can keep an audience engaged.

But I did get something out of Save the Cat. And what I got is this:

The 3 Act Structure, by itself, does not make a good movie. This is not to say it makes a bad one, but many books on screenwriting focus on structure to the exclusion of all else, as though reverse-engineering a successful film and showing it follows the 3 Act Structure proves that this is what makes a story work.

As Mr Snyder’s resume shows, it also makes for some godawful ones.

The structure proposed in Save the Cat is solid. Not original, but solid and safe, like a house in a gated community where strict covenants ensure that each street gives you déjà vu for the street that came before. Mr Snyder is a sensible builder who can deliver you such a house, but he does not promise you quality fixtures and fittings, and he certainly is not an architect. His book will not teach you how to create innovative spaces or incorporate new technologies. It won’t teach you how you can play with light and shade for effect, or design an experience to influence or even transform a visitor. His houses won’t help people question their assumptions, change their behaviours, or heal their wounds. You might think crafting engaging dialogue, and conveying narrative through images are skills a screenwriter might want to polish.

Maybe this gap between what makes an entertaining experience and the lure of the predictable checklist is why Hollywood is floundering. No one gets excited about the repetitive crap they churn out the way that people cannot wait to get the next episode of Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead, or Breaking Bad, or Orange is the New Black. Some of these shows follow conventional structures in episodes, but they also mix things up. In the case of Game of Thrones, this is literally an adaptation of a book series that was written to be ‘unfilmable’ by a Hollywood screenwriter who was frustrated with the exact philosophy espoused by this book.

All the structure in the world is not going to save writing that is painfully dull, predictable, and shallow. I want more than regurgitated jokes and lacklustre stereotypes. I want movies that surprise me, that give me experiences and insights that make me think – hey, that’s so cool, I never thought of that before.

I suspect that the unspoken truth is that prescriptive guides like Save the Cat gain traction because they create a checklist of measurable, predictable goals which can soothe the nerves of an investor, not because they guarantee good movies. This is why ticking these boxes gets your script sold. So the value of this book (possibly its sole value) is that it gives you a better idea of how to pitch your script as a ‘safe bet’ for an investor. This is certainly a handy thing to know, so long as you know it for what it is.

Review also published at Compulsive Writer.
Profile Image for Alexa.
Author 5 books3,133 followers
April 12, 2013
My critique partner swears by this book, and in fact has been holding my revision notes ransom until I read it! :) She was kind enough to gift me with a copy, so I hunkered down and zipped through.

It was a punchy, fast read--the margins are freakishly large, so it's not *really* a 150 page book; it reads like 100 pager. The writing style is at times annoying, but it's readable. As a novelist, as opposed to a screenwriter, a lot of the specific advice in Save the Cat is useless -- such as "you must state your theme on page 5 of your screenplay or else" and "you get 40 scenes, no more!" and "your screenplay must be 110 pages; that's it." But the general structure of the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet is solid. It's easy to recognize in it a good template for a formula story with tight pacing and character development arcs. A lot of Snyder's plot fix methods, despite eye-rollingly cutesy names, are things that address easily-glossed over things (such as failing to make your hero likeable -- the "save the cat" idea is A+). I can see the techniques and tips in Save the Cat helping a lot of storytellers identify problem spots in their novels and craft better outlines for their stories. I'm using the template to outline my second project, and thus far it has been helpful and helping me see my plot arc/pacing.

However, where I find it difficult to completely buy-in to Snyder's book/advice is that a) he doesn't have the most credible resume and b) he's really WRONG about his criticisms of several movies. Snyder kinda-sorta-finally admits it at the end, but he basically made a fortune selling 12 spec scripts in the late 80s/early 90s... but only TWO of them got made into films. In 1992 and 1994. And not memorable films, at that. So I suppose if you're a wannabe screenwriter who wants to make a lot of money selling a script that will never be made into a movie... Snyder's a role model. But even Snyder admits that the Hollywood spec script bubble burst and you just can't do that anymore -- sell a script for a million and then it never gets made.

I found a lot of Snyder's own ideas just... bad. And old-fashioned. I think that's the best way to describe his approach to the Hollywood movie. Neat structure and following a formula is smart, but movie-making--and story-telling-- has changed so drastically since the 80s and 90s. Movies that *break* all the formulas, helmed by bold directors experimenting with style--those are the new blockbusters. Most of the movies Snyder references as good, including his own, have either been completely forgotten, never got made (in the case of his own and two of the "recent sales" he heralded as great. Don't get me started on his praise of 4 Christmases), or are obvious classics but are the rare exception (ie: Chinatown; Die Hard). I would not watch *any* of the movies Snyder pitched him and his writing partners as working on. I enjoyed Blank Check as a kid and all, but Stop... or My Mom Will Shoot was AWFUL. I mean, seriously. Who cares if the screenplay made a million dollars. Bad movie!

Let's talk about the movies Snyder knocks heavily, and says fail as movies b/c they don't follow his formula or violate his rules:
Minority Report

Now I'm not saying that any of the above are masterpieces of cinema (though I'm a personal devotee of Christopher Nolan & Memento), but I found Snyder's *reasons* for criticizing them plain stupid, short-sighted and the opinions of an "old dude who doesn't get it." Yep, I'm pulling the age card. I'm 29, born in 1983, and I am of the generation who likes their movies fresh, innovative and non-formulaic. I don't have a short attention span -- I can handle long exposition, smart complicated plots, and complex characters. I hate those screenwriters/directors from the 80s and 90s who made boring movies with no camera movement or outside-the-box plots/characters.

Snyder doesn't specifically say why Memento fails, but he makes it clear that he hates that movie. And I say: eff off. Nolan is a BRILLIANT screenwriter, even though I'm 90% sure they all break the "rules" of the BS2. Just... Inception. And The Prestige. Brilliant.

His reason for Minority Report is DUMB: he doesn't like that it takes 40 minutes of world building/exposition to get to the "catalyst," which Snyder says should happen by page 10, no exceptions (ie: 10-15 minutes into the movie). Nope. My favorite part of Minority Report is the prolonged build up of the world/sci-fi set-up. It's effing good.

Then there's Signs. Now, M. Night Shyamalan is an extremely problematic screenwriter/director, in that he basically has only written two good films, one semi-OK film and the rest have been crap. He probably could have used more structure in his screenwriting (and more oversight at the studio level). But Signs was the WRONG movie for Snyder to take exception to, as it's one of the only ones that doesn't suck (The Sixth Sense being the other). Apparently, it violates the rules of having two "mumbo jumbo magic" things. Aliens + questioning faith in God is apparently too much for Snyder. Signs should have stuck with just aliens, and also apparently shouldn't have featured that section where we see what's happening in the outside world via the news. Nope, nope, nope. Totally disagree. Signs is NOT about an alien invasion. It's about a crisis of faith in God, and framing a big emergency around one average family. The scene where they watch the news is that vital glimpse of what's happening outside, to give the viewer context. I would have disliked Signs if it was just an alien movie (though honestly I get the sense that Snyder basically writes just for Dudes, all of his advice is about Dudes and Heroes and Primal shit, so yeah). But as a movie about family and faith, framed around alien invasion? Elevates the movie to quite good.

The "can't have two forms of magic in one movie" is also the reason Snyder says Spiderman fails. I'm not saying it's a new classic, but I think "radioactive spider + totally different magical realism set up for the Green Goblin in one movie" is NOT a valid reason that Spiderman "fails." I think the audience is smart enough to handle two different forms of magical realism in one movie.

Basically, may poor Snyder rest in peace (he died in 2009), I feel the author is a bit too old fashioned to really "get" the modern movie industry/story-telling world. But that doesn't mean the core structure isn't useful.
Profile Image for Thompson.
10 reviews4 followers
August 11, 2008
While this book is a clever and succinct reduction of Hollywood story structure, it is not well-served by its snarky, priggish author, who with every page radiates the very same sort of smug, too-cool attitude that the rest of the world associates with Los Angeles. That he is smart, I have no doubts, especially after reading his reduction of modern movies. Indeed, he is so smart that I will soon pick up his next book, Save the Cat Goes to the Movies. But just as his intelligence and skill are apparent in the meat of his words, so is the lack of any evidence to support any conjecture that Mr. Snyder might have a functioning soul. Granted, such trivialities don't get struggling writers movies in the Hollywood system, but struggling writers and aspiring screen scribes will find much more to love in William Goldman's dual books on the same subject-- both of which Snyder appears to have borrowed from. Liberally. The same goes for Robert McKee's genius and epic-length Story. It's just easier to palate good information when the messenger doesn't seem to be such a prick.
327 reviews8 followers
March 7, 2011
I'm torn about how many stars to give this book. If you are completely new to screenwriting, then this would be a five-star book. Otherwise, I'll give it four because it's easy to understand and allows you to start breaking down the movies you watch quite easily.

However, if you've written screenplays and understand basic three act structure, the advice is a little naive -- as in, "The Theme has to be stated on page 5." "Page 30 is where the 'B' story comes in." Well, maybe, but not really in a lot of cases. Also, the card method is fine if you are just starting out, but again, if followed to a tee, "methods" like this often lead to formulaic plot points created in a way that is not organic to the story, but created, nonetheless, so you can check off "that card," and feel like you're making progress.

I wished he used more "good" movie examples -- when you are relating advice and showing examples using the movies BLANK CHECK or STOP, OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT! you aren't aiming high enough. Those are not benchmark scripts from which to learn.

Overall, it's a good book to make you start thinking about film in terms of structure, and I also appreciated the breakdown of the ten different "types" of movies. I've seen it before somewhere, but it's nice to have it in a book to reference. Also, the chatter about loglines was good.

A grammar note -- holy crap, the exclamation points in this book are outrageous!!! Note to all screenwriters who write books about screenwriting -- stop using excalmation points. Right now. It doesn't emphasize your point, it only makes you sound like a fifteen year-old girl. If we don't know your point is important, it needs to be rewritten so it has weight. It does not need to be followed by a giddy exclamation point. I counted eight on one page alone, and that was just the page I bothered to tally.
Profile Image for K.M. Weiland.
Author 25 books2,248 followers
November 22, 2013
As a novelist, the more I read screenwriting books, the more I love them. Straightforward, no-nonsense, and endlessly applicable, they cut through the fluff and offer practical tips for writing better stories. Snyder's beloved Save the Cat! is certainly no different. He entertains even as he shares tips on structure and character and little, memorable bits such as his "Save the Cat" and "Keep the Press Out" slogans.

Is there a bit of formulaism here? Sure. But even for authors who completely balk at the notion that stories fit into certain time-worn formulas, the practicality of what's mentioned throughout this book is still something that can be adapted by just about any screenwriter, novelist, or short story writer. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Stephen Worman.
21 reviews13 followers
December 2, 2010
Hack advice given by a hack writer. While it's nice to see the business side of writing examined, it would have been better (i.e. something approaching "acceptable") to have it examined by a competent writer. If your only two credits for screenwriting are "Blank Check" and the so-bad-Sylvester-Stallone-apologized-for-his-role-in-its-creation "Stop Or My Mother Will Shoot", you have no place writing a book on the subject. Even the non-creative side is uninspired rehashes of common sense advice (Find decent criticism! Work on your sales pitch!) and a wrong-headed approach to quality (Blank Check is not better than Memento because of a bigger opening weekend, you raging fool.* Memento is in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY the lesser film. That I should even have to point this out is insulting to me as a reader and cinephile.)

The only good thing one can say about this book is that the title actually goes over something interesting. The idea of "saving the cat" or introducing a character with a scene that highlights his virtues in a cool, identifiable way, is not only sound, but a damned impressive insight for a book of this quality. But, since it's detailed in the first ten pages, you can save yourself the time and just read the excerpt on Amazon.

*Editor's note: I quit reading this book shortly after coming across this idiotic line.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Johnson.
Author 1 book
June 23, 2009
A lot of people swear by this book, but I think it's just terrible. If you want to write movies, there is a great deal to be gained by learning about the three-act structure. That being said, though, Blake Snyder will teach you a micro-managed form of it that forces you to meet a very specific and frankly obnoxious rubric.

Snyder says specifically in his book that if he turns to one of the pages where he says X should happen and X doesn't happen, he immediately dismisses the script. Though he provides dozens of examples to back up his claims, let's keep in mind that there are hundreds of movies released each year. He actually singles out 'Memento' as a bad movie, and backs up his belief that it is both bad and an unsuccessful script because it didn't make a lot of money immediately upon release.

Forgive me if I chose to dismiss most of a book by the man who hasn't had a script produced since 'Blank Check' (1994) and which also trashes one of the most innovative movies in recent years by one of the most successful and popular filmmakers working today as sour grapes. If you want to get a feel for structure, go for Syd Field or Lew Hunter and don't waste your time with the micromanaged, bitter, and pathetic ideas of Mr. Snyder.

(P.S. the 1 star is for his genre analysis, which I think is at least interesting reading. That's one chapter near the front)
Profile Image for Nicholas Karpuk.
Author 4 books61 followers
January 19, 2010
Some people who can't really should teach.

Blake Snyder mentions on several occasions that he sold a screenplay to Steven Spielberg for a million dollars at one point. Impressive right?

Then he ruins it by describing his story. It was called "Nuclear Family" and involved a family who camped by a nucleur test site, gaining super powers.

I'm rather glad that failed, and then "The Incredibles" happened instead.

Blake Snyder's ideas are consistently awful. He's the scribe responsible for "Blank Check" and "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot". I'm familiar enough with bad movies to groan at both those titles. All his ideas are about that caliber, and his comedies are especially heinous in description. His talents very obviously relate more to selling screenplays and knowing what sells.

There's a lot of good explanations on how formulas work, how to structure the three acts, what all needs to be included, etc. It's well laid out and really did get me fired up to create a good story.

The first thing that cracked me up were some of his homebrewed labels. What he considers memorable is sometimes so specific that it's basically useless for anyone else. One pitfall is called Black Vet, based on an argument with a cowriter about a show where the man was both a veteran and a vetrinarian. There had to have been a more accessible title for some of these.

The most hilarious point is his rant about Momento, which breaks a lot of the formulas. His zinger is that Momento didn't actually make all that much money.

I always find it tiresome when people discuss popularity and quality like they're different words for the same thing (hi, Avatar fans). At times the two are points on two seperate axis that comes close once in a while. It's so easy to make a list of things most artists would find repugnant that would be bulletproof if measured in popularity. My favorites would be Larry the Cable Guy and the Insane Clown Posse (who've actually made the popularity argument themselves.)

"Save the Cat" is a fun, entertaining read that teaches a surprising amount about story structure. For me, the corny perspective of its narrator is an odd enhancement. If you're not the type who watches bad movies just to snicker them, your mileage with Snyder may vary.
Profile Image for Joe.
178 reviews93 followers
January 19, 2019
If you didn't like a novelist's stories, would you follow their advice in crafting your own? Would you take cooking instruction from a chef if their meals didn't please your taste buds? What about a painter whose portfolio only inspired shrugs?

That's the dilemma for almost everyone who reads Save the Cat, a how-to guide for aspiring Hollywood screenwriters. The author, Blake Snyder, has written numerous scripts, sold many, had a couple made into movies and earned a small fortune along the way, but the results of his work haven't earned a place on many 'favorites' lists. His most successful screenplay was for Blank Check, a comedy for children that is poorly regarded:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

He also penned the script for the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, one of the legendary misfires in cinematic history:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

But what about the scripts he sold that never made it into production? Maybe there's a gem or two hiding in Blake's portfolio. But no of course not. He wrote Nuclear Family, which sounds like The Incredibles without the wit. Then there's Really Mean Girls, a lame version of Mean Girls with a wordier title, written concurrently with the Tina Fey hit.

But the piece de resistance is Big, Ugly Baby. If the title alone doesn't force you to recoil in horror, here's how Blake describes the story during a section on writing distinctive characters;

'… an alien-switched-at-birth comedy. I gave every character a verbal tic. One stuttered, one did malapropisms, one was an Okie versed in Sartre, and the Alien parents (my favorite characters) always yelled, a point reinforced by having at least one word in every sentence they spoke CAPITALIZED!'

Given all that, it shocks me that Save the Cat is as good as it is. I don't agree with all of Blake's storytelling suggestions, but his prose proves lively and his arguments organized. He admits that his rules are designed for broad entertainment and hints that he didn't so much invent the system as piece it together by studying classics and listening to the advice of movie-making masters.

Save The Cat is worth a read just to understand how Hollywood movies are structured. That is, if you can trust an artist whose best work is their textbook.

Edited 1-19-2019
Profile Image for Joshua Rigsby.
192 reviews54 followers
October 30, 2015
This book gets poo pooed a lot in critical/literary/artistic circles for being a perfect encapsulation of everything that's wrong with Hollywood. These criticisms are not unjustified.

Snyder sets out a systematic, formulaic strategy for writing a screenplay that hits all of the same tired plot points we've seen a million times. Take a big budget studio movie, break it down minute by minute, and almost without exception every plot point hits at the exact minute mark Snyder describes. Save the Cat's premise essentially says, "Hey you want to make it in Hollywood? Stick to this formula! You're good to go."

So, the LA movie-machine chugs out cookie cutter plots that make decent money, but fail to challenge convention or offer anything new. Movies come out bland, tepid, and unoriginal, but no one seems to object, so the stasis remains unchallenged.

Snyder reinforces his premise by dogmatically attacking as garbage any movies that dare to fall outside of his formula (e.g. Memento). These diatribes come across as pointless and disingenuous to me. Why proclaim that your way is the only way? Why discredit all other options? Why not simply offer yours as the best among competing suggestions? There were several places where Snyder snidely snipes at movies that I felt were unwarranted. A decent, box office-pleasing flick that challenges convention should be praised, not derided, at least in my view.

That said, this book can still be useful, especially to the new screenwriter. Snyder provides a 10,000 foot view of the way stories are structured. He borrows from Campbell and other theorists who've put together similar systems. And, like it or not, this structure is one American movie goers have come to expect from their narrative entertainment, so it makes sense to at least be aware of what the expectations are before challenging them.

Snyder does a good job in pointing out common plot/character pitfalls new writers struggle through and offers mildly cliched methods of avoiding them. He also offers an honest assessment of what it's like to work in Hollywood, and the amount of work and rejection required to get anything made.

The book is a little dated these days, as any material that references modern movies inevitably becomes. Some of the on-the-ground strategies he recommends for getting noticed are irrelevant now, his suspicion of email for instance, strikes the reader as glaringly old fashioned.

All told, though, if someone is interested in understanding how Hollywood narrative functions, this is still a good book to read. Take some of Snyder's recommendations, leave others. It's a grab bag that's still more than 50% useful.

Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
429 reviews1,335 followers
February 17, 2019
Save the Cat! is one of the best-known books on screenwriting, and for good reason. It's fast, smart, irreverent, and gives you a kick in the butt to start work on your screenplay. Figure out your logline (a brief description of what your film is), make sure it's sufficiently enticing, and then write to that. Block out your beats on a big board with index cards: opening image, statement of theme, catalyst, midpoint, dark night of the soul, finale, etc. You should even know in advance exactly which pages those moments appear!

It is formulaic, absolutely, but in the true-to-life way that all major films are formulaic. Across genre and subject, some storytelling requirements just don't change. We need a hero that is proactive and that we care about (the titular "save the cat" is a mnemonic for having the hero do something early on that makes us relate to him or her). We want our stories to be about something related to our primal needs for survival. We want to be shown rather than told. Every character needs an arc. We have short attention spans and get bored with exposition. And so on.

And sure... maybe you'll find some way to break these rules, but only after you've mastered them, and gained intimate familiarity with what has come before. Along the way, Snyder shares his personal experience as a spec writer, examples from popular films, and practical tips to get past your own dark nights of the soul as your story comes together. It's a pithy, nutrient-rich source of inspiration if you've got a story you're trying to develop.
Profile Image for M.
9 reviews1 follower
February 9, 2014
Blake Snyder subtitled his trendy screenwriting guide, SAVE THE CAT, “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need,” but it’s unlikely the double-entendre was intentional. While his hipper-than-thou how-to might offer a few common sense essentials, it’s hardly essential in itself. Of course, it’s hard to imagine why a writer of any worth would ever really need an instruction manual in the first place but, to be fair, SAVE THE CAT is not so much about how to write a good screenplay as how to write a successful (read: lucrative) one. That’s not a distinction that Snyder, himself, is capable of making, but it’s an important one for a reader to keep in to mind, since it throws a little light on some of his more dubious pronouncements (such as proclaiming himself the most successful screenwriter in Hollywood, despite having only two writing credits - both on very poorly-received films - to his name; or championing Miss Congeniality over Memento as a model of exemplary screenwriting) and contextualizes the “creative” approach he lays out.

Less a guide to writing your screenplay than selling it, what SAVE THE CAT really offers are formulas and strategies for maximizing your work’s marketability and mass appeal, even if those methods are often dressed-up in the guise of aesthetic improvements. While Snyder’s down-to-earth, dollars-and-sense mindset can occasionally give rise to one or two useful tidbits about navigating the wilds of the Hollywood system, it more frequently results in some bafflingly backwards suggestions, such as perfecting your sales pitch first and then designing your screenplay accordingly. Even when he does discuss the actual craft of screenwriting (story structure, character development, etc.), his technique - a recycled pablum of dumbed-down Joseph Campell, Syd Field, and Robert McKee, sprinkled liberally with odds and ends from development executives, agents, and even Georg Friedrich Hegel - is focused primarily on adhering to tried-and-true formulas that have proven popular with producers and audiences alike. Codifying the patterns observed and explored by the likes of Campbell and Field into inflexible rules, anything that doesn’t fit Snyder’s narrow framework is summarily dismissed as bad (see Memento, above). Quality means taking the safe, paint-by-numbers route towards consensus, popularity, and, ultimately, profitability, and if, at any point, you disagree with him, well… He’s open to argument, but as he never fails to remind you, he’s made a lot of money doing this.

And in the end, the real problem with SAVE THE CAT is not its uninspired insights, narrow-minded instruction, or aesthetic void. All of that would make the book merely dispensable. What ultimately makes it thrown-with-great-force-worthy is the smug, smarmy, self-congratulatory tone with which Snyder benevolently hands-down his wisdom from on high. SAVE THE CAT is a short book, but a long read because Snyder is so infuriatingly self-satisfied, you can’t get through a chapter without wanting to beat him AND his fucking cat to death with a Louisville Slugger. His methodology isn’t necessarily flawed or faulty, but it is misdirected, creatively limiting, and presented better elsewhere. So unless, for some reason, you're seeking a superficial, supercilious guide to screenwriting as salesmanship, SAVE THE CAT might actually be the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.
3 reviews
February 10, 2017
Think of those stereotypical snake-oil salesmen, or the Gordon Gekko wanna-bes, who dress in suits and travel around the country, renting conference rooms or even small diners and trying to convince middle-aged suburbunites to join their programm on how to be succesful.
You know the type: slightly sleazy, fast talking, very friendly but also aggressive, addressing everyone with their first name: "John, you look like a great guy, I like you, but how dare you not be rich? Believe you me buddy, the only one to blame is you and only you. But we're gonna change that, aren't we?"
Did I paint a familiar picture? Ok, well now you know Blake Snyder.

Ah, yes, Blake Snyder, that Hollywood success story. The guy who wrote "Blank Check", do you remember "Blank Check"? I don't. I never saw it. Nor would I see it. Oh, and he also wrote ""Stop! Or my mom will shoot", classic.

Blake Snyder will teach you about "the biz", will show you how Hollywood people really talk. He will give you insight into such insider jargon like "plot" and "story arc".

He wrote this book because he thought other books on the subject are too academic (all of them). This guy thinks Syd Field's language is too academic for you to comprehend. Do me a favour, go to any place where you can find a paragraph from Syd Field's "Screenplay", and tell me that you found it hard to comprehend.

Never have rolled my eyes more often and with more conviction than when reading this self-righteous, condescending douche-bag's pamphlet (for it is a very short book) on screenwriting.

He refers to Field as the father of screenwriting theory, he praises his book. And he is right, go buy that book. Or Linda SIeger's. Or McKee's. I gave it two stars, because it isn't completely useless, and if this is the first book on screenwriting you read you won't finish it without having learned something, but there is nothing here you can't learn in a better way from any of the books mentioned above, or others.

Now, if you do think that "Ernest goes to Camp", "Transformers" or, I don't know, "Happy Gilmore" have some of the best gosh-darn scripts you've ever had the pleasure to enjoy, than maybe this is the book...No! I am sorry, even if you are this person, I still think Syd Field is the better option for you.
Profile Image for Robert Kroese.
Author 44 books592 followers
May 10, 2013
Blake Snyder is supposedly “Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriter.” I don’t know how that works exactly, since he has exactly two IMDB credits (for Blank Check and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot), but whatever.

Save the Cat is basically a book full of little gimmicks for improving a screenplay, as well as pitfalls to avoid. The title comes from the idea of having the hero of the story save a cat early on in the movie to establish his/her likability. It sounds silly, but the examples Snyder gives (it’s not always literally a cat) demonstrate how effective it is. You have to take some of his opinions with a cup or so of salt; he is more concerned with making a script salable than writing something original, which is understandable, except then he proceeds to denigrate Memento, calling it a “low-performing art house film,” and praises the writer of the forgettable Skeet Ulrich movie Chill Factor as a “genius.” (For the record, Memento made $25 million on a $9 million budget; Chill Factor made $11 million on a budget of $70 million. Also, Memento is a cult classic that launched the career of Christopher Nolan of Inception and The Dark Knight fame. Chill Factor is currently chilling at 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Still, Save the Cat is worth reading for the very concrete advice it gives in structuring a screenplay. I think his tips apply to screenwriting sort of the way the rules of grammar apply to dialog: you need to internalize them and then forget them. If you doggedly apply the rules to dialog, you end up with stilted dialog. If you insist on following the advice in Save the Cat to the letter, you may end up with a movie like Chill Factor.
June 14, 2022
Although specifically geared towards screenwriters, the advice that Snyder offers in SAVE THE CAT!: THE LAST BOOK ON SCREENWRITING YOU’LL EVER NEED is totally applicable to all writers, including novelists.

Snyder introduces readers to a beat sheet that even Joseph Campbell (HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES) would heartily approve of. SAVE THE CAT! has spawned numerous other books, including Brody’s SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL. While Brody’s version is more specific to novelists, Snyder’s original book still offers invaluable information that is not included in Brody’s, so I recommend that potential readers and writers read both of them.

The real value in Snyder’s work is that it lays out not just what a good story is, but also what a good story isn’t. This book is really invaluable because Campbell in many ways reminds me of Charles Darwin and Snyder reminds me of a college professor who has to explain—in plain language—what Darwin is actually saying.

Campbell and Darwin were both geniuses. But often, their message is muddled by an excessive use of examples. Although the prodigious use of examples is meant to showcase (and provide evidence of) what they were talking about, it befuddles many readers. In order to get to the “meat” of what Darwin was saying, college professors often have to lay the evidence out in simple, less complicated terms. Snyder does the same thing. By removing the excess verbiage from Campbell’s work and reducing it to an easy-to-read and digestible format, Snyder clarifies everything that Campbell was advocating.

Snyder’s book is really excellent and I highly recommend this book to all.
Profile Image for Ken Poirot.
Author 3 books248 followers
March 1, 2020
I found this a great book for the beginner screenwriter and intermediate screenwriter. I like the friendly and positive tone of the book as well as the fact it is written by someone who has successfully sold seven and six figure scripts over a career as a screenwriter. The writer has a passion for his craft and it is inspiring. This is a must read for anyone who wants to learn a structure for writing scripts that sell in Hollywood.
Profile Image for Phil.
79 reviews
May 12, 2011
Save the Cat! is a great book for understanding the underlying structure that must be built in order to write a good, solid screenplay. Snyder fills this How To book with great information and good examples, and it is easy enough to follow, should one want to try their hand at screenwriting.

Where this book breaks down, though, it its tone and style. Snyder tries too hard to be cool, or hip, or engaging, or something, and the introductions to each chapter are trite, annoying, and a bit like a parent trying to prove that they aren't from another generation. He also has an annoying habit of assuming that his readers are writers and he refers to his reader frequently as a "bullhead". I think that this is meant to be some sort of complimentary moniker, but it really gets old after awhile. Personally, I think the best way to approach your audience is respectfully and assuming nothing. Otherwise, this sort of writing can get patronizing or alienating quickly.

Also, while the tips and steps Snyder suggests are certainly good suggestions and probably won't lead to bad scripts if followed carefully, the result could be cookie cutter screenplays that themselves are trite and boring and simplistic. Indeed, the formula he concocts works best with romantic comedies and other similar films that are all exactly the same underneath their "new" dressing. A real, dynamic, and engaging screenplay might need to be constructed somewhat differently than Snyder suggests.

However, this is a terrific introductory book, and if nothing else, it works on that level.
Profile Image for Sam Raines.
1 review44 followers
September 16, 2013
How ironic, for someone to criticize Memento (which is a huge no-no) for not making a lot of money.. Then the director/writer of that movie goes on to direct billion dollar blockbusters such as Inception and the Dark Night franchises (I still think Memento and Following are better). What does Snyder have on him? Nothing. What does this mean? Nothing. The movie world is a crazy and unpredictable world, and this book does an o.k. job at trying to explain it. However, as said by a lot of people below, his criticisms of movies can get pretty awkward (like saying "screw Memento", then praising Legally Blonde), especially when he starts praising his own films which I saw a couple times on Disney Channel when I was eight. Now that I look back on my review, I really do sound like I absolutely hate this book, but I do not. I think it has some really helpful strategies on how to block down a script structure (not to the bs structure) and really simplifies a lot of the confusion in Hollywood. I think this book is "ok", hence the two star rating. What is wrong, this guy holds his opinion too (pardon me) damn high. This sounds quite ironic, considering I am ranting about a screenwriting book. But in the end of the day, this rant is nothing but a rant. I don't expect many people to agree with this, or even care enough to read this far down before getting annoyed with me or my poor grammar.. However, I do not think my opinion is law, cause that's all it is, opinion.
Profile Image for Melissa Storm.
Author 117 books3,782 followers
February 4, 2017
This book was recommended by my good friend and fellow author, Bonnie Paulson. Don't let the fact that it's aimed at screenwriters push you away, authors! Snyder explores some global truths of good storytelling and breaks them down in an easy to digest manner. The most interesting discovery for me? Most of my "romance novels" aren't technically in that genre. According to Snyder's model, they are "rites of passage" stories. That makes so much sense and really explains what I like to write and what my readers have time and time again said they enjoy about my stories. Thanks for the insights, Blake Snyder!
Profile Image for 侯 二六.
562 reviews16 followers
April 22, 2021
Profile Image for K Todd Ramer.
64 reviews17 followers
March 21, 2017
Absolute nonsense. This was PURE speculation from beginning to end that starts out by criticizing others for taking educational and clinical approaches to the writing process.

Has an opinion on just about every film from 11 years ago or beyond, but basically has no ACTUAL input on as to why these films worked. Was very quick to dismiss works based on established novels though. I couldn't help but notice that (Minority Report).

This probably is the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need, most likely because if you have any common sense, based on this preponderance of opinion, you quit the industry altogether. You should know something is up when the author starts out by saying "I don't need to do this for the money, I just want to share my knowledge" and then goes on to tell you immediately that you need his tenured wisdom to make money in his industry. That's alot of talking just to hear yourself talk. I mean, 80% of the stuff considered a faux pas in this thing is now industry standard, including the "4th wall break" that earned Deadpool the highest box office sales for an r-rated film in U.S. history.

This book was recommended to me as away to help me with my novel manuscripts. I was advised, and believed from reading the "back of the book" "logline", that this is what I would be getting. Instead, I read the whole book, cover to cover, and found absolutely NOTHING to help me with pacing, scene blocking, dialogue or conceptualizing. I mean, I assumed those things were just as needed in writing a screenplay as they are in writing a novel (and why this was recommended). Clearly, I was mistaken. You need an "ironical" 1-line, some beat sheets and poor opinions of films that actually did well in the box office. Telling the reader that they shouldn't even bother writing their concept until they have an "ironic, mental image creating, cost effective audience grabber with a killer title 1-line" is insanity. This is either just ego tripping or it's an attempt to dissuade people from competing in the industry.

I'm sorry. I can't recommend this to anyone. I would even go as far as to say that people who have read this invest in mind bleach to make it go away.

(Usually I try and find something redeemable to offset my negatives, but I couldn't find anything.)
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,669 followers
August 9, 2020
If you're looking for some strong advice about screenwriting, especially when it comes to navigating the screenwriting industry, Save the Cat remains a solid piece of work.

What's a little problematic is that Blake Snyder 's advice, while practical and often wise, came from a screenwriter who had a fifteen year gap between his last produced screenplay and his death in 2009 -- and it came from a screenwriter who is extremely unlikely to have written screenplays you will respect. Stop! Or My Mom will Shoot. and Blank Check are garbage comedies by any standard, and those are his hits.

One would have liked this advice to have come from an academy award winning screenwriter, or a screenwriter of many successful blockbusters that one would actually like to watch. It's unfortunate that Snyder wasn't such a writer, but, as I said (and this is important), much of his advice was worthwhile.

His best advice isn't about the writing process. Much of that -- which is sadly most of the book -- can be taken as a vague guideline. His best advice is, however, about the business of screenwriting: hints about how to market yourself, how to get an agent, how to work the system, how to keep going when the system rejects you, the importance of contacts, the need to make relationships ... these are the nuggets of wisdom that make Save the Cat a worthwhile read for any screenwriter.

It's not a bible, so don't take it as such. Think of it as the good advice you get from the friendly bartender. If that's what you need, and we all do from time to time, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book807 followers
November 13, 2016
This is a "how to" handbook, targeting aspiring screenwriters, composed by a man who actually has some track record in writing comedy scripts for Hollywood.

It basically guides the reader through all the stages of writing for the movie industry: how to turn an idea into a marketable "logline"; how to fall within a given genre (Snyder suggests an interesting genres taxonomy, based on what actually happens in the story); how to build a protagonist (again, he offers an original vision of characters archetypes); how to set up the story structure following a 15 steps "Beat Sheet" (Snyder follows the 3 acts framework already put forward in Syd Field's Screenwriter's Workbook); how to lay out the 40 (sic!) scenes of a movie on a pin-board (that's, in my view, probably the most interesting and practical part of this book); how to avoid common pitfalls and how to double-check one's work.

It is, in the end, a very enjoyable read (Snyder is a very upbeat chap!), although I can't help but think that following his advice to the letter might lead to somewhat formulaic results... such, of course, that might be most bankable in Hollywood land -or in mainstream publishing land, for that matter!
Profile Image for Grey.
110 reviews10 followers
January 25, 2016
Not a review. Just a few highlights:

(Page 4)
How are we going to come up with something as good as Lawrence of Arabia that will sell like Spy Kids 3-D? Well, there is a way.

(Page 9):
One of the best titles of recent memory, and one I still marvel at, is Legally Blonde

(Page 10):
That's how I thought up a script I went on to co-write and sell called Nuclear Family

(Page 15):
Psycho is potentially lame, but we'll let him off the hook on that one -- it's Hitchcock, after all.

(Page 81):
When I was writing my very first draft of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot I was sort of stuck.

(Page 91):
Oh, and btw, screw Memento!

Profile Image for Samantha Luce.
Author 8 books22 followers
March 5, 2017
It was good. Not worth all the hype though. Blake Snyder made it easy to follow. It's helpful not just for screenwriting but any sort of writing.
Profile Image for Abigail Bok.
Author 4 books185 followers
April 20, 2020
I have a fondness for reading books about screenwriting--not because I have an ambition to be a screenwriter but because they tend to have good ideas about the mechanics of storytelling. Plotting and structure are not my top skills, and these books often give me tools that help me chart a path through the work of telling a story.

Save the Cat takes a very practical approach, aimed at those who want to write for mass audiences. The author advises you to start with a basic idea, which you refine down to a title and a "logline," a one- or two-sentence précis of what the story is that you want to tell. Then you break down the story into a four-part structure, with critical milestones happening at predictable moments. You map out where scenes happen within that structure, and make sure each scene includes conflict and moves the goal of the story forward. And only once you have this structure complete and honed to your satisfaction do you begin to write.

This is not, I must say, how I write. And I would be concerned about writers slavishly following such a process and ignoring the serendipity that comes from exploring new ideas that often arise spontaneously as words go down on paper (metaphorically or, in the case of dinosaurs like myself, literally). Often one's characters have their own ideas about how a story should play out, and exerting too much control over their will would be a mistake.

Nevertheless, taking the time to construct a schematic framework can help the writer clarify inchoate ideas and refine rough ones, and I am already finding Blake Snyder's guidance helpful in resolving problem areas in my work. And it helps me to challenge myself: am I telling a good story in an effective way, one that readers will find engaging?

Snyder's style is breezy to the point of snark, and he is very good at demystifying the praxis of writing. He also is gifted at creating silly labels for critical analysis and writerly tricks that will stick with you, from "save the cat" to "the pope in the pool." He outlines ten basic story types that will help writers understand why their stories will work best if they follow certain tracks. His book's ideas about the state of the film industry may be rather dated, but the basic advice about constructing a story should prove useful to most writers.
Profile Image for Gintautas Ivanickas.
Author 14 books185 followers
January 23, 2021
Iš esmės – kino scenarijaus rašymo vadovėlis. Kita vertus, kadangi scenaristo ir rašytojo užduotis ta pati – papasakoti istoriją, tai galima skaityti ir kaip tiesiog rašymo vadovėlį. Medžiaga išdėstyta neblogai, žinoma, kartais prasimuša kino specifika, bet ją galima ignoruoti. Kaip ir paskutinį knygos trečdalį su patarimais, kaip susirasti agentą, kaip užmegzti ir palaikyti naudingas pažintis.
Taigi, turim kūrybinio rašymo vadovėlį. Kažko nauja jame neradau – viskas kaip ir seniai žinoma (nebūtinai moku tuo naudotis, bet žinoti – žinau), triukas, kurį sau vadinau „paglostyk šuniuką“, čia pavadintas „išgelbėk kačiuką“. Tai va, tokie tie skirtumai. Pliusas – dauguma patarimų palydima filmų pavyzdžiais, galima atsisukt, pasinagrinėt. Pliusas (tam, kas nusiteikęs iš šito vadovėlio mokytis) – praktinės užduotys. Kažkokių reikšmingų minusų neatradau, tai tebūnie keturi iš penkių. Pagrindus iš šios knygos galima semtis, nors aš jau tada rekomenduočiau susirasti internatuos Brandono Sandersono kursą. Jis irgi su savo nuokrypiu (nes akcentas į fantastinio kūrinio rašymą), bet ir platesnis, ir smagesnis.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
4,555 reviews177 followers
November 14, 2017
My year of listening to the Harry Potter series has gotten me really interested in story structure. I stumbled on this series and, though it's about screenplays, not novels, it's got some really solid story and revision advice (regardless of the cheesiness of Blake Snyder's own scripts). I've thought repeatedly about 1) ALL STORIES ARE ABOUT TRANSFORMATION, and 2) his advice to make characters' drives primal: rooted in survival, hunger, sex, protection of loved ones, fear of death. This has changed how I look at compelling characters.

Favorite quotes:

In a sense, stories are ABOUT change. And the measuring stick that tells us who succeeds and who doesn’t is seen in the ability to change. Good guys are those who willingly accept change and see it as a positive force. Bad guys are those who refuse to change, who will curl up and die in their own juices, unable to move out of the rut their lives represent. To succeed in life is to be able to transform. That’s why it’s the basis not only of good storytelling but also the world’s best-known religions. Change is good because it represents re-birth, the promise of a fresh start.

The truth is that movies are so much about what happens that we must learn about characters by what they do, not by what they say. As in Life, character is revealed by action taken, not by words spoken.

Three acts: thesis, antithesis, synthesis

In many a well-told movie, the hero and the bad guy are very often two halves of the same person struggling for supremacy, and for that reason are almost equal in power and ability...And each has something the other wants...even if it’s just an answer to what makes them the way they are.

The trick is to create heroes who:
Offer the most conflict in that situation
Have the longest way to go emotionally
Are the most demographically pleasing

As writers we tend to be insular, introverted, and introspective. But if you want to sell your script, you have to sell yourself -- and I say this in the most healthy and positive sense. There is no crass salesmanship if you are genuinely interested in your subject.

If you are lucky enough to have a career, you will be bumping into these people again and again for years. So try not to burn any bridges, or at least try not to burn them all the way down.

When characters are not acting like human beings, when they are not being driven primally, odds are you are testing the patience of the audience. To ask “Is it primal?” is to ask “Is this relevant to a caveman?” The answer must be: Yes!
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