M.L. Swift organizes the Progressive Book Club and the book to be discussed this month is Save the Cat.
While I listen to Vivaldi's Winter for violin, maybe it would be wise to say something about the reviewer.I am very jealous of my time and most of you know why. My dragoness is never more evident than when I face useless babbling. I am very wary about things that "everybody likes". I won't read a book because everybody says it is good. I won't believe something because everybody believes it and I definitively won't do something that everybody is doing. Meaning you won't see me reading 50 Shades of Gray because everyone in town is reading it, you won't see me doing the Gangnam Style or the Harlem Shake, because its in fashion, and you won't see me worshiping anything because most people do.
In short, I have to find and believe there is a good reason why I should read, do, or believe on something. That something, whatever it is, first has to satisfy my logic, my intellect or my heart. Being as it is, I have zero tolerance when it comes to instruction (my flaw, I admit.) My disclaimer: this is the Devil's Advocate review. Proceed at your discretion.
In a world that produces How To books as a theater would produce popcorn, and where no rule is cast in stone, I've learned to be careful about what I read. There are so many contradictions that one can easily end up more confused than when he started his quest for information. After it happened to me, I like to assess (whenever possible) who is the person I'm going to take advice from.
Why was I reluctant to read Save the Cat in spite of the good reviews? Who is this Blake Snyder? The man who wrote Stop or my Mom will Shoot. Yikes! As hard core fan as I am of Sylvester Stallone, to me this movie sucked big time. Additionally, Snyder's book top line "Give me the same, only different", rang to me like bells of mediocrity. It came across as "do what sells, it matters not if it is good or not." Yikes, again. I hate mediocrity and as much as I love money, I despise the marketing idea of doing what sells, regardless if it is garbage. Last but not least, screenplay is not my business.
Why did I read it? I wanted to take part in at least one of Mike's club sessions, the book was given to me for free but first and foremost, I respect the value of experience. I may not love Snyder's work (or his idea of good comedy) but his years in the business must have taught him something useful, even for me. Besides, I read somewhere that screenplay knowledge could improve a writer's skill in good dialogue.
Experience. I suffered most of the first 118 pages. The man babbles too much for my liking. The golden pieces of advice could be summarized in fifty pages or less (and the book is overpriced).
I am an ignorant in genres. I still don't get the differences between the various genres and endless sub-genres. I know each genre has specific requirements and specific market but I still have to find the one who makes it all clear for me. Mr. Snyder felt the need to rediscover the black thread and the sacred guacamole. I mean, he created new genres that are (to my opinion) absolutely useless. I just can't imagine the face of an agent when reading in my query letter: "Title: The Path of Fire. Genre: A dude with a problem." Or where is exactly the area of "Monsters in the House" in a library? By the way, it mixes established genres. Do I need more genres to be confused about? Way to go, Mr. Snyder! Our relationship is getting smokey.
Fair to the truth, there is good (if few) pieces of advice in those 118 pages but many times during those pages I was roaring "Get to the freaking point already!!!" Dragon Ancestors, give me patience! For a man who is supposed to teach me successful writing, Snyder does ramble a LOT.
I ramble too. As a matter of fact, I have sections in this blog called disseramblings (from dissertation and rambling). But first, I don't promise to teach you the ultimate truth on anything and second, I don't charge you for reading. What you see is what you get. Now if someone sells to me the ultimate secrets of anything, he better gives me what I paid for or there will be trouble. Don't talk me senseless with the whole back story of how enlightenment was reached. Just deliver the message! If you think of it, this is just another golden rule of writing. (Readers don't care for needless back story.)
Blake Snyder finally managed to catch my full attention during Chapter Six and Seven, (a sort of consolation prize for my time). He used a couple of examples that sounded wrong to me, like referring aliens would positively prove the non-existence of God. *Glancing at the cover* What is this book about, again? Is it theology, screenplay or sophism? I am fairly good at two of them but I would rather have what I paid for. I got his point about mixed magics and I agree, but I still think the examples were bad, to say it nicely.
Conclusion. There was absolutely nothing in Save the Cat that I had not read before (for free) in priceless sites like Moody Writing, Helping Writers to Become Authors, The Bookshelf Muse, and Writability. And in my very personal opinion, any of them convey the message in a far more effective and concise writing than Blake Snyder. Actually, Mooderino's humor does make me laugh. Snyder's just get on my wrong side. Snyder's "centuries-distilled wisdom" can be summarized in three pages and if you've been around, you'll find you already knew at least one of those pages.
If I could go back in time, I would rather use my gift card to get other books I so much want to read like Alex Cavanaugh's or Cherie Reich's.
Final Note. Keep in mind this is only a fire dragon's opinion. I am extraordinary stern and demanding when it comes to education I pay for, and even more if the promise of "ultimate knowledge" is involved (Title reads "The last book on screenwriting you'll ever need".) I also state my qualifications as screenwriter are Official Ignorant and the value of my opinion about this book is only equal to my qualifications.