Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Long Live The Cat!

Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time know that occasionally I write about books that I find inspiring. Usually they have to do with writing.

One of those is Save The Cat, Blake Snyder's wonderful insightful book on the schematics of good story-telling.

It's aimed at screenwriters. It's a perfect primer for anyone who wants to know how to tell a good story.

Last summer -- just over a year ago -- the Romance Writers of America were privileged to have Blake speak at their national conference in San Francisco. Over the past few years, since Save The Cat became a hit, he spoke at a variety of conferences and workshops in many places all over the world, bringing wisdom, humor and enthusiasm with him. He was brimming with life and simply humming with great ideas.

So it was a sad shock to learn that Blake passed away yesterday morning.

His death is a loss to not only his family and friends, but to all of us who write books or screenplays or tell and share stories. We have lost a mentor, an enthusiast, a companion on the journey. And we will all mourn that loss.

At the same time those of us who have read his books and/or heard him speak or shared email correspondence with him, know that we have been given the gift of his insights, his wisdom, his sense of humor and his encouragement. His generosity even more than his insights should inspire us all.

I've written 63 books. Only in the last one could I have begun to tell you what the theme was because I paid attention to Blake's schematics when I was writing it.

I didn't write it differently than I wrote the others, but I understood it differently. I knew 'why' I did certain things now. And I knew when something wasn't going right how to rethink things and realize what was missing or where the story had gone off the wrong way. I knew how to bring it back. It's a better book because of Blake's book, because of his insights into story structure.

I was eagerly awaiting his book on writing romance. I hope he left notes somewhere and that someone can put them together into a book. I'd love to read them. I want to learn from them. 63 books hasn't begun to teach me everything. Blake taught me a lot.

May those of us who have learned from him continue to share his wisdom and his enthusiasm and his generosity with each other and with the world. May we also follow in his footsteps and share our own insights and help each other.

No one will ever quite fill his shoes, though. We whose lives he touched through his books, his work and his generous willingness to share and encourage others have indeed been blessed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such sad news - I have used his craft books many times and often link to his blog for the free resources provided there.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

I too was sorry to hear the news as I became a devotee after your initial blog.
His beat sheets and his various sayings will live on long after him as they do help with formulating the book.

I have now started doing the Story Board as well -- but only after the first draft.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Donna Alward said...

Yes and Michelle got me hooked - especially after I heard the raves about his workshop in SF.

It is so sad. He had so much still to give - and that's what he was. A giver. He loved writing and process and sharing that with others.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

This is truly terrible news. What a loss to his family and the family of writers who loved SAVE THE CAT.

Anne, I know exactly what you're saying. I knew everything when I wrote book #1. Now that I'm approaching book #50 I realize I don't know anything at all. I'd hoped to continue the process through many more CAT books.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Nina, Yes, his blog was an extension of the gift of wisdom of his books. It provided, besides its resources, a seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm. Blake will definitely be missed.

Michelle, let me know how the story board works for you. And I know you passed on your copy of Save the Cat to the editorial staff at Mills & Boon, which we can definitely thank you for.

Donna, I was grateful to have heard him speak not because he said anything new or different than what he'd said in his book, but because his enthusiasm was so contagious. I regret profoundly that he never got his book on romance done. I do hope someone will use his insights to bring it to publication. It would add to his legacy, and I, for one, would really like to read it!

Barbara, I think writing books is like raising children. The more you have, the less you think you know. But at least you have the confidence to know you've managed it once, so you dare to hope you can again, even if it's entirely different this time. The beauty of Blake's schematics is that they made sense of so many kinds of books. Would that he could have turned his wisdom to child-raising as well!!!

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Liz Fielding said...

I'm so sorry to hear of Blake Snyder's death. I didn't hear him speak but I loved his book.

So sad.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Me. too, Liz. But we should all leave such a wonderful legacy that touches so many people for the good. I'm eternally grateful to him for the wisdom he shared and the enthusiasm he brought to the journey of life.

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Jaci Stephen said...

Thank you so much for reading my piece and your kind comments, and than you for your piece, too. He has left an amazing legacy; we were privileged to have had him for as little or long as any of us did. Best wishes, Jaci Stephen

05 August, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Jaci, You're absolutely right. Blake's legacy to writers of all genres and forms is significant and will doubtless form a basis for future understanding of successful storytelling. That's valuable, indeed. But even more valuable, I think, is his legacy of personal commitment to sharing what he learned. His generosity to other writers was enormous. I hope we all learn from him and continue to share with each other.

06 August, 2009  
Blogger Kate Walker said...

What very sad news. I'm so sorry to hear of Blake's death. I wish that I hadn't missed hearing him speak at the RWA in San Francisco - such a pity that I had another commmitment for that time. I wish I had been able to be there.

I too was eagerly awaiting the book on romance and I hope there will be enough material already written to allow the book to be completed. I know many of us would love to read what he had to say on this topic.

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends who have lost him too early.

06 August, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Everything Blake had to say about storytelling, you can read in his book. The joy of hearing him in person was being introduced to his deep personal enthusiasm and his wonderful ability to be 'other centered.' It was definitely not all about him. Just as you have so generously shared your insights with so many writers, so did he. I know you would have found that heartening.

06 August, 2009  

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