A Tribute to Beat Sheets
Last year sometime when I was having an email conversation with Liz Fielding, she mentioned a a DVD by Christopher Vogler and Michael Hauge that she was listening to. It was about the hero's two journeys -- and since I have found Vogler's work useful, I thought I'd check it out.
In looking for it, I stumbled across Blake Snyder's Save the Cat.
How can you not want to read a book called Save the Cat?
Well, my dogs might not -- though Gunnar was very fond of Kate Walker's best pal, Sid. But other than a few dogs, most of us want to save the cats we run across, especially ones that will help with writing. So I bought the book.
It's a terrific book. Primarily focused on screenwriting, it can nevertheless help any author spot the empty places in a story. And that's even after the fact.
Up front, before I even have a draft, Blake's beat sheet has helped me come to grips with Demetrios and Anny's story.
They were off drifting in the middle of the Mediterranean (in my head -- they were nowhere close to the water in the draft) and I couldn't see any point at which to bring them back. And until I'd figured out what they were coming back for, I couldn't seem to get them there.
Enter the beat sheet.
Writing down what I knew of the story so far, I had made it all the way to the "break into Act Two." I knew bits and pieces of what was coming after. But the beat sheet made me stop and think sensibly about it.
What would up the ante? Who was already there that could cause more trouble? What conflicts -- inner and external -- would put the screws even tighter to Demetrios and Anny? Amazingly, it was all there already in the stuff that had gone before. I only needed to mine it.
So I did.
And I found my theme!
Who knew? I've never had a theme in the 62 books I've written. Well, I suppose I have, but I've never been able to articulate it in less than 50,000 words.
With Demetrios and Anny I can. I did.
So, thanks, Blake. Your Save the Cat is going right up there on the shelf next to Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. I expect to be pulling it down often. It's always nice to find a book that inspires again. And again.