The New Book(s)
The world is a pretty exciting place right now and everywhere I go, and every writer I interact with, I get closer to “the secret.”
I feel like I’m hot on the trail of the Unified Field Theory for storytelling, the elusive “why” — not just “how” — of what lifts a story to a higher plane.
I was in Vancouver yesterday teaching a fantastic group of writers. It is always an amazing experience as where we are disappears and is replaced by the scenes and possibilities of everyone’s story. Magic happens in that room, no matter where that room is. As usual, we were breaking it down, using The Board to get at what made each story work, the underneath part, the DNA part, and I had one of those out of body experiences where I suddenly realized this is really important stuff we’re tackling here. I’ve been having more of these experiences lately, and with them comes the sense something big is coming, some new information is about to be revealed.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about anything I’ve pursued in my life.
Part of what this comes from is my background as a writer. In addition to writing or co-writing a lot of big spec screenplays, writing for TV on series for Disney, and selling pilots to ABC and Nickelodeon, I’ve had every kind of writing job conceivable. It also helps that I am third-generation movie business with a great uncle who worked for RKO and an Emmy Award-winning producer dad who raised me with a healthy steeping in advertising as well.
And all of this, everything I’ve picked up along the way, I’m realizing has been about… story.
For a series that began with a book claiming to be “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need,” I am just now kicking into third gear.
I am writing Save the Cat! Strikes Back right now. This is subtitled: “More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into… and Out Of” and it’s the best, most fun Save the Cat! yet. It is a compendium of my own experience, and others, about hitting the wall in a script, and rebounding. This includes everything that goes with that experience — the “dark night of the script” moments — when it’s just you and you looking into the blackness wondering if you’re really cut out for this. It’s the premise of this book that it isn’t until you get to the trouble, hit a dead end, and run out of ideas, that real magic comes.
This is proved time and again in class.
I am also researching and will be writing before the year is out, Save the Cat! Falls in Love. This comes from my work with Romance Writers, and from whom I’ve had so many “ah-ha!” moments about what makes stories work — and “why” (see there it is again). It’s directly for Romance Writers in what I hope will be THE resource for this hugely popular market. But I also hope to get at why that story, the love story, is the most primal, most enduring, longest running lesson in history.
This is an adventure, and it’s taking me into all-new terrain, but by going outside one discipline, and into others, I hope to find the thing that makes it all tick, the thing that will make every story we tell make that tuning fork inside us all hum like mad.
I wake up every day running to the computer eager to hear from you and learn more about what you have to tell me. I have a lot to learn, and you are teaching me tons! It goes without saying, but I’m saying it: I’m grateful! Letâ€™s keep this conversation going, and keep finding what it takes to write stories that truly resonate.
P.S. From my talk the other day, we will be posting in the Tools section a free download that is a three-page overview of Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, a really handy reference.
Blake, I read your blog and my heart started racing with excitement! The new books sounds great (so why are you wasting your time reading my comments when you should be on your Mac typing!), and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I’m sure you get lots of questions about the nitty gritty of being a screenwriter, those moments of doubt or frustration — and lord know I’ve gone through them and there are times when I’ve wanted to email you and ask “does this ever happen to you?”. This whole experience of creating stories really is mystical. There are times when I’m so stuck on a story problem and I’ve had feelings of “maybe I’m not cut out for this” or “there’s no way this idea can work”. And then all of a sudden I’ll be doing something, and the solution presents itself. It’s just enters into my mind. And it’s a stroke of genius! And I’m wondering where did that come from? It really is like being touched by some divine power. Some universal principle.
Thanks for all you’re doing for our craft and the art of storytelling. You’ve made screenwriting fun.
- Martin Blank
Unified Field Theory
Milton Erickson presupposed that all the answers weâ€™re looking for are already in us. You constantly inspire. So with total respect here are some very humble thoughts about why we really write stories and what people get from them. I own the DVD of â€œBlank Checkâ€. I will show it to my kids when they are old enough to understand it. In your movie â€œBlank Checkâ€ you co-wrote the movie where? The kid gets how much money? How much money did those big spec scripts of yours sell for?
More important, what does Preston â€œgetâ€ and his dad “get” by the end of your terrific film? What did you get? Could it be the same thing an audience gets? I write by this, â€œGreat writers ask important questions, then answer them?â€ Thanks for asking the important questions, and giving us answers.
Your pal and fan,
- Timothy Fish
I’m glad to hear that the magic happens after we get to the trouble, hit a dead end, and run out of ideas. I’m nearing the end of something I’ve been working on and looking back over it reveals that large portions of it aren’t going to work. I’m ready for the magic to happen.
So cool of you Martin!!! And I agree, especially about Blank Check.
My co-writer and pal, Colby Carr, and I tried hard to get a lesson into the script, and it’s tough when the fun-est part is the water slide coming out of the upstairs window of the castle little Preston bought! But the message: “money doesn’t buy happiness” comes through — in fiction and in life! Your questions are spot-on; when stories work it’s because we recognize the truth of them. By coincidence we have Blank Check 2 in the works, so stay tuned!
- Doug Miller
Thanks, Blake, for another inspiring post!
I’m currently working through another screenplay, semi-stuck (even though I have the 40 beats), and I’m absolutely SURE the answers will come. It’s an experience I’ve had many times and expect to have again. You’re right: there’s something completely mystical about the process! It’s just a matter of pondering and letting go while being sure the answers are there. Call it the muse, if you will.
Now all of that will not necessarily make us great writers, but it will certainly put us way ahead of the pack, especially if we work with your paradigm (I have the computer program).
Every time I read your blog I feel like I’ve grown and glimpsed something esoteric and wonderful.
- Shannon McKelden
I’ll be first in line to buy Save the Cat! Falls in Love! That sounds fabulous…and I’m sure I’ll be joined by every one of the romance writers who heard you speak in Seattle last year and those who will attend your workshop in San Fran this summer! So glad to hear you’re working on that!
VENUS ENVY, available now!
VENUS GUY TRAP, coming early 2009
BLAKE SAID…”I am writing Save the Cat! Strikes Back right now. This is subtitled: â€œMore Trouble for Screenwriters to Get In Toâ€¦ and Out Ofâ€ and itâ€™s the best, most fun Save the Cat! yet. It is a compendium of my own experience, and others, about hitting the wall in a script, and rebounding. This includes everything that goes with that experience â€” the â€œdark night of the scriptâ€ moments â€” when itâ€™s just you and you looking into the blackness wondering if youâ€™re really cut out for this. Itâ€™s the premise of this book that it isnâ€™t until you get to the trouble, hit a dead end, and run out of ideas, that real magic comes.”
PLEASE HURRY!!! I’ve hit said wall. . . SPLAT!
- Sarah Beach
Getting stuck in a story can be a big misery. Anything that can help shake me loose is a great thing. And you certainly have the knack of cutting right to the insight that jars me loose!
The new books sound like a lot of fun! Good luck with them. (And I’m looking forward to reading them.)
- Kieron Evans
I’m new to ‘Save The Cat,’ and I love how it has given me another way to approach my own scriptwriting.
I have been writing scripts for years now, but this book has helped me to consider mechanics of a script that I didn’t know existed.
I was watching ‘Falling Down’ last night, and it occured to me how almost every new scene for D-fens is a save the cat moment. He is a vile tempered, murdering maniac, but for us to be ‘with’ him, he stands up for himself in situations that we can all identify with. And I think that, for me, this is the key ingredient for the save the cat moment: identification.
We need to see something redeeming in an otherwise bad person; something that reminds us about what we like about ourselves, or something we could learn to like about ourselves.
- Nancy Holder
So excited to hear that you’re creating a special STC for us romance writers!
I recently started writing comic books and I’m using the Beat Sheet to work out my stories with great success. I’m also teaching a class at UCSD; had a guest speaker who owns a game company bearing many handouts for my students–including the Beat Sheet. So you’re everywhere!
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So, Blake what are the chances of Save The Cat! Watches TV? I’d love your take on television writing!