Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Writing Advice #4: Save the Cat

I loved this book--Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Even though it's a screenwriting guide, it really gives authors some great tips on storytelling and character development. One of the best pieces of advice this book provides actually relates directly to the title.

In my romantic comedy writing, most of my characters are pretty likeable. Loveable in fact. They are very funny and going through very relatable relationship issues. And you have to have a pretty hardened heart to hate someone who makes you laugh. Even readers who get frustrated with the character and probably would like to give one-star review for her stupid life decisions in the beginning of the book, gave her three or four star reviews for humor.

Making your main character likeable is key to making the audience buy into your story.

Well, what do you do when you have a main character who may not be showing the best part of him or her self at the beginning of a story? Not only are they not likeable, they are downright unlikeable. Save the cat actually tells you to make your hero or heroine "Save the Cat" or perform some  redeemable act, do something generous, say something uplifting in order to show their softer more sensitive side. When you make a unlikeable character likeable by making him or her perform a heroic-like, then the negative is offset by the positive and the audience can empathize with the character for the rest of the story.

In The Seven Year Itch, I've created a lot of unlikeable characters. People on both sides are traitors to their countries. Ew. How can you like a traitor? Then I developed this whiny FBI agent who feels as if she's been wronged and not given a well-deserved promotion that the readers don't yet know whether she deserves...at least not in the beginning of the book. So how do you make any of the people redeeming? Well, let me tell you, I was saving a lot of cats. Even the worst villains have what they believe is a noble purpose, and you have to communicate that to make their evil actions understandable if not acceptable.

So, when you develop an unlikeable character that you need to make your readers relate to and even empathize with, let them Save the Cat. 

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