Saturday, January 8, 2011

Save the Cat is Keyser Söze!

I recently was asked by a fellow critique buddy for my notes on Save the Cat.

Me, being the absent minded writer I am, scratch my head. I don't remember critiquing a story with that title. I'm not particularly fond of cats in general. Sorry Cat People. I do not like cats. I am paraphrasing here but I am with Robin Williams when he said that Cats are like Drag Queens. And I have a tweener daughter, all the Queen like drama I can stand, thank you very much.

So, back to this email. I tell this writing buddy I will check my files and get back to her. I find nothing and let her know. I check our message loop and other people chatted about my notes on this friggin' cat. Was I drunk messaging one night? 'Tis very possible I tell you. But no, I check that too. I did not jump online and post about saving some cat while intoxicated. It would more than likely read about me killing some cat while under the influence. Maybe not murder but at least spraying a bunch of water on it. Again, sorry Cat People. I do not like cats.

So, I am tripping around the blogosphere today, not tripping like I am stoned. I do not do drugs. Hugs, not drugs. Win with Gin! I digress. Save the Cat kept coming up on writer blogs and message boards. What the what? This Save the Cat business is like my own personal Keyser Söze. What is it? Who is it? Why do they think I have notes on it????? It's an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in bacon. But I have no time to decipher this nonense. I have a story to complete and this damn opening of mine is a pain in the arse. My own Verbal Kint, if you will. I ignore all this cyber purring and search the interwebs for the answer to my WIP conundrum. Feck the cat, someone else can save it.
Lovely YA author and blogger extraordinaire Elana Johnson blogs about the writing life. When I get my email about Elana's latest blog post, I swear I hear the heavenly angels sing AHHH. She is blogging about what else, How to Start Your Book. Wowsers! What are the odds?

I've been jammering about my failings in this department for months. I have SEVEN different openings to my MS. Ask AJ and she may say I have more. I lost count honestly. Elana is a rocking blogger with a book coming out in June called Possession. You may recognize her name from being a steady contributor over at Query Tracker and her fondness of Bacon. (The food, not Kevin Bacon. I do not know about her feelings on the actor from Footloose.) She loves bacon. I love bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Bacon. Bacon. Bacon. Writer's block, eat Bacon. Stuck in traffic, dig in your pocket and nibble on some bacon. Not sure what would go great with that ice cream sundae, add bacon. Had some great sex, skip the cig and chew on some bacon. Frustrated by this post, EAT BACON! Again, I digress.


Anywho. Where was I? Cats, heck no...*Charli sips some gin, licks fingers from her BLT.* Oh yes, the blog post. So, I continue reading Elana's genius and I image... OF A FRIGGIN CAT! Ohh...light bulb over my head hums then illuminates. ELANA STARTS TALKING ABOUT...SAVE THE CAT! It's a flipping screenwriting book! One that boils down story structure. For DAYS I've been jammering about structure, how mine is all off. I follow Larry, the story fixer. He chats about structure and screenwriting like I do bacon and boos. Lately with all my MS opening woes I've been reading up on it. Now Elana with this mysterious Kitty? The planets have aligned for this moment. It's all been leading up to this...

A kind of lame, real-life version of The Usual Suspects, the scene where Chazz Palminteri is looking around the office and it all sets in. The events of the past few hours, chatting with Verbal Kint, it all comes full circle. Well, that was me reading Elana's post today. I didn't drop my coffee mug on the ground or chase after a man with a distinct limp. No instead I sat at my desk and yelled out "Shut the front door!" But I said the real thing. You know, like Ralphie saying fudge but really saying f*ck in a Christmas Story. Got it now? Good. (And if you've never seen The Usual Suspects or A Christmas Story you have no business in the story-telling business. They're classics for Christ's sake.)

So, back again to this diatribe. Elana's post is about her NOT nailing the opening to her next book. And I was like, OMG, no friggin' way! Another coincidence in this strange feline mystery. Elana is an agented writer, she has a book coming out, SHE LOVES BACON! How can she have the same woes as me??? I felt a kinship, a bond beyond pork products. I felt hope actually. Hope that I too can overcome this black hole that's sucked the life out of me these past few months.

The post goes on about Save the Cat. How awesome it is and how it helped her. Her, the soon to be published and agented author is using it and even making storyboards and flash cards. Dude, I love flashcards, use them! Pig Meat, Crappy Book Openings, Saving Cats, and now 4x6 lined pieces of cardboard? We are sooo cyber sisters. I will not stalk her, I will not stalk her!

Remember my Liz Lemon Post? Nerds use flash cards. And Nerds get shit done. Nerds are gazillionaires. I am an aspiring nerd and writer. This is Steve Jobs to the right, BTW. He nailed the part of bazillionaire nerd who gets shit done. If there is a book about being a nerd, like a Save the Cat for nerds, I bet you Jobs read it and possibly even wrote it. And dude, with a last name like JOBS he was destined to get shit done.

Fate has instructed me to purchase said feline sparing bible of story structure. And I will tell you this. I listened and I bought. I have my highlighter and cards, gin and bacon. Save the Cat is Keyser Söze, Keyser Söze is the opening to my book- elusive, there, and then poof, it's gone....Damn you Keyser Söze!

Oh, opening to my mushy love story along the Jersey Shore, I will conquer you once and for all! I may not be saving any literal cats with this purchase but I sure as hell will save the start of my MS. The world is gonna love my opening like Tracy loves cornbread.

Thank you Elana Johnson, YA writer. Thank you. And thanks to my fellow aspiring writers who praised me for notes I didn't write, thanks to bacon and gin, thanks Steve Jobs and Keyser Söze, and thanks to Save the Cat, not real cats. I do not like cats. Thank you all!

OMG, Brain fart....maybe Elana Johnson is Keyser Soze! What the what!?


  1. LOL! I love this post so much. You are awesome. *big grins*

  2. Oh Keyser, I mean Elana, I am so glad you are happy! Can't piss off the Keyser.

    In all seriousness, thanks for the awesome post! Started reading Save the Cat and it is so VERY awesome.

  3. Getting "Save the Cat" because of this post. I always put an animal in my longer stories - not necessarily to be saved but sometimes for a lighter touch or to show a different side of a character.

    Mitzi, or MaryCat, or the almost-crazy Cat Lady (I only have 3)

  4. Hi, Charli, You might check out this link, too.

    Liana, who also has three cats :) (But girls)

    Good luck with that beginning!

  5. Seriously, put down the acid soaked bacon ... it seems to be affecting your posts.

    Now I need to find that d*mn cat book.

  6. Hilarious post Charli and I'll keep my fingers crossed for that beginning of yours!

  7. Mitzi, OMG, you will find out when you read Save the Cat that your theory about using animals to show a softer side of a character is one of its points, hence the title. Who'da thunk it?

    Liana, thanks for the link. Love this blog already!

    Lisa, BAH! It's gin soaked Bacon. Find the book!

    Stacy, thanks. Cross your toes too please?

    Oh, and sorry again. You seem to be Cat People. Cyber purrs to you all.

  8. I've heard about this Save The Cat for awhile now--didn't know what it was about, and frankly, didn't care until I started the out line to my second novel. A dear friend and fellow author swore by this book, and she helped me get my hands on it. So far I've learned tons!!!
    Good luck on your new opening. They are crazy-insane.

  9. Fellow Pennwriter Tom Carll pointed out Save the Cat to me a couple of years ago and i've found it to be invaluable. :) Nice post!

    Babs Mountjoy
    writing as Lyndi Alexander, the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot Series
    writing as Alana Lorens, Deliverance, Summer 2011, The Wild Rose Press

  10. Oh Charli, I can't believe I didn't convince you about STC when I posted about it :( Either way I am glad you are pleased with it. All week I've been working on a blog post about it and ever since I haven't been able to contain my excitement on posting about it.
    That's how addicting and fabulous Save the Cat is.

  11. I was pleasantly surprised to see you blogging about this book Charli, since I was just involved in a discussion about it with Mart and Brenda on our crit group mailing list. So glad you discovered the book for yourself. I can see where it's going to be so helpful with story structure.

    I'm still eagerly looking forward to that blog post Mart! ;o)

  12. SO, IT IS MART! She is the one in group with these notes, lol. I will let the critter know it twas Gidget, aka, Mart who saved the cat!

    Well, Mart you are the initial reason STC was on my radar. Someone mistakenly thought it was me with all this STC knowledge but it was you. LOL.

  13. Babs, love my fellow Pennwriters! Thanks for stopping by.

    Brenda, if the cat can't save this opening, I am screwed.

    Ginny, I need to pay attention to messages in group. For reals.

  14. Well now I wanna watch the usual have downloaded a pdf of save the cat..haven't read it yet, but am'd be nice to finish the 3 books i have in various states of progress...i don't know why i had such an easier time with the first one, and the rest get frozen half way through


  15. p.s. I don't like cats either...they freak me out


  16. Kris, I am not talking to you until you watch The Usual Suspects. You are banned, lol.

  17. lol..I have watched it...but it was years ago...i'm a huge kevin spacey just made me want to revisit it...simmer down now!


  18. Duly noted. If you hadn't seen it I would have to flip ya, flip ya for real. LOL.

  19. This post is fantastic! Elana is now the second author to recommend Save the Cat, so I guess I should bite the bullet and purchase it as well. And while I'm at it, probably some bacon, too. :)

    Thanks for stopping by during the hop. I'm following you too.

  20. LOL on paying more attention to group messages. There's so much info flying around on that mailing list at all times it's so easy to get overwhelmed. It will take me years to go through and investigate all those links. LOL

    I have you to thank though for inviting me to check the group out in the first place. I SO can't wait to get my damn WIP in decent enough shape to start getting some crits. Right now, it's too disjointed, too much like a buffet table at a zombie convention - parts and pieces here, there, and everywhere. That's why I'm so hoping STC will help me with that. ;-)

    A slab or two of bacon couldn't hurt either. ;-)

  21. Always nice to be praised for something that you didn't do... though a little strange that it should be about a cat book!

    Thanks for the follow :)

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