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Secrets Of Story Episode 36: Is Save The Cat! Any Good?

April 9, 2022

The Secrets of Story podcast returns! Matt and I had recorded an episode earlier, but we got so contentious that it turned into a huge quarrel. An even bigger quarrel that usual! Don’t worry, Matt and I are all made up now, and we ditched the bad-blood episode. We’re back with this brand new episode about something we can agree on: Blake Snyder’s infamous Save the Cat! books.

Blake Snyder was a screenwriter who wrote bestselling books about screenwriting and storytelling that are filled with terrible advice (such as, your hero must do something “nice” at the beginning of the story, so the audience will like them—like saving a cat). Matt didn’t really want to criticize Snyder’s Save the Cat! books, perhaps because it would seem like a combination of sour grapes (Snyder’s books are more well-known than Matt’s Secrets of Story, although Matt’s is better) and glass houses (who wants to hear a “story guru” bitch about another “story guru”?). Anyway, bellyaching about Save the Cat! is so old-hat, Slate did an article about it ten years ago.

But then Sophie Beal and Gary Dalkin contacted us. Sophie is the co-director and founder of Cadence Publishing. Gary is the senior associate editor there, as well as a freelance editor at To The Last Word. I met Gary because I had a short story included in the sci-fi anthology Improbable Botany that he had edited in 2017. (You can’t get a physical copy of that anthology anymore, but you can get a Kindle version of Improbable Botany here.) Gary is a great editor, I highly recommend him!

Anyway, Gary and Sophie have an article in the upcoming issue of Writing Magazine in which they debate the pros and cons of the Save the Cat! books. On this episode, the four of us intended to hash out the merits of Blake Snyder’s advice, but the conversation often went off into other topics. If you’re looking for the definitive takedown of Save the Cat!, this ain’t it, but Matt and I enjoyed talking to Gary and Sophie about all things writerly.

Oh and by the way, Matt has a new book coming out soon! It’s a follow-up to The Secrets of Story, and it’s called The Secrets of Character: Writing a Hero Anyone Will Love. As Matt said in his own post about this episode, his new work is a “book-long rebuttal to the titular advice in Save the Cat!“, so this is a timely episode.

People, I’ve read Matt’s new book, and it’s great! I’m also quoted in it a bit, and it includes some points I’ve made on the podcast, so it’s a must for Kennedy completists. The Secrets of Character comes out on April 19, but you can pre-order it here, and you should.

And you can listen to the podcast episode here: