I have been pondering a question.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
No, not really. (And sorry to display my embarrassing familiarity with Bread lyrics.)
I want to know, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, then how many words is a single page of screenplay worth? In a novel, that is.
My fascination of late is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need. Forget screenwriting — it works for novels, too. The book is brilliant for distilling the myriad bits of storytelling wisdom I’ve heard over the years into a concise, easy to understand format. I hesitate to say formula because blah blah blah yeah we’re all too artistic to cram our masterpieces into a formula, etc. But, really, this book is magic to me.
He lays out the basic elements of plot, talks about how they relate to one another (Act II is often an upside-down funhouse version of Act I, and Act III is a synthesis of the two), and tells you a precise order and proportion in which to use them. Again, I knew most of it, but it was loose, bouncing around in my head — much like my plot. I really needed a graphic way to examine my novel and all its bits and pieces, and he offers one with his fifteen beats and The Board.
This is not a proper review. There’s some horrific noise going on down the street right now. They seem to be using bumblebees the size of 747s to do construction on the empty lot. Fills every gap in the air with sound. I may start screaming soon.
Anyway, I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to be able to see my entire novel in one place, see where it goes off track, and see where it fits. I now know how to fix it!
The one thing I am not yet sure of is how to apply screenplay page numbers to a novel. He bases this on a 110-page screenplay. Can I turn the pages into percentages of total pages? Can I be lazy and turn each page into a thousand words (knowing a 110k-word novel is a wee bit too long)? Or does the catalyst HAVE to happen on page 25, even in a novel? Probably not. It finally occurred to me this morning (because, yes, I’m that scatterbrained sometimes) that I can Google “Save the Cat Novels” and see actual answers. Or opinions. Or articles on losing weight and how to buy prescriptions overseas.
I’ve only found one article so far (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz says the neighborhood), but I’ll keep looking and perhaps share my wisdom on the blog later.
Meanwhile, do give the book a glance or two. I really loved it. And, if you’ve read it and used it for your non-script writing, chime in here and let me know how you did it and how it turned out.