Save the Movie!

Fascinating piece by Peter Suderman for Slate magazine concerning the increased use of a writing formula, specifically the 2005 book Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder, has influenced the structure of recently released movies:

Being an author myself, I’m always curious to read things like this.  There is a certain curiosity to finding the works you create, to some degree or another, follow story structures that have been around for many, many, many years.  But it’s one thing to realize you use certain story structures in place for centuries and its quite another to slavishly follow a formula.  Any formula.

For me, the big payoff of Mr. Suderman article concerns the above and comes with this paragraph, which all too clearly spells out the dangers of following this particular story formula too closely:

Yet once you know the formula, the seams begin to show. Movies all start to seem the same, and many scenes start to feel forced and arbitrary, like screenplay Mad Libs. Why does Kirk get dressed down for irresponsibility by Admiral Pike early in Star Trek Into Darkness? Because someone had to deliver the theme to the main character. Why does (ACTUAL CHARACTER REDACTED BY ME TO AVOID SPOILERS) defect to the villain’s team for no reason whatsoever almost exactly three-quarters of the way through Fast & Furious 6? Because it’s the all-is-lost moment, so everything needs to be in shambles for the heroes. Why does Gerard Butler’s character in Olympus Has Fallen suddenly call his wife after a climactic failed White House assault three-quarters of the way through? Because the second act always ends with a quiet moment of reflection—the dark night of the soul.

As I said before, a very fascinating and enlightening piece.

I am curious to read Mr. Snyder’s book, but on the other hand perhaps he offers too easy a “cheat sheet” for authors to use, and abuse.