Category Archives: Blake Snyder

Know Thy Antagonist!

My son’s a writer. Go figure.

He’s made a living as a writer since he graduated from college. He’s a game designer, had five or six plays produced in New York and now, he’s got a novel coming out. The folks at Save The Cat! asked him to write a guest column.

Interestingly, he and I reached the same storytelling conclusion, separately. Know what your Antagonist wants. And, importantly, why does she want it? It’s the whole ball game. Everything good and useful flows from those two decisions.

I’ll let him tell you about it.

Please pass this post around to your writer buddies and your reader buddies. Repurposing his existing material means I just had my morning handed back to me and I’d like to help the guy sell a few books!


Filed under Blake Snyder, Good Writing, Screenwriting, Writing Process

You HAVE to be clear!!!!

Nice quote:

“We should not write so that it is possible for the reader to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us.”
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, c. 35-100

The more I work with clients and their screenplays, the more I feel this is one of the toughest things about writing. Not just screenwriting. Writing.

What you think it means may not be what it means. To the reader. What you think it means, doesn’t actually matter. What it means, that matters.

There’ a drawing in my fabulous book, done by me, of a writer on one side of a room, writing. And a reader on the other side of the room, reading. The thought is formed in the writer’s brain, goes down to the page, and then goes up to the reader’s brain. That’s the way it works.


Wish it did.
Life would be a lot easier were that the case.

What you see, crystal clear, floating above your computer as you write, has to go through the scrambler onto the page, and then, through the de-scrambler to the reader, so he (or she!) can see it, crystal clear, floating above the page in living color. Imagine those words were radio waves. Imagine you were transmitting them from Ice Station Zebra on the Polar icecap via a hand-cranked radio to a ham radio operator in the Fiji islands… you’d be very very very careful about your choice of words because your meaning might get lost in the static.

Pretty good analogy for writing, actually. Tickled I thought of it.

What you think it means is not necessarily what it really means.
Tie does not go to the runner.
If the reader creates a different image in her mind from the one you had in mind when you wrote… guess what? It’s not her fault. It’s yours, because you wrote it in such a way that it could be misunderstood.

So don’t do that.

Be clear.
Be very clear.

Easy to say. Excruciatingly difficult to do.

But at least, now, you know it’s possible to be misunderstood so perhaps, now, you’ll take precautions against it happening to you.

I sure hope so.

Good luck.


Filed under Blake Snyder, Details, Rewriting, Screenwriting, Writing Process

Back from Austin Cats! Scene Construction Workshop!!!

Spent this past weekend in scenic and toasty-warm Austin, Texas. While I didn’t dig the warm (read: ghastly hot) weather, I did receive a warm welcome from the Austin Cats! writing group for my Scene Construction Workshop.

btw, Austin Cats! was started by Blake Snyder, who wrote SAVE THE CAT!, the second best book on screenwriting ever written…

The event went wonderfully well, and I have Austin Cats! lead, Melody Lopez to thank for arranging, wrangling, and prepping the beautifully run event. The participants were serious about their writing, had stellar questions, and (I hope!) learned a lot about their stories, writing, and scene construction in particular.

I talked about what it takes to write a good scene (which took most of Saturday morning) and talked about scenes from movies everyone had seen, and what made those scenes tick (which took up the rest of Saturday morning) and then we got down to the heart of the workshop, which was their scenes.

I had spent the previous two weeks bleeding red ink on eleven of the attendee’s scenes and, when we sat down to work, everyone had a .pdf of all the scenes on their laptops. I had emailed the .pdf in black and white, which spared everyone the horror of all that red ink! The rest of Saturday and most of Sunday was a discussion, line by line, of how to make their scenes better. What worked amazingly well was that everyone learned from everyone else’s scenes and their shared problems.

It was a marvelous workshop and I really enjoyed the eager spirit of the Austin Cats! members.

Here’s to Melody and her amazing group!

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Filed under Bad Writing, Blake Snyder, Criticism, Rewriting, Scenes, Uncategorized

Blake Snyder

I miss him. It has been a year. I’m sitting here in my office sweating because I have to turn on the air conditioning and because I worry I won’t write the right thing about Blake.

What a prince among men. That cliche certainly fits.

He is 100% responsible for the existence of this blog because he is 100% responsible for the existence of my book. When I got the idea for a book on screenwriting, he encouraged me and said he’d tell his publisher. They agreed to publish it and here we are.

Blake was long on encouragement.
I miss that a lot.

Anyway, I miss him. I miss his advice. I miss his voice. I miss his loyalty and his kind nature. I miss his smile and I desperately miss his friendship.

Boy, do I miss that.


Filed under Blake Snyder

Blake Snyder… the best teacher of them all

By now everyone knows. Blake Snyder died day before yesterday. I can’t believe it. I keep waiting for him to send me an Email or walk around the corner…

I am at the same teaching conference where I met him, all the film teachers in the country crammed into one building. Only this time, he’s not here.

It was in Chicago a few years ago, on the last morning of the conference. I was on my way to the airport and just had time for a quick breakfast and then off to the train and gone… I carried my cafeteria tray into the lunchroom and looked over, and there was Blake.

I had just spent the night before reading Save The Cat and plopped down beside him, telling him how great his book was. He was gracious as I gushed and we proceeded to have a marvelous conversation before I rushed to the airport.

Blake was always, always gracious.

A year or so later, I told him the idea for my book. He told me it was a great idea and that I would write a great book. The first encouragement I got! When I finished my proposal, he sent it to his publisher and they agreed to publish the book.

So much of what will happen in my life is because of my book. My book is 100% because of Blake.

He always believed in me and what I could do. He was a tireless champion of my writing and never stopped telling me I would win an Academy Award for my script about the fall of Saigon. No one EVER told me I would win an Academy Award.

Blake was the most positive, helpful, affirming person I have ever known.

He made me a better teacher.
He made me a better writer.
And, rare among teachers, he made me a better person.

I can’t believe he is gone.
The void he leaves will never, ever be filled.


Filed under Blake Snyder