Blog the cat, chapter 3 – Characters

January 29, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.
In Chapter Three of Save the Cat, “It’s about a guy who…” Blake Snyder talks about how important characters are to a movie idea and pitch. I’m starting to like these offbeat chapter titles, by the way.

I’m certainly predisposed to the idea that well developed characters are central to telling a story, and that the characters should fit the plot well. Blake starts by telling how good characters give the audience somebody to identify with, somebody to experience the story for them. He also covers how descriptive adjectives for your characters can make the logline more compelling, which is interesting especially since I’ve been hearing a lot about how important it is to avoid overusing adjectives in prose fiction, but a script logline is certainly a very different kind of writing, so it’s not too surprising that the rules should be different there.

He gives this checklist for character-related elements to look for in the logline:

  • A hero
  • An adjective to describe the hero
  • A bad guy
  • An adjective to describe the bad guy
  • A compelling, identifiable goal for the hero

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Beat Sheet: The Princess Bride

October 3, 2010

I’m still not quite clear on what the theme of this great movie is. Any better ideas?

Opening image: The little boy playing video baseball in his room. Or, if you ignore the grandson/grandfather frame, Buttercup riding her horse into the stable and ordering Westley about. (1-3)

Theme stated: “Hear this now. I will always come for you. This is true love – do you think this happens every day?” (6)

Setup: Buttercup and Westley’s love story, Buttercup’s grief, Prince Humperdink making her a princess, and the abduction all count as setup to me. (The abduction could have been a catalyst, but I don’t quite think so, because there’s one critical element still missing. (4-10)

Catalyst: “I just happened to look behind us, and something is there.” This is the first hint that the Man in Black is setting himself against Vizzini’s plan, meaning to rescue the Princess from the Prince’s clutches. (11-12)

Debate: Hmm… I’m not sure, but I think that the ‘debate’ part of this movie’s plot comes as we get to know the Man in Black as a person, and come to wonder if he’s the villain or the hero of the piece. This starts when Fezzik leaves Inigo – ‘People in masks cannot be trusted’… and ends when Inigo and the Man in Black begin their duel in earnest. (18-22)

Break into two: The Man in Black defeats Inigo in the duel, but spares his life, professing his respect, and charges off in pursuit again. (25-26)

B story: This would be Inigo’s quest of revenge, which is fist mentioned at (20), and isn’t resolved until ()

Fun and games: Plenty of this all around, from the shrieking eels and the cliffs of insanity around (13-17), and including the sword duel with Inigi, (23-24), the wrestling match with Fezzik, the battle of wits with Fizzini, Humperdink’s tracking, and the
Fire-swamp. (27-49)

Midpoint: Everything collapses for Westley and Buttercup at (50), when Buttercup surrenders to save his life, and the Prince breaks his word to her.

Bad guys close in: Westley in the Pit of Despair, Buttercup’s nightmares, continued reveals of the Prince’s nefarious plans, the machine. Fezzik finding Inigo drunk, (and helping him sober up a little,) and Buttercup’s sudden defiance against the Prince which prompts him to turn the Machine up to its highest setting. (51-67)

All is lost: Fezzik and Inigo find Westley dead, at (69-70) The despair here is underscored by the little temper trantrum the grandson throws about who’s going to kill the bad guy.

Dark night of the soul: There’s some comedy thrown in here, with the quest for the miracle. Even after Westley has come back to life, as long as he’s bitter and hopeless we’re still in this beat.(71-76)

Break into three: ‘If we only had a WHEELBARROW, that would be something!’ The plan is hatched, and our three heroes give it their all. (77-78)

Finale: The wedding, the attack of the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, Inigo’s duel with the Count, Westley’s confrontation with the Prince, and their escape. (79-92)

Final image: The four good guys riding off into the countryside, the kissing stuff, and even the grandson doesn’t mind so much now. And the grandfather leaves him with ‘As you wish.’ (93-94)


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