Save The Cat
Blake Snyder was an American screenwriter, consultant, author and educator based in Los Angeles who became one of the most popular writing mentors in the film industry. Snyder led international seminars and workshops for writers in various disciplines, as well as consultation sessions for some of Hollywood’s largest studios. And what put him in this position is his ”Save The Cat” trilogy of books on screenwriting and story structures. He definitely didn’t invent it but he defined it and gave it a label, ”Save The Cat”. While writing a script, story, or essay, and the protagonist is being too evil, the audience might dislike the whole work. Which is not good. And instead of changing the whole story or making changes on the protagonist story. Give him a cat to save, and he will be likeable. Saving the cat is the trait that makes the audience sympathize with the character. Cause sometimes, if not all the times, a character with less than admirable traits is still likable as seen in the character Marjorie in the story ”Bernice Bobs Her Hair” by
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the mother in the story ”Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, and Sherlock Holmes in the story ”A Study in Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The first example of a character who has less than admirable trait but is still sympathetic would be Marjorie from the story ”Bernice Bobs Her Hair” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. She has despicable trait but still somehow likeable. Marjorie is self-centered, want everything to be about her. She wants to be the queen bee, everybody following her and trying to get her. She’s also so unfazed, she complains to her mom about how boring her cousin is without knowing she’s overheard. A moment later she has a fight with her cousin who threatens to leave town, and Marjorie is so unperturbed, she goes on her night date like nothing happened. Marjorie is also a Manipulator, when she comes back she convinced her cousin to change, she submits to being made over by Marjorie, inside and out. And later on, after Bernice popularity boot camp, Marjorie wants to save her queen bee title, and outs Bernice that she will never cut her hair, manipulating her, getting inside her head, putting pressure on her by doing it in front of everybody. And last but not least, Marjorie disingenuously, fake, mocking, apologizes for making Bernice bobs her hair, while she’s doing it, she smugly braids her own long, beautiful, golden locks. However, and despite all that, Marjorie is relentlessly modern, trendy, and socially savvy. And she actually made her cousin a better person. Bernice has a pride now, she cares about her face and reputation, ambitious: “I want to be a society vampire” she said, happier and more excited in general, and definitely feels more confident.
The second example of a character who has less than admirable trait but is still sympathetic is the mother from the story ”Two Kinds” written by Amy Tan. She has despicable trait but still somehow likeable. First, she compares her daughter to other kids that she reads about in magazines, journals, that she sees in Television. Talking about the talent they have, the achievement they made, the trophies and tournament they won. Also, the worst, she’s comparing her to her friend’s daughter who is a Chinese chess champion who brags about it all the time. The mother showing those talent and achievement to her daughter is like belittling her, showing what others can do and she can’t, how others are better than her. Second, she’s forcing her daughter to do things that she doesn’t want to do, trying to copy other talented kids. Form standing on her head to reciting world capitals passing by multiplying numbers in her head, finding the queen of hearts in a deck of cards, predicting the daily temperatures in Other cities. Ending Up by buying her a piano and forcing her to go piano classes that she hated. Disregarding what she really wants to do, making a career in singing and dancing, becoming a “Chinese Shirley Temple”. Besides all of what she did to her daughter, the mother is ought to be liked because of her mother-tough-love, she wants to push her daughter to her best, she wants her to live the American Dream, she even started cleaning houses to get her daughter piano classes. She believed in her after she messed up the playing in front of everybody, and she was always proud of her, at least in public. She might be a control maniac, but that obsession is what made her to leave China in one piece and start over in a foreign country She just wants her daughter to have they she never had.
The third example of a character who has less than admirable trait but is still sympathetic would be Sherlock Holmes from the story ” A Study in Scarlet” written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock has a unique way to complete his work, which makes him friendless. He has a high level of defiance, a challenger who meet in combat or in a contest and puts his closest ones in danger that usually comes with stubbornness. Inability to properly deal with boredom, leads to weird experiences that harms him, and his tendency to overthink and over analyze. He speaks very rapidly and very precisely, failing to notice or care whether others can understand him, sort of arrogant. Last but not least, his inability to properly deal with emotions, loss of his mother, his relationship with his brother and the enmity towards his father, Sherlock finds his relief in heroin, cause yes, he’s is a drug addict. Talking like that he sounds like a despicable person. But Sherlock is one of if not the greatest detective ever created, he’s loved by millions around the because of his loveable trait. His investigation skills are the things that comes to our mind when we think about him. High intelligence, extremely observant and perceptive to details, creative imagination, keen ability to focus and concentrate outside of exterior distractions, keen ability to understand and predict human behavior.
In Blake Snyder theory, he shows how to give a character some likable trait but despite that he’s not likable. Instead of liking him for what he is really. Usually horrible characters are horrible because they do things that are out of the norms, norms that were made by the majority of character that follows strict rules, which is not necessarily a bad reason to dislike them, but they still likable anyway, or at least for some of us. I personally love horrible characters, consider them more creative and interesting, regardless of them saving a cat. We, as good people, might say that we hate those characters, but we literally pay to see them doing what they do best, and the story can’t be without them. Chucky, Megatron, Eric Cartman, Donkey Kong, Vader, Joker, Voldemort, Or even Mr. Burns. Those characters found the good in being bad. They don’t have to do something that we like. We have to like them for what they do.