I received news yesterday that a mentor had passed away. Blake Snyder died of a pulmonary embolism in Los Angeles on Tuesday August 4. Although we never met, Blake had a profound effect on how I view the world and my expression of those observations.
Wendy and I are aspiring screenwriters and have been working on a feature length family drama for nearly a full year. As we near completion on the project, we realize that our ability to tell the story ties into lessons we have learned in life. Some scenes are hard earned, some are based on sudden inspiration, and some rely on tried and true formulas that have been around as long as people have been telling stories.
That is where Blake comes in. Back in 2005, Blake Snyder wrote a wonderful book titled “Save the Cat”, a definitive guide to screenwriting which contained pearls of wisdom that apply not only to the writing process, but the thinking behind the writing and in many ways, life itself. We devoured the book and in a leap of faith often found only in the novice, we e-mailed Blake Snyder and shared some story ideas. His response back was timely, thoughtful and very caring. Obviously, in the business of Hollywood, he was someone who truly wanted to make a difference and he cared enough to nurture a couple of dreaming writers. Wendy and Blake corresponded several times and he was always gracious and helpful in his advice.
One of the key components that a successful story depends on is CHANGE. And Blake had a very clear understanding of the need for change and how it impacts the story, life itself and the concept of character.
What follows are Blake’s words:
"In a sense, stories are about change. And the measuring stick that tells us who succeeds and who doesn’t is seen in the ability to change. Good guys are those who willingly accept change and see it as a positive force. Bad guys are those who refuse to change, who will curl up and die in their own juices, unable to move out of the rut their lives represent. To succeed in life is to be able to transform. That’s why it’s the basis not only of good storytelling but also the world’s best known religions. Change is good because it represents re-birth, the promise of a fresh start…And don’t we all want to believe that?”
Think about the movies! As Blake points out in his book, doesn’t a good movie make you want to jump into life? Don’t we all want to get out of a rut, try something new, and be open to the power of change after experiencing a movie in which everybody changes?
As we progress in our journey of life, continuing to learn and grow; expanding upon the lessons learned by experience, I hope we will all ask ourselves; are we good guys or bad guys?