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From the Best of Blake’s Blogs: For the Love of Writing — And Writing of Love

By on January 21, 2011 in About the Beats, Novel Writing, Today's Blog
one of Blake's favorite photos

one of Blake’s favorite photos

Every once in a while, we’ll re-post one of Blake’s inspirational blogs. This was first published on July 31, 2008. Needless to say, it still resonates.

I will be speaking this weekend at the Romance Writers of America conference in San Francisco. I’ve been literally looking forward to this all year.

My relationship with RWA started in 2007 when I was asked to speak to the Seattle branch in January, and ever since, my interactions with this fabulous group has encouraged me in my efforts with screenwriters, too. As organized as I’d like to be with our Cat! groups, and as pro-active as I hope they become in creating and marketing their scripts, we have a long way to go to match the efficiency, good feeling, and positive results found by members of this fine national organization.

This Saturday I will be talking about everything I’ve learned from Romance Writers and everything Hollywood, as perceived by the Save the Cat! method, can give Romance Writers in terms of concept, structure, and that mysterious “it” that separates great stories from the merely good.

Yes, I will be revealing “The Secret” that elevates storytelling of all kinds to a higher plane.

But I would not have been quite so clear about this had it not been for my work and interaction with RWA members.

In fact, my “Five Point Finale” was crystalized thanks to this interaction. One of the features of this weekend’s speech will be the 15-point beat sheet of a well-known Romance novel, by one of its best known and most admired authors. It was in trying to figure out “Act Three” of the Nora Roberts’ novel, Born in Fire, that I kept bumping my head on the discovery that there seemed to be a second “All Is Lost” moment in that finale.

Like any great love story, it’s about what I identified in Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, the motto of every Buddy Love tale: “My life changed for having met another!” And in the third act of Born in Fire, there was a loss of this potential boon for the heroine, and a moment when it was taken away. In exploring other Romance novels, I found the same; it seemed to be what the story was really all about.

But it’s more than that.

As the heroine of Roberts’ novel discovers, and what love stories focus on, is this basic, but terrifying, dilemma: You are the one person who understands me exactly as I want and need to be understood.  I do the same for you. And yet there is something that is keeping us apart. Our primal fear in any love story is: What if I extend myself and you don’t take my hand? What if the one person who can save me, who can make sense of everything in life that hasn’t, won’t recognize me in the same way?

And yet the risk is worth it. That’s Act Three of most Buddy Love stories: the fear of loss of this amazing, life saving thing I’ve discovered.

I know it exists, but can I keep it?

Not only does this fear of loss inform love stories, but every story. It’s why Romance is the number one most successful genre in publishing with half — that’s half! — of all paperbacks published devoted to this “simple” conundrum. It’s why the “Five Point Finale” is generally part of every Act Three.

What I marvel at, both for screenwriters and novelists, is the fact that we can re-tell these easy to understand stories in a million ways — and each time out, if we’ve done our job, they remain as fresh as the first time we heard them.  It’s why my teeth grit every time I hear someone decry “formula” applied to what we do. It’s usually leveled at us by someone who really doesn’t know that it’s a combination of the familiar and the new that is so difficult to pull off — and must be if we are to succeed!

It’s why people line up around the block to see the latest “good versus evil” tale and why bookstores are filled with buyers hoping to be informed and transported by a love story.

Story is everywhere. And as storytellers we find clues to our own tales, and better ways to tell them, from many different sources. We recognize these patterns in fiction and in life, in novels and in movies, in 30-second commercials, in a blogger’s rant, or in a message in a fortune cookie.

Here’s yours: Greatness comes to those who know that God is in the details.

Check out our other novel-writing blog posts.

Jessica Brody will consult on your novel and analyze your beat sheet according to the Save the Cat!® principles. Learn More>>

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  1. Bob Conder says:

    Interesting his last statement at the close of his life. A great inspiration to us all.

  2. Melody Lopez says:

    I remember during a Beat Sheet Training just a couple weeks before this blog post, Blake teaching us the five point finale. It’s awesome to know the back story to his genius.

  3. writingmama says:

    For the love of Blake! Yay for the best of his blogs! Every one was a great one! Hugs Cats!

  4. I cherish the moment just shared, “For the love of writing”, ” My life changed for having met another!” Here’s one I just learned from this blog, “GOD is in the Dialogue.”, Captain

  5. ladyjane says:

    I was there in San Francisco, and fell in love with that wonderful man onstage. So smart, cute, charismatic, endearing, funny – he had us all leaning forward to get every little nuance of what he was saying. I was stunned when his life ended, and haven’t been able to do much on the blog but come and look sometimes. Too sad. You who have taken over this site are doing a wonderful job. Thank you.