Hello writers! I don’t know about you but I had a problem for a long time. I didn’t know how to write a book. So I started looking for manuals, methods, I tested lots of things, not always with success, often with failure even (let’s be honest) but today things are much better. That’s why I wanted to talk to you about the method that triggered my click.
This is that of screenwriter Blake Snyder. You may know him because he is very famous for his book “Save the Cat” or in French “The elementary rules for writing a screenplay”. Inside, it offers a very interesting scenario plan that is easily applicable in literature, comics, manga, etc.
I suggest you break it down in this article.
How to Write a Book: The Opening Image?
Excerpt from the film The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann
According to Snyder, a screenplay should begin with an opening image that suggests the tone and mood of a film. This theory is interesting because it allows the viewer/reader to be immersed in the story. From the start, he finds himself caught up in the story without being able to escape.
For example, in the film The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann, the first image of the film constitutes a green light which will take on particular importance in the rest of the story.
In the novel, we don’t have a camera, however the concept of the opening image is quite adaptable thanks to:
- to descriptions
- the actions of the characters
- to body languages
- to the dialogues
- to the symbols
Remember two things: it’s better to stay cryptic and suggest things to get the reader’s attention.
Now that we’ve seen the opening image rule, we’ll move on to step 2. You will then know a little more about how to write a book.
How to Write a Book: The Exposition?
Exposition is an essential thing to know when writing a book! This is the phase where we present the protagonist, his abilities, his world and especially the problem that he has and that he will have to change to succeed in his quest.
At this stage, it is necessary to establish the needs and lacks of the hero. These elements will be the foundations on which Act 2 of the story will be based.
For example, in the Millennium books, we quickly establish in the first chapters that Lisbeth Slander is an asocial hacker…. understandably she will have to learn to trust others to improve her life.
In short, you will have understood that knowing how to write a book is to lay the foundations at the beginning in order to exploit them later.
Among these bases, the theme is essential.
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How to Write a Book: Establishing the Theme?
For Snyder, there is one particular moment that lasts only a few moments: the establishment of the theme. The theme is the debate of ideas present in your story. Playwrights often call this the “dramatic question.”
This could be for example: is wealth more important than happiness?
The theme often takes the form of a question or warning addressed to the protagonist. It can be “Beware of what you desire” or “Pride brings downfall.”
In your novel, this can also take the form of a story or climate/symbolism.
Remember in the last volume of Harry Potter the tale of the Three Brothers … On the surface, this tale speaks of magical artifacts but under the surface it is indeed a question of the relationship of man to power.
Oh but hey! Isn’t Voldemort a man consumed by power? And Harry, have you never found it strange that he is always faced with obstacles where he is offered to exercise selfish power? (keeping the Philosopher’s Stone, cheating to win in the Triwizard Tournament, monopolizing the power of another in the Half-Blood Prince…etc.).
In short, the question of how to write a book begins with establishing a theme. The latter will give depth to your story.
Besides the theme, there is another important moment at the beginning of a story: the catalyst.
How to Write a Book: The Catalyst?
Excerpt from the movie Dodgeball! Not even hurt! by Rawson Marshall Thurber
The catalyst constitutes an event which upsets the balance of the hero’s initial world and propels him into the adventure. What Blake Snyder calls “the catalyst” corresponds in literature to the triggering element.
Concretely, this is the moment when:
- a princess is kidnapped
- an ancient demon is awakened
- a murder has been committed and an investigator is called to a crime
- the hero meets another character with whom he falls in love
In summary, the hero is called to adventure. However, he does not accept immediately. He first goes through a phase of hesitation. Phase that you will need to master to know how to write a book.
How to write a book: hesitation?
In this phase, the hero hesitates to embark on the adventure. He is confronted with his fears and must begin to face them.
Concretely, if the theme of your story is to overcome your fears to become an adult. You can confront your hero with a tough choice: risk his life to save his parents or leave someone else uncharged and live in shame at not seeing action.
In short, confront him with his problem and force him to start evolving.
I draw your attention to the fact that in reality your protagonist’s hesitation is illusory. He must necessarily agree to embark on the adventure otherwise you have no story. This phase is called acting out 2.
How to write a book: the passage to act 2?
Excerpt from the film The Devil Wears Prada by David Frankel
One thing to know when you want to learn how to write a book is that every story is made up of three acts. In Blake Snyder’s method, the first act goes from the “opening image” to the “hesitation” stage. Acting out 2 is the beginning of act 2.
At this stage, the hero must make the decision to embark on the adventure. He then leaves his familiar world to enter a world which is foreign to him and which is often the antithesis of what he knows.
For example, in The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea Sachs leaves the cozy world of her home to enter the world of fashion. Her values as a nice girl are then immediately confronted with those cruel of haute couture.
This confrontation between two worlds then opens a subplot.
How to Write a Book: The Subplot?
Just after moving to Act 2, the main character of your novel will meet new characters. They are often the antithesis of the hero’s previous knowledge. These meetings will give rise to subplots.
In his book, Blake Snyder explains that the “subplot” stage often constitutes a love story. It is also “the story which carries the theme of the story”.
For example, in the film Stardust, it is the moment when Tristan Thorn meets Yavne a star with whom he gradually falls in love.
This beginning of a subplot continues in the next stage.
How to write a book: humor and games?
Once the character has met new characters there follows a period in which the hero explores the possibilities of his new world.
For example: in the film Spider Man by Sam Raimi, this is the moment when Peter Parker tests his superpowers.
Generally, it is a fairly light phase in which the hero is intoxicated by his new world (and internally by his emerging transformation).
During this time, the main plot is often put aside…. but it bides its time.
How to write a book: the central pivot?
Excerpt from the film Lolita Despite Me by Mark Waters
In the central pivot, the hero suffers a false victory or a false defeat. This is often a moment when anything seems possible for the protagonist.
A recurring example in the High School Movies is the moment when the new high school girl of the high school supplants the pests of the credenza. The problem is that in doing so, she doesn’t realize that she herself is becoming a tyrant… Doesn’t the example speak to you? What if you watched Lolita in spite of me?
Concretely, this step should mark the peak of your hero’s experimentation.
For the next phase, end of the interlude. Kick your protagonist’s ass and say, “Go back to your main quest lazy!” “.
How to Write a Book: The Villains Close in?
At this stage, everything seems to be fine. However, the first internal dissensions arrive, the illusion of harmony cracks. Worse! The seemingly defeated villains regroup and decide to strike hard.
Basically, this stage is that of the arguments and the beginning of an awareness of the hero: he has gone to the opposite extreme compared to the beginning of the story, he has to find a real balance.
To borrow from the High School Movies, this is when the new high school girl starts hurting her old friends (often by not eating at their tables anymore) and unknowingly becomes a pest.
In short, it’s starting to feel like the bottom of your main character’s pants isn’t fresh. And he hasn’t seen anything yet!
How to Write a Book: All is Lost?
Excerpt from the film Spiderman by Sam Raimi
This step is the opposite of the central pivot. The hero suffers total defeat. He feels like the world is crumbling beneath his feet. It is generally at this moment that the screenwriter takes the opportunity to kill a member of the hero’s team.
Typical example: Obi-Wan playing Darth Vader in Star Wars
In this phase, Snyder explains that “this is where the old world, the old character and the old point of view of the world die. And this clears the way for the thesis and antithesis to merge into a synthesis, which will give rise to the new world and a new life. »
In short, you want to know how to write a book that will be remembered? It’s simple! Make your character’s shit as much as vegans in a Buffalo Grill.
How to write a book: the dark night of the soul?
In this part of your text, you must make your reader feel the despair of your main character. Get out the violins! Your hero may scream, cry, feel sorry for himself or even run away, break things that are dear to him or attempt suicide.
You can definitely go there! Make him cry!
After a chapter or a few pages, you can consider moving on to the next step.
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How to Write a Book: Acting Out 3?
Excerpt from the movie Thor: Ragnar by Tamika Wiatt
Thanks to the secondary characters encountered at the start of Act 2, the hero manages to recover. The hero changes. His internal problem at the beginning of Act 1 is solved, he is ready to complete his external quest. This is the passage to act 3.
For example, in the Bleach manga, while the hero was mentally broken following his fight with Ulquiorra (read this fight absolutely); he only manages to find the strength to get up again thanks to his father who makes him realize that the strength he lacks is found within him…literally.
We’re almost at the end of this article on how to write a book, so hang in there for the finale.
How to Write a Book: The Finale?
In this part, the hero finally confronts the antagonist and his henchmen. He may emerge victorious or not (if you are in a tragedy). In any case, all the intrigues raised in the first and second acts will have to be resolved.
At the end of this stage, the world will experience a new equilibrium. If you are in a tragedy, there can be either a new balance or stagnation.
For example, at the end of Harry Potter, a final confrontation between the bad guys and the good guys takes place then the author presents to us what happened to the survivors a few years later.
Your story is over or almost. There’s one last image left to sort out…
How to write a book: the final image?
Excerpt from the film Gatsby the Magnificent by Baz Luhrmann (if that’s not echo)
It should be the opposite of the opening image. She is proof that a change has taken place in your hero.
For example, if in the opening image you presented a withered flower to represent your protagonist’s misfortune. portray a radiant flower of life in the final image.
In dramas, most of the time the hero fails to evolve. Sometimes he even regresses. In this case, you can reuse the same image for the beginning and the end to symbolize the absence of change.
This is what happens with the green light in Baz Luhrmann’s film Gatsby….
Now you know how to write a book using Snyder’s method. Now all you have to do is apply it in your stories and divide your story into chapters using this method.
EDITORIAL: I realize I forgot to put it in the article but Snyder’s book is a must-read. You will find a lot of other interesting information there.