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In fact, Snyder's book provides potential screenwriters with 15 story beats to hit, along with approximate page ranges to correspond with those beats. It reads more like, well, a formula than a theoretical framework. That formula is obviously effective when executed well, or the book wouldn't have met with such success, but Suderman also points out that "once you know the formula, the seams begin to show. Movies all start to seem the same, and many scenes start to feel forced and arbitrary, like screenplay Mad Libs." As anyone who has ever dealt with academia or taken a creative writing class can tell you, excessive instruction can scrape away the idiosyncrasies or personality of a particular work and leave it feeling stale and samey.
I'm still not entirely convinced that Save the Cat! is a cause rather than a result of Hollywood's long-standing formulaic drift--after all, the beginning of the blockbuster era is usually traced to Jaws' release all the way back in 1975-- but the book's considerable influence is undeniable. Suderman even chose to write his piece using Snyder's 15-beat structure, a clever touch proving the soundness of Snyder's technique while demonstrating how it straitjackets the creative process. I find it strangely heartening that the written word still has the power to manipulate entire industries, even if I'm not entirely happy with the results.