You can learn a lot about life through literature’s most unrespectable and heinous characters.
By Tom Brinkof, May 15, 2023
In his book, “Save the Cat!”, Blake Snyder offers storytelling tips for aspiring screenwriters. His main piece of advice, from which the book gets its title, is to “save the cat.”
In short, Snyder argues that writers should introduce their protagonists by having them do something that demonstrates their key traits or moral code, which sometimes means the character does something to make the audience like them—like saving a kitten from a tree.
Likable characters, after all, can produce more compelling stories than unlikable ones. Snyder has a point. Likable protagonists engage the audience by making it easier to relate to their personalities and struggles. The more we root for a character, the happier we feel when they accomplish their goal, and the sadder we get when they don’t. Unlikable protagonists, by contrast, risk alienating their audience. At worst, we don’t care if they fail or succeed. At best, we actively want them to fail.
Today, more than 60 years after his death, Ernest Hemingway is known not just for his moving stories but his technical writing skills.
According to E.J. Gleason, professor of Irish and American literature at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Hemingway had found his artistic voice before he turned 26.
His signature writing style, characterized by short phrases constructed using plain, everyday English, left a profound impact on the literary world, shaping generations of aspiring fiction and non-fiction writers that followed in his footsteps.
Although Hemingway’s way of writing may seem straightforward, it is by no means simplistic, let alone easy to imitate. A less talented writer might hide their lack of substance behind difficult words and convoluted sentences, but to write like Hemingway requires both a great effort and real intellect. Like a surgeon, Hemingway stripped his stories of any and all insignificant or superfluous information, until only a basic skeleton and a handful of vital organs were left on the page.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink, which has partnered with the Build for Tomorrow podcast to go inside new episodes each month.
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