First, I want to say the movie is nothing like the book it claims to be based on. Second, the dog still makes me want to cry either way.
As an author, I want to constantly learn to write better by reading more books. Obviously, this was taken as just a literal of reading the books, enjoying them, and perhaps looking back and trying to critically analyze it in some literary theory style. This definitely was not the best method to studying to write better since I’m not trying to make a book that someone can write theories and analysis’ on, but rather a book that is structurally sound and can hold up on its own.
This month, I came across the book and course Save The Cat Writes a Novel, which I will link to after I write my own blog post on it. The structure and the way she describes the format was simple: almost every book and movie follows this format in some way if it was successful. Did I want to believe it? No. It seemed too simple. Did I want to test it? Absolutely! So, test it I did on my next book: I Am Legend.
Would This Work?
This was a book that would be harder to achieve such a format. Sitting at 171 ish pages, there wasn’t much wiggle room to go against the format. Still, I threaded the book with sticky notes on each StC beat. As seen below, some of those beats squished together and some were even on the same or opposing pages. I definitely doubted at that point it followed the structure. That was just too much to condense.
However, as I started to read the book, it became obvious that not only did it follow the beats perfectly, it was within a marginal error of 1-2 pages where I marked it. I would see a sticky note coming up and dread it, thinking there was no way he would be able to make it, and each time I was surprised.
Let’s Talk Cat Beats
Theme Stated was the biggest one I wanted to see done. After all, who would tell him the theme of the novel if not himself? He had to ignore the theme being stated by someone. That was when Vampire Ben Cortman came onto the scene and shouted for the first time of many to come ‘”Come out, Neville!”‘(Matheson 18) and Neville ignored it. Albeit, there was good reason to ignore it. Throughout the book, he constantly ignored this both mentally and physically. Only removing himself from the house when it was necessary and facing a harsh world when he did stay out (which leads into Break Into 2). Mentally, he shut himself from the idea of what the vampires truly were, and every time he would come close to leaving his confined space of understanding, he would shut the door behind him and drown himself in alcohol.
So did he achieve this throughout the novel, absolutely. Was I still surprised around every corner and continued to turn the page? So much yes. Even when knowing what to expect for the next moment, I wanted to know what exactly that beat would end up being.
Would I recommend this book to someone else? Possibly, but I would also give the warning of it starting slow. Would I recommend this book to study story structure? No doubt about it! Matheson knew what he was doing when he wrote this novella, and I will continue to be impressed with how well this book did and surprised my expectations every single time.
Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. Tor, 2019.