Blake Snyder wrote the book on screenplays. One of the books anyway. I liked many of the things he had to say about the craft of creativity. One in particular that stuck with me over the years was his unique take on genre.

As a disciple in the Story Grid cult, I’ll skip over Blake’s abuse of the word ‘genre’ because I think he was onto something. At least for me.

One of the story classifications he talked about in a Save the Cat! is one I’m going to adopt and claim as my own meta-theme.

Monster with a Problem

PHRASE COINED BY BLAKE SNYDER IN SAVE THE CAT!

I love the concept because it intrigues me with its implied story. There’s built-in conflict. There’s a little built-in unexpectedness, too. And, of course, there are monsters.

Most importantly, Monster with a Problem describes the stories I tell across all the fiction marketing niches that I write in:

  • grimdark and dark fantasy
  • gritty urban fantasy and paranormal
  • brutal science fantasy
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I write antiheroes. (Note: I’m using the popular vernacular here, not the Story Grid definition.) They are monsters by definition, even when they come gift-wrapped in a human shape.

Antiheroes and (my favorite) antiheroines most often suffer problems of their own causing. Which is a grammatically awkward way to say: they make their own lives difficult in the pursuit of their well-intentioned but usually ill-conceived goal. I think even the most luminarily-inclined among us can relate to making bad choices for good reasons and suffering the consequences. We’ve all lived that story.

For the record, I love lions and tigers, but I don’t even like house cats. I’m allergic. Go figure.

The popular conception of “anti” in this heroic context (for me) is a willingness to engage and possibly fully submit to the character’s own shadow agency early and often. Mine often give equal weight to the use of luminary agency, all things being equal. But when seconds count and stakes are in the stratosphere, more traditional goody-two-shoes will encounter self-doubt, recrimination, and delay deploying the inevitable. My antiheroes will not hesitate for a microsecond to deploy violence, destruction, and the full power of their inner monster in service of the greater good and the defense of themselves and their people.

So, when you encounter one of my stories in whatever medium you find it, (assuming I’ve done my job) it won’t take you but half a heartbeat to identify the monster and her problem.