Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read
The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Field is the forefather of the how to for screenwriting. He cracked the code of the three act structure and paved the way for all others screenwriting gurus that would follow. As far as I know he created the terms like “turning points,” and “pinch”, and much of the language that screenwriters use to describe elements and devices used in their scripts. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Immortalized by the film Adaptation, McKee delves deeply into the components necessary for making a great script. I find his principles of “controlling idea” (which closely resembles Lagos Egri’s concept of “premise” in The Art of Dramatic Writing) and “gap between expectation and result” incredibly useful. I always turn to McKee’s teachings for guidance. Also check out Robert McKee’s FREE MASTER CLASS.
Vogler takes the workings of Joseph Campbell about myth and archetypes and breaks it down into easy to chew, bite size portions. What makes Campbell so special? His writingsabout the universal appeal of mythological tales has inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Seger’s book I found as a great companion piece to Syd Field’s Screenplay. What I particularly like from this book is her method of ramping up conflict by the use of “obstacles,” “compilations,” and “reversals.” Also check out Linda’s amazing podcast interview here: Making a Good Script Great with Linda Seger (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
You can see echoes of all the other aforementioned writers in this book. What I like about Save The Cat is that it’s a stripped down, fun read with a lot of helpful information. I especially appreciate Snyder’s Beat Sheet which shows with almost page number accuracy where to place those particular plot moments that help keep your story moving. Some might find it formulaic, but I think it functions very well and points to exactly the kind of scripts Hollywood has come to expect from writers. One of the best screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
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Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out on how to write a screenplay along comes this book to point out where you may have gotten it wrong. Despite the length of the title, it’s a quick read and VERY illuminating. As I skimmed through the examples of what not to do, I discovered what I was doing right, and most importantly what I was getting wrong. They say you learn from your mistakes, and reading this book sure helped showing how. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
This book was a required text book back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Not only do I dig this guy’s first name, but I found his book to be more current as far as the conventions of formatting. It covers a lot of ground with how to write a screenplay and everything else that goes with being a screenwriter, like how to register your script and how to write a query letter to literary agents. It’s a broad overview, but one of the most informative screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
This is actually a book for the aspiring playwright, but most if not all the principles can apply to screenwriting. Egri gives examples of poorly constructed scenes and explains why they don’t work — then compares and contrast against scenes that do. This is one of my favorite books, and one I strongly recommend. One of the best screenwriting books out there. (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
(FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE) Have you ever wondered how successful writers do it? If you’ve reached this point on my top ten, I would say, “of course you do!” There are good work regimens and not so constructive methods. This book gives us a glimpse into how the top Hollywood writers work, how they fight writer’s block, as well as deal with the daily grind of writing. I found it very insightful and definitely worthwhile. Also check out: Karl Iglesias’ Screenwriting Master Class Podcast
A must read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing! Also check out: Dov Simens: Quentin Tarantino’s Only Film Teacher
BONUS: Some of the BEST Online Screenwriting Courses & Books available:
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting MasterClass
- Jim Uhls’ (Writer of Fight Club) The Screenwriters Toolkit
- Paul Castro’s The MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS OF SCREEN WRITING
- Paul Castro’s The Million Dollar Screenplay
- Stephan Palmer’s Good in a Room – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- Michael Hauge’s & Chris Vogler’s Screenwriting & Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys
- Karl Igelsias’s Writing for Emotional Impact – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE
- Save the Cat!® The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- Linda Seger’s Making A Good Script Great – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
If you like Screenwriting Books You Need to Read – Top Ten List, then take a listen to:
How to Write a Screenplay That Really Sells
David R. Flores is a writer and artist (aka Sic Monkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books.
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Twitter: @drodflo @deadfutureking @sicmonkie
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