Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read

1) Screenplay by Syd Field

The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Syd 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 other 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 AUDIOBOOK 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.


3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

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 writings about the universal appeal of mythological tales have inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


4) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

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 AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

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 AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


6) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

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 to show how. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


7) The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

This book was a required textbook 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 AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


8) The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

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 and Filmtrepreneur, 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 AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


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9) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

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 contrasts 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 AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


10) The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

(FREE AUDIOBOOK 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


BONUS: Pulp Fiction – The Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

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

Take a listen to the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast #1 Screenwriting Podcast for the Rest of Us! Guests include Jim Uhls (Fight Club), Doug Richardson (Bad Boys), Michael Hauge, Chris Vogler & much more.

Read Screenplays From Some of Our Other Highlighted Screenwriters


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  1. DE on December 25, 2015 at 11:09 am

    The list is good, but not perfect.
    1. Lajos Egri. Don’t even question why this is number one.
    2. Lajos Egri. Don’t even bat an eye why this is number two.
    3. Hamlet. Don’t even ask why, because if you have to ask why you shouldn’t be writing anyway.
    4. Techniques of Photoplay 1915
    5. Anything by Linda Seger
    6. William Goldman, Volger, Trottier, for reference
    7. Screenwriting, Blake Harris – don’t even question this. Just read it.
    8. 20 Plots and 45 Master Characters
    9. Georges Polti 36 Dramatic Situations
    10. Karl Iglesias Emotion book. Very important
    11. Read every single bad script from every local writer’s group, until your eyes bleed.

    Can’t be writer without having read bad, awful, miserable, trashy, burn-them-if-possible scripts. There is no other way. Have to read 10 bad scripts for one good script. Start a reading job with some company or a manager.

    So the first 5 books are about “character”. Shakespeare solved that for all of us. Everybody writes one form or incarnation of Shakespeare’s characters. Have to know character, have to know Shakespeare. The last set of books are books are about structure and form. Screenplays have definitive structure, and this can be learned quickly, but character takes longer. I guarantee that any first time writer will yield amazing work if they followed these books in this order. Don’t challenge me. Read them, than challenge me. Do it.

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  5. Ray Mooney on May 11, 2016 at 5:12 am

    I would definitely add: Linda Arronson, 21st Century Screenplay

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  10. Troy A. Dyer on September 16, 2016 at 4:23 am

    I would start with these… (Columns)
    DSM-IV & DSM-V Update
    Screenwriting 434
    An Actor Prepares
    45 Master Characters
    The Anatomy Of Story
    Ten Theories Of Human Nature
    On Directing Film: David Mamet
    The Hero With A Thousand Faces
    20 Master Plots: And How To Build Them
    Scorsese: The 85 Films You Need To See
    Scorsese On Scorsese: Revised Edition
    How Not To Write A Screenplay
    Your Screenplay Sucks!

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  14. Monica Freeman-Greene on January 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I would add Screenwriting From The Soul by Richard Kremlin :)!

  15. Clint on October 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I never went hog wild with books on screenwriting, mostly because there weren’t that many when I started in 1993, they weren’t cheap, and I wasn’t rich, but I have read quite a few over the years, including most on this list. I think there’s a point of diminishing returns after four or five; the same information begins being packaged in different ways.

    My main advice to anyone is to begin reading as many *good*, *produced* screenplays, preferable shooting drafts, you can get your hands on. I understand the logic of reading bad scripts, but unless you have good scripts for comparison, it can be easy to pick up bad habits. I always preferred to read the best and try to make sure mine came off that well.

    As for books, based on what I’ve read over the years and found the most helpful, there are just two that I recommend for someone just starting out to give them the best introduction to the art of screenwriting:

    1. So Your Mama Loves It – Sheila Gallien (

    Sheila worked as Bill Broyles’ assistant for six years, helping him break down the stories for the scripts he wrote and attending all the story meetings he took about them, so she was in the trenches. She does what Linda Seger does, but better in my opinion. She asks better and more pointed questions for pulling the *right* story out, and illuminating the characters. Can’t recommend her book enough.

    2. Writing for Emotional Impact – Karl Iglesias (

    Iglesias gets to the heart of the story, showing you how to go full Pixar on your story. Broken down in straightforward, easy-to-follow steps. Great book.

    To that I’d add the first chapter, explaining premise, of Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing, which is available online at

    Once someone has read those, there are other books and websites I recommend, but it’s too easy to overwhelm so I’m leaving it with these.