Cinema Bandit has compiled a list of the best screenwriting self-help books, from Joseph Campbell to Blake Synder. Here is a list of the best screenwriting books for beginngers (and old pros as well.)
“Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting” by William Goldman
“No one knows the writer’s Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood’s inner sanctums…on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and other films…into the plush offices of Hollywood producers…into the working lives of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman, and Hoffman…and into his own professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays. You get a firsthand look at why and how films get made and what elements make a good screenplay. Says columnist Liz Smith, ‘You’ll be fascinated.’”
“The Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller” by John Turby
“John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.”
“The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives” by Lagos Egri
“Learn the basic techniques every successful playwright knows Among the many “how-to” playwriting books that have appeared over the years, there have been few that attempt to analyze the mysteries of play construction. Lajos Egri’s classic, The Art of Dramatic Writing, does just that, with instruction that can be applied equally well to a short story, novel, or screenplay. Examining a play from the inside out, Egri starts with the heart of any drama: its characters. All good dramatic writing hinges on people and their relationships, which serve to move the story forward and give it life, as well as an understanding of human motives — why people act the way that they do. Using examples from everything from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Egri shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise — a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior — and to develop the dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior. Using Egri’s ABCs of premise, character, and conflict, The Art of Dramatic Writing is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving truth in writing.”
“The Hero with A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell
“Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.
As part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, this third edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.
As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists—including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.”
“The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style” by Christopher Riley
“The Hollywood Standard describes in clear, vivid prose and hundreds of examples how to format every element of a screenplay or television script. A reference for everyone who writes for the screen, from the novice to the veteran, this is the dictionary of script format, with instructions for formatting everything from the simplest master scene heading to the most complex and challenging musical underwater dream sequence. This new edition includes a quick start guide, plus new chapters on avoiding a dozen deadly formatting mistakes, clarifying the difference between a spec script and production script, and mastering the vital art of proofreading. For the first time, readers will find instructions for formatting instant messages, text messages, email exchanges and caller ID.”
“Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc” by Dara Marks
“What is the secret to writing a great screenplay? Whether you’re a beginning screenwriter or an A-list Academy Award winner, all writers struggle with the same thing: to get to the great script inside. Step by step, Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc guides you through an extraordinary new process that helps identify your thematic intention-what your story is really about-and teaches you how to turn that intention into the driving force behind all your creative choices. The result is a profound relationship between the movement of the plot and the internal development of character, which is the foundation for the transformational arc. The transformational arc is the deeper line of structure found inside the story. Knowing how to work with the arc enhances your ability to: ? Express your unique point of view ? Give meaning and urgency to the line of action ? Infuse your characters with richness, subtlety, and surprise ? Develop a powerful emotional undercurrent ? Make your stories stand out and get attention A strong transformational arc is the single most important element that makes the difference between a good screenplay and a great one. Inside Story delivers what the name implies: it’s the real inside scoop on how to write a great screenplay with depth, dimension, and substance. It is a must-have for any serious screenwriter, playwright, or novelist.”
“Making a Good Script Great” by Linda Seger (3rd Edition)
“Making a good script great is more than just a matter of putting a good idea on paper. It requires the working and reworking of that idea. This book takes you through the whole screenwriting process – from initial concept through final rewrite – providing specific methods that will help you craft tighter, stronger, and more saleable scripts. While retaining the invaluable insights that placed its first two editions among the all – time most popular screenwriting books, this expanded, revised, and updated third edition adds rich and important new material on dialogue, cinematic images, and point of view, as well as an interview with screenwriter Paul Haggis. If you are writing your first script, this book will help develop your skills for telling a compelling and dramatic story. If you are a veteran screenwriter, it will help you articulate the skills you know intuitively. And if you are currently stuck on a rewrite, this book will help you analysis and solve your script’s problems and get it back on track.”
“On Directing Film” by David Mamet
“Calling on his unique perspective as playwright, screenwriter, and director of his own critically acclaimed movies like House of Games, State and Main, and Things Change, David Mamet illuminates how a film comes to be. He looks at every aspect of directing—from script to cutting room—to show the many tasks directors undertake in reaching their prime objective: presenting a story that will be understood by the audience and has the power to be both surprising and inevitable at the same time. Based on a series of classes Mamet taught at Columbia University’s film school, On Directing Film will be indispensible not only to students but to anyone interested in an overview of the craft of filmmaking.”
“Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” by Blake Synder
“Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller, for over 15 years, that’s been used by screenwriters around the world! Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including: The four elements of every winning logline The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script Why your Hero must serve your Idea Mastering the 15 Beats Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.”
“Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Syd Field
“A generation of screenwriters has used Syd Field’s bestselling books to ignite successful careers in film. Now the celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher, and bestselling author has updated his classic guide for a new generation of filmmakers, offering a fresh insider’s perspective on the film industry today. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are easily understood guidelines to help aspiring screenwriters—from novices to practiced writers—hone their craft. Filled with updated material—including all-new personal anecdotes and insights, guidelines on marketing and collaboration, plus analyses of recent films, from American Beauty to Lord of the Rings—Screenplaypresents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the screenplay that will succeed in Hollywood. Discover:
•Why the first ten pages of your script are crucially important
•How to visually “grab” the reader from page one, word one
•Why structure and character are the essential foundation of your screenplay
•How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a screenplay
•Tips on protecting your work—three legal ways to claim ownership of your screenplay
•The essentials of writing great dialogue, creating character, building a story line, overcoming writer’s block, getting an agent, and much more.
With this newly updated edition of his bestselling classic, Syd Field proves yet again why he is revered as the master of the screenplay—and why his celebrated guide has become the industry’s gold standard for successful screenwriting.”
“Screenwriters: The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters” by Karl Iglesias
“You can struggle for years to get a foot in the door with Hollywood producers–or you can take a page from the book that offers proven advice from twenty-one of the industry’s best and brightest!
In this tenth anniversary edition, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, 2nd Edition peers into the lives and workspaces of screenwriting greats–including Terry Rossio (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Aline Brosh McKenna (Morning Glory), Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu), Derek Haas and Michael Brandt (Wanted), and Tony Gilroy (the Bournefranchise).
You will learn best practices to fire up your writing process and your career, such as:
- Be Comfortable with Solitude
- Commit to a Career, Not Just One Screenplay
- Be Aware of Your Muse’s Favorite Activities
- Write Terrible First Drafts
- Don’t Work for Free
- Write No Matter What
This indispensable handbook will help you hone your craft by living, breathing, and scripting the life you want!”
“The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script” by David Trottier
“The 20th anniversary edition of one of the most popular, authoritative, and useful books on screenwriting. A standard by which other screenwriting books are measured, it has sold over 200,000 copies in its twenty-year life. Always up-to-date and reliable, it contains everything that both the budding and working screenwriter need under one cover five books in one!
A Screenwriting Primer that provides a concise course in screenwriting basics;
A Screenwriting Workbook that walks you through the complete writing process, from nascent ideas through final revisions;
A Formatting Guide that thoroughly covers today s correct formats for screenplays and TV scripts;
A Spec Writing Guide that demonstrates today s spec style through sample scenes and analysis, with an emphasis on grabbing the reader s interest in the first ten pages;
A Sales and Marketing Guide that presents proven strategies to help you create a laser-sharp marketing plan.
Among this book s wealth of practical information are sample query letters, useful worksheets and checklists, hundreds of examples, sample scenes, and straightforward explanations of screenwriting fundamentals. The sixth edition is chock-full of new examples, the latest practices, and new material on non-traditional screenplay outlets.”
“Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting” by Robert McKee
“Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.
In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.”
“The Story Solution: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take” by Eric Edson
“Eric Edson has developed a new tool for bringing depth and passion to any screenplay – the “”23 Steps All Great Heroes Must Take.”” It’s an easy to understand paradigm that provides writers and filmmakers the interconnecting, powerful storytelling elements they need. With true insight, a master teacher of screenwriting pinpoints the story structure reasons most new spec scripts don’t sell; then uses scores of examples from popular hit movies to present, step by step, his revolutionary Hero Goal Sequences blueprint for writing blockbuster movies.”
“The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition” by Christopher Volger
“The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself. The previous two editons of this book have sold over 180,000 units, making this book a ‘classic’ for screenwriters, writers, and novelists.”
“Writing Screenplays that Sell” by Michael Hague
“No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.” —Will Smith
“Michael Hauge is a story master, and this book is an absolute must have for anyone serious about telling great stories for the screen.” —DeVon Franklin, Vice-President of Production, Columbia Pictures
From renowned Hollywood story consultant Michael Hauge, considered “one of the most sought after lecturers and script consultants in the U.S.” by Scriptwriter magazine, comes the ultimate concept-to-deal guide for writing and selling screenplays for movies and television—now fully revised and updated for the modern screenwriter in this all new 20th anniversary edition.”