You are living in an age where a mere Google search will satiate your curiosity about almost everything. You can learn anything you put your finger on without seeking a formal education.
Similarly, you have at your disposal some excellent screenwriting books that can teach you A to Z of screenwriting.
Best Screenwriting Books
Here we will highlight some popularly read screenwriting books to get you started with your own career.
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (by Syd Field)
This book published in 1979, is regarded as the bible of screenwriting by many. Many great screenwriters like James Cameron, Tina Fey, Frank Dabaront have used it as a touchstone in their careers.
Field described The Paradigm in detail, which forms the central idea of his book. It pioneered the three-act screenplay which is now rampantly used in the industry. It forms the backbone of many blockbuster movies as exampled by Field.
The Three Distinct Parts of a Screenplay Are:
Setup: constitutes the first quarter of a screenplay, elaborates upon the main character, premise and setting
Confrontation: this part describes the main goal of the protagonist, lasting for the second and third quarter of the screenplay
Resolution: forms the last quarter where either the protagonist achieves the goal or fails in doing so.
This book is a comprehensive guide for all beginners, a step-by-step manual if you will. So go out and grab it because it is a definite game-changer. After reading this book, all movies you watch will be stripped down to their screenplay in your head. That’s how powerful this book is.
Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (by Blake Snyder)
A behind-the-scenes of storytelling, this book will gift you a new light with which to see movies and stories. Snyder was a reputable American screenwriter. The title comes from the rule Snyder introduces in his book about screenwriting.
He writes, “It’s the scene where we (first) meet the hero”. The rule dictates that the main character be introduced in a way that quickly warms the audience up to him.
Many screenwriters swear by this book to enhance their screenwriting skills. It breaks down the craft of screenwriting in a universal formula within the numbered pages. It is popularly described as the 3 Act structure.
Besides screenwriting, this book categorically helps any storyteller with their art.
Snyder manages to bring together techniques and tips that were used but never worded under one umbrella. He also references various movies to reinforce his formula.
The writing style is casual and conversational which makes the book more appealing to a reader.
Two more books follow this one making it a Save the Cat! Trilogy. You should get your hands on this book to get the lay of the land in the screenwriting biz.
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (by Robert McKee)
No one is as qualified to write a screenwriting book as McKee. Well known for his “Story Seminars”, he wrote this book encompassing all the secrets of his famous lecture series. He tours around the world delivering this workshop where he teaches the concepts in depth.
All the industry insiders frequent his seminars as they delve into the craft and provide refreshing takes. Some of his students are Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese, Diane Keaton.
As opposed to the first two books on this list, McKee doesn’t write a how-to book for screenwriting. He instead caters to more fundamental questions of storytelling.
He argues that stories should be written from the inside out. This means that you have to get the story right first before you fluff up your scenes and dialogues.
Another great concept introduced by McKee is the fracturing of the conventional hero-villain sequence. He urges a writer to like all his characters. This leads to the portrayal of more real, flawed characters acting in their best interests. And thus makes the story more appealing.
Instead of providing an all-universal formula, McKee serves something with far more utility in his book. He encourages a screenwriter to question the pillars on which his story sits.
This book definitely deserves a space on every screenwriter’s shelf. So, go out and grab yourself a copy and prepare for an intense learning experience.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers (By Christopher Vogler)
This book is essentially a reimagining of The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell for modern storytelling. In it, Vogler states forth the hypothesis that every story can be boiled down to eight character archetypes and twelve stages of the Hero’s Journey.
Vogler also admits that many movies fall outside the framework of his book. But if you want a basic blueprint to screenwriting, look no further. This book is especially suited for fiction as it distils the fictional story of The Hero with a Thousand Faces into a screenwriting guide.
His writing style in the book is free-flowing, conversational and friendly. This, in addition to the densely packed information, makes the book one of the industry essentials. So, get a copy of this book, keep a highlighter handy and start taking notes.
The Art of Dramatic Writing (By LajosEgri)
This is a book that can be applied to any form of storytelling, be it a novella, theatre or screenplay. Egri also urges the writers to design a story from the inside out. He centres his attention on the characters of a story. He argues that the characters in any story and their interpersonal relationships form its backbone.
He helps the readers by delivering a template to create stellar, unforgettable characters. Bringing these characters alive within the pages should be every screenwriter’s motto.
Egri also introduces the significance of an active premise in this book. You should be trying to make a point through your story. If your story lacks or strays too often from your premise, the outcome would often be a distasteful work. The latter half of the book, where he discusses the conflicts and their importance is rather refreshing.
The tone adopted by Egri is direct and instructional and thus makes way for a great screenwriting guide.
So pop by a bookstore to buy a copy because this screenwriting book will leave you with many insights.
If you are a beginner at Screenwriting and want to learn and get more adept at the art, you have landed in the right place. Unlu brings to you Screenwriting Fellowship which is a 3 monthly multi-teacher program. Here, you can learn from industry experts about the A B C of Screenwriting. They will coach you on the basics and give you some eminent tricks and tips to enhance your skills.