Three Books for Screenwriters
November 9th, 2021
Books are the fastest and easiest way you can learn from an expert. In screenwriting, it’s no different. Some of the best screenwriters and those who have mastered the craft, have created countless books trying to encapsulate all they’ve learned in their work. If you’re a new screenwriter and looking to improve or simply to learn how to create better scripts, these three books will help you out.
1. Screenplay by Syd Field
Yes, this textbook is old but it’s one of the best books you’ll find on screenplay writing. Syd Field takes your hand and gives you a general overview of how movies like Chinatown, Jaws or even The Lost Ark all work in the same paradigm. Then he takes the movies and breaks them down for beginners to understand. You’ll easily find theory and structure in this book.
Once you’ve finished it, you’ll easily see how large productions and even simple but qualified LA or NYC production companies create their stories and films. You’ll be able to identify squarely which act of the movie you’re currently on and anticipating what arc you’ll find next.
The book is a lot like seeing the hood of your favorite car. You’ll marvel at how its assembled and what kind of engine it has but you’ll still be impressed at how fast it can run.
2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Funny, charming and actually helpful, Save the Cat is a fantastic screenwriting book from a spec writer in Hollywood. Plus, Blake Snyder has the reputation to back up what he’s offering. He’s a multi-million-dollar high concept screenwriter who has sold scripts to the likes of Stephen Spielberg. Plus, his work is entertaining and he offers a solid concept of what he does to make sure what he pitches, before even writing the rest of his script, is something his target market would want.
3. The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
It might be odd to include this because this isn’t a straightforward screenwriting book. But Lajos Egri provides you with the understanding and basis for how to achieve dramatic writing in your work. It’s a bit dated and yes, Egri has a tendency to ramble and can get wordy, but hang in there and gleam the book for the pure nuggets because they’re there. He gives you the process of drama including an understanding of story.
It’s great for knowing how the characters relate to each other, how to inject conflict and for forming the main plot so your story doesn’t stagnate and always moves forward. Beginner screenwriters should take their time to read this book. It’s a great help.
Obviously, these books aren’t the be-all to screenwriting. But if you’re a newbie filmmaker or screenwriter, you can start with these. Every good film starts with a good story. And every good story contains crucial elements that go together to form a coherent, engaging and entertaining piece. Whether you’re currently stuck working for a NYC video production company, studying for class or doing some other thing but want to keep your writing and story centered for future use, you could gain a lot from reading these books.