There’s a book on everything nowadays, right? And it’s hard to know whether it’s worth your time to pick up the next book, or whether its just going to be more hours wasted. When the pace of everything is speeding up, we need to know whether it’s a good investment of time to read screenwriting books.

You should read screenwriting books, if you want to be the best screenwriter you can be. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If you read screenwriting books you can quickly learn what others have learnt before you, and potentially save yourself years of trial and error.

Should Screenwriters Read Books?

Screenwriters should read all kinds of books, not just books on screenwriting. Right now content producers are hungry for scripts that are based on novels which have performed well in the market and screenwriters should consider adapting those books.

Screenwriters can also learn so much about the art of story telling from reading short stories, novels, poems, and every other type of tale that is put down in print. Screenwriters can also learn so much from reading history and non fiction like biographies. The world is teeming with stories to discover.

Do You Need to Read to be a Screenwriter?

You don’t have to spend lots of time reading to be a screenwriter. Some people don’t like reading lots of text and that’s OK. If reading isn’t your thing, try watching your favourite movies and TV shows and working out what you like about them! Then trying to write yourself.

How Important is it to Read Screenwriting Books?

Reading screenwriting books is important to help you speed up the process of learning about screenwriting. If you learn best via other means though, then you might achieve success without having to read too much.

Which Screenwriting Books Are the Most Useful?

There are thousands of books on screenwriting, and every writer will of course eventually find the books that are best for them. We’re going to share the ones that we found particularly useful, and specifically why we found them useful.

Should All Writers Read Robert McKee? 

Story 

McKee’s Story is arguably the leading text on screenwriting today. Here you’ll find explanations for many of the terms we often hear thrown around in the story trade: inciting incident, crisis, climax, and resolution, antagonism, character development.

This is a practical and accessible guide, which also functions as a paean to story itself. McKee demonstrates how structure has operated in stories from the Ancient Greek all the way up to contemporary film. This is definitely the place to start. 

What Is Joseph Campbell Theory? 

Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Hero’s Journey

 

Once you’ve read Story, and you’re armed with all the technical jargon, and appreciation for the rich tradition of story telling, Campbell’s tomes will take you deeper into the mystical and mythical nature of it all.

This seminal text, with great reverence for the beauty of human nature and mythmaking, probes into the stories behind the stories. What does a dragon really represent?

Campbell’s central thesis is that underlying many of the great stories of world culture there is a common thread: a hero on a particular journey, with recurring characters. You’ll never read Lord of the Rings or watch Star Wars in the same way again.

George Lucas has spoken extensively about the debt that Star Wars owes to these books

Which is Better? Campbell’s or Vogler’s Hero Journey?

The Writer’s Journey 

Campbell’s work can at times be a little too mystical and reverent, perhaps even obscure and esoteric for the time-poor screenwriter in search of immediate help.

Vogler’s work will demystify some of the theories in Campbell’s books, and lead you on a clear and concise journey that is written specifically for screenwriters.

If Campbell is more of a story philosopher, Vogler is your veteran Hollywood script consultant.

Why is Save the Cat so Popular?

Save the Cat

Perhaps you’re trying to tell a small scale intimate domestic drama, not some epic three part mystical juggernaut.

This is where texts like Save The Cat come into play.

There are many handy little guides like this one which position themselves as offering unique tips and tricks to help you solve the problems that really plague screenwriters.

The title of this work takes its name from one of its central theses: have your character do something good when we meet them i.e. save a cat. Then we like them! Now that’s practical advice.

If you’re looking for formula, or simply a template from which to begin, you won’t go too far wrong with Snyder. 

Is Adventures in the Screen Trade a Useful Book?  

Adventures in the Screen Trade 

This is a personal account of the legendary writer’s experiences in Hollywood. You may remember Goldman from such films as The Princess Bride.

This entry stands out particularly because what we have here is a legendary screenwriter offering advice. That’s got to be worth something!

So now you’re curious about the trade itself! You’ve spoken to some other screenwriters, and everyone’s a little mystified about how you actually sell a screenplay. Should you be writing short films? Do you need an agent? Someone told you to write the novel version of your screenplay and then when that gets published hand them the screenplay itself. Do you have to write a novel now?

Let Goldman lead you on an informative and hilarious journey through his experiences in Hollywood. 

Best Books for Aspiring Comedians

Cheeky Monkey 

If there’s a writer you like, look them up, seek them out. See if they are offering courses or have written a book.

I attended one of Tim’s classes that he regularly offers online, and he alerted us to the existence of this book which contains all his hard won wisdom from decades of working in comedy.

Sometimes finding little gems off the beaten track may help you to refine your non-canonical notions of what makes good writing: this could give you an original flavour!

Categories: Screenwriting

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.

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How to Teach Yourself Creative Writing - Letter Review · 20/09/2021 at 3:57 am

[…] Check out the best books on screenwriting here, and the best books on fiction here.  […]

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