Reading screenwriting related books is very beneficial to gain an outside perspective on the craft. It’s important to note that although they can be of great benefit to you, they will not make you a great writer alone.
Books are there to set the groundwork of your learning and can definitely help diagnose what could be wrong with your screenplay if you’re having difficulties.
Before we go on with the list I would like to mention I have personally read all of these books and many more. This list is carefully selected to widen your perspective, as a lot of film theory books are very similar in content.
Now on with the list…
1) Adventures in The Screen Trade (By William Goldman)
As you may or may not know, William Goldman was a GREAT writer. Who better to take tips off of than the master himself!
The seasoned screenwriter shared many of his best tips and trade secrets, but he also took the opportunity to share some anecdotes and stories from a life spent in the film industry.
This book isn’t only an entertaining read, it has real value an insight into the craft.
2) Into The Woods (By John Yorke)
John Yorke is a successful British screenwriter with many projects under his belt, particularly in the UK television and film industry.
As an experienced screenwriter, Mr. Yorke set out to write an insightful book with a particular focus on story structure. ‘Into The Woods’ is all about telling more engaging stories.
While it doesn’t just focus on techniques, this book will give you a deep and rich insight into what we love about stories and what’s important about them.
3) The Anatomy Of Story (By John Truby)
What makes this book special is that it puts storytelling under a microscope, carefully dissecting all the elements that makeup a compelling screenplay.
The theories mentioned are very insightful and are great for writers who are looking to go a little bit deeper on concepts, patterns and successful industry trends.
4) Screenplay (By Syd Field)
You are probably familiar with Syd Field if you know a thing or two about the screenwriting world. This well-respected industry mogul came out with a series of insightful publications focusing on the craft of screenwriting.
His volume “Screenplay” is popular amongst writers, even if you’re a competent storyteller you’re bound to learn something new.
5) Invisible Ink (By Brian McDonald)
This book will give you a fresh insight into the approach of the craft. Brian McDonald raises some very valuable and interesting points that many film theorists miss.
Included at the end of the book is a short film script written by the author himself; it’s clear Brian knows how to tell a story. He relates many of the points he raises back to his short script, giving you solid evidence that they work!
6) Rebel Without a Crew (By Robert Rodriguez)
YES Robert Rodriguez is more well known for directing and YES you could argue that this book is for filmmakers. The reason I have included it on this list is because it’s not only an entertaining read, but it gives you a step-by-step experience into how Rodriguez transformed from a ‘novice’ to a success.
This book is inspiring and shows the dedication and passion you need to make it into the industry.
7) On Writing (By Stephen King)
I have always been a massive fan of ‘the Kings’ books, as well as the films that were adapted from his stories (The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Green Mile, Stand By Me etc.); it’s clear he’s grasped the concept of effective storytelling.
On Writing is both very educational and highly motivating, showing how even the best of the best receive many rejections and setbacks before they make it. King also talks about his struggle and self-doubt amongst even some of his greater works; all very telling of a great artist.
8) Story (By Robert McKee)
Robert McKee's screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and even guiding some of the bigger screenwriting names in the industry: Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni.
Focusing on what’s important about writing a great screenplay seems the be the key theme in McKee’s book, stressing his points with the exact passion they should be expressed with. Story holds some gems for even the competent writers, but serves as a great guide for the beginners too.
To reiterate, it’s not crucial that you read all of these books or even one of them to become a great writer. But I would recommend them as they’re all educational, insightful and interesting to read. You won’t regret it!
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