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5 Essential Books on Screenwriting

Transform your story into a script.

David Gane
David Gane
2 min read

Are you a fiction writer who'd love to see your story on the big screen?

Not sure how to turn your novel into a script?

Here are five scriptwriting classics (plus a bonus one) that will teach you the fundamentals.

  1. Robert McKee’s Story is considered a classic:
    “I’ve written ‘Story’ to empower your command of the craft, to free you to express an original vision of life, to lift your talent beyond convention to create films of distinctive substance, structure, and style.”
  2. Syd Field Screenwriting is one of the earliest and most influential books on the subject:
    “When you complete this book, you will know exactly what to do to write a screenplay. Whether you do it or not is up to you. Writing is a personal responsibility—either you do it, or you don’t”
  3. Drawing on Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, Christopher Vogler's The Writer’s Journey adapts mythic structure to the screenplay:
    “…there is no end to what can be learned from the Hero’s Journey concepts. I find surprising and delightful turns of the path every time I pick up a new story, and life itself keeps teaching new angles.”
  4. Blake Snyder's Save the Cat takes the best parts of Syd Field and Viki King and fills in the gaps:
    “So why another screenwriting book? Because the others I’ve seen don’t say it like it is, and don’t give the reader the tools to attain success in the field.”
  5. And finally, while the other books mostly help with structure, The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier also helps you with formatting:
    "You can be that next great screenwriter if you work hard, learn your craft, and develop discipline."

BONUS BOOK: I'd be remiss if I didn't include John Truby's The Anatomy of Story:
“ If most writers use an approach that is external, mechanical, piecemeal, and generic, the writing process we will work through might be described as internal, organic, interconnected, and original."

If I was to give any quick advice from my years of teaching screenwriting, it would be to learn how to tell your story through motion, image, and sound. If we can't see it or hear it, don't put it on the page. Show us the moment-by-moment exchanges between your characters and their world.

My second piece of advice would be to write with brevity. Don't over-describe and over-explain. Don't fill your pages with monologues. We constantly interrupt, react, and respond to each other. You have a limited amount of pages, so make them count.

Good luck in your writing journey.

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David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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