As screenwriters, we're always searching for advice and tips about the subject of writing. Whether it's wanting to know more information about character development or just the basics of starting a script, all of it is useful information for any level of writer.
One of the best ways to learn a variety of information surrounding scripts is to dive headfirst into a book about screenwriting. Although it may seem like a niche subject, there are countless books to choose from that take a deep dive into screenwriting.
To help get you started on a few books that might pique your interest, down below are our handpicked top 5 books to read about screenwriting (we left out Robert McKee's Story on purpose as it's usually the first book that is recommended on most lists. If you plan on reading some of the books below, we suggest you start with Story).
Be sure to read through and take a glance at each one since they all offer something unique and different from one another. Basically, you’ll be able to learn something new from each book. Let’s get started!
Photo credit: The Teeritz Agenda
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
By Syd Field
For those of you who are seeking the overall foundations and techniques about screenwriting, this is the book for you. Also published in 2005, author Syd Field crafted what is now regarded as the bible of screenplays.
It’s a must-read for every screenwriter. It’ll help you understand the basics, formatting, editing, executions, and much more. The book is essentially a college course in a book format.
From a learning perspective, there isn’t another screenplay book that has as much information as this does. Trust me when I say you’ll learn quite a bit from it.
Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
By Blake Snyder
First up is a humorous screenwriting book from Blake Snyder that has been a best seller since it first hit the shelves in 2005. It’s an excellent book that covers a wide range of topics in screenwriting.
Some of the topics of the book include pitching the best logline, the laws of screenplays, genres, etc. If you're looking for a comprehensive script book that is told humorously, this is the book for you.
Not only will it give you a few general guidelines on your screenplay, but it’ll help you figure what you should and shouldn’t do.
The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting
By Jill Chamberlain
From a slightly different approach, this book written by Jill Chamberlain starts with an understanding of why we love the movies we love. Rather than discussing formatting and technique, the book is more about why we like specific stories.
The reality with screenplays is that you can be the best writer in the world, but if your story is pointless or meaningless, then it’s not a good script. It might fall under the “well-written” part of a screenplay, but the story is what truly matters.
It’s a great read once you learn the formatting and basics of screenwriting. It’ll help you add that needed knowledge of how a story makes a great script.
How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
By James Scott Bell
Outside of your overall story, the dialogue of your characters is probably the most crucial aspect of your script. Truth be told, you can have a mundane account, but if your characters are interesting, it might not matter as much.
James Scott Bell understands the importance of dialogue. He takes you on a journey of how you can improve your dialogue as fast as you can. Bell knows the importance of time and how wasting it will only cause your script to get worse. Thus, why his book discusses the fastest possible way of improving and creating great dialogue for your scripts.
Outside of screenplays, it's a great book to read for just writing in general. Dialogue is dialogue, and it's vital in any form of writing.
Reflections of the Shadow: Creating Memorable Heroes and Villains for Film and TV
By Jeffrey Hirschberg
Last but not least, is a book from Jeffrey Hirschberg that discusses everything you need to know about the characters of your story. The book discusses the importance of your hero and villain and how you can make them memorable.
Rather than go on random tangents of film theory, Hirschberg takes a "show don't tell" approach, which highlights good and bad examples of characters in scripts.
It’s an easy read and is a must for every scriptwriter. It’ll help you understand the fundamental guidelines of your characters in your scripts.
We hope you enjoyed our article on the top 5 books to read on screenwriting. Remember to check all of them out yourself and see which one is best for you.