I recently conducted a survey of screenwriters to learn more about what makes them tick: when do they write? Where do they write? What type of content do they find most useful? And where did they LEARN to write a screenplay? The last question was revealing: So many screenwriters never went to film school. They learned the craft by reading a ton of screenplays and screenwriting books. And you can, too. We asked the screenwriting community to name their favorite books for screenplay how-to’s, and here’s what they said, in no particular order.
Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder
A candid look at the business of making movies, structure, genres, beats, and loglines, plus rules for making your script more marketable.
Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier
Called “the bible” for a reason! This book covers just about everything you’d need to know as an aspiring or professional screenwriter.
Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland (plus associated workbooks)
A deep dive into how to create story beats that build realistic and compelling character arcs within a three-act structure.
The Pocket Screenwriting Guide: 120 Tips for Getting to FADE OUT, by Mario O. Moreno and Anthony Grieco
This guide leads you through storytelling with 120 tips, which also happens to be the standard page length for a two-hour feature film.
Anatomy of Story, by John Truby
Written by a Hollywood story consultant, this book draws on philosophy and mythology, offering up secrets and new techniques to build an effective narrative.
On Writing, by Stephen King
This memoir delves into the experiences, writing habits, and convictions from King’s storied career and work, detailing the tools that he thinks every writer should have.
Story, by Robert McKee
Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting make for an “intense learning experience,” according to McKee’s students.
The Hollywood Standard, by Christopher Riley
Using hundreds of real examples, this book walks you through formatting scripts for TV and movies.
Into the Woods, by John Yorke
This book investigates the heart of storytelling, showing there’s a unifying shape to the best narratives.
The Hidden Tools of Comedy, by Steve Kaplan
Want to understand the mechanics of comedy, and how to work comedic situations into your script in a way that translates to humor? This book is for you.
Do you have any favorites that helped your screenwriting career? Send us a tweet at @SoCreate and help us build out this list!
Just keep reading,
Courtney Meznarich, Director of Community Outreach