Screenwriting : What books to read? by Tiyan Newman

Tiyan Newman

What books to read?

I've been writing for almost 10 years and never thought to read books to assist in my writing in anyway. I write comedies and I figured I never needed to read, but now that I'm looking to write other genres, I think reading books would be ideal. What are some books that you guys read that has helped with your writing process or voice, or your creativity in general?

Dimitris Tenes

I think you should try to read many books no matter what kind of scripts you write. The more you read the more you broaden your perception of the world and the better you understand human nature, which can only help you improve your writing. Of course you should be selective because you don't have infinite time. I could propose a few writers: Herbert G Wells, Ernest Hemingway, Mary Shelley, John R R Tolkien, Jane Austen, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Umberto Eco, Philip K Dick. Their works are old but a good story never ages.

Dan Cassell

Although it is an absolute beast of a book, I do recommend Christopher Booker's 'The Seven Basic Plots'. Though it isn't specifically a screenwriting text, he pretty much nails exactly what storytelling is, and is very inspiring...

Dimitris Tenes

I also found Cynthia Whitcomb's books for writing and selling a script to be inspiring and useful.

Nick Assunto

For comedy: How to Write Movies for Fun and Profit. Hands down one of the best, most straightforward books about screenwriting, written by two comedy legends, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.

Dan MaxXx

Throw every screenwriting book into the trash and write what fascinates you. Read 1000 produced scripts, watch movies, write and rewrite. Simple plan.
Look up the Happy Writers tab on this website. Majority of folks teaching are Ex-Executives or Managers. How do they know so much about screenwriting? They read thousands of scripts.

A. S. Templeton

2nd Dan. It’s good to be aware of the usual tomes of storytelling theory & standard practice, but getting beyond them will be important in finding your groove in screenwriting. Trottier however is essential for formatting tips, and I got good stuff and a few laughs from Your Screenplay Sucks! and How NOT to Write a Screenplay.

Beth Fox Heisinger

For me, the very first book I read and often recommend is INVISIBLE INK: A Practical Guide To Building Stories That Resonate by Brian McDonald. McDonald is an award-winning writer/teacher/director/producer that has worked in TV, film, and comic books for more than 25 years. He also taught at Pixar, Disney, Lucas' ILM, etc. The book includes the script for his 2001 award-winning short White Face which ran on HBO and Cinamax. It's a short that actually found distribution and makes money. Lol! Still! It's now often used as a diversity-training tool. White Face is about the discrimination that clowns face every day—and it's fantastic. Another book of his that I enjoy is INK SPOTS which is a collection of his writings, some from his blog, on story structure, filmmaking, and craftsmanship. Oh, and THE GOLDEN THEME: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator. ;) Overall, he gives great, practical, insightful observations and advice. Straightforward clarity for this wonderful madness of screenwriting. ;)

Doug Nelson

All writers need to read & learn - no doubt - but a dyed in the wool writer needs to write more than read. It's called learning by doing.

A. S. Templeton

I suggest that it is incorrect to conclude that "merely" reading 1000s of screenplays makes one "know about" screenwriting.
Executives, managers et al can over time develop a sense for (i.e. guess with some degree of accuracy) whether a given screenplay tells a good story that is also marketable. But that shouldn't be confused with the creative process.
Only those who have actually been steeped in the blood, sweat, and tears of actually creating a compelling story (as expressed in a screenplay) really "know about" screenwriting.

Renee Huff

thriller & mystery books help me because the suspense keeps me interested, which is what I want my scripts and novels to have

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, a thread about books would not be complete without the Stephen King quote: "If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot, and write a lot." :)

A. S. Templeton

I like the possibly apocryphal response that a seasoned author once gave to a novice writer:
Q: What does it take to become a successful writer?
A: <hands raised with fingers miming typing at a keyboard>

Peter Roach

Read everything. I got lucky as a child. My aunt had a bookstore. I read darn near every classic before I was fifteen. I read a lot of "foreign' books; to get another point of view. Some of the best fantasy and love stories is in Spanish. Get a translation of short stories in some other language. Open up!

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