Screenwriting : Syd Field or John Truby? by Carol Chang

Carol Chang

Syd Field or John Truby?

Which story guru should I study?

Ken Koh

Study them all. I would add Robert Mckee and Blake Synder also.

Jake Pasley

I think she means Screenwriting Gurus and Story Structure. The famous filmmakers don't dedicate in breaking things down, sure they're brilliant filmmakers but screenwriting gurus not so much.

Jacob Buterbaugh

I think Robert McKee rules for story theory. I think Chris Soth is great for structure. I really like Christopher Vogler and Eric Edson for character and cast design. I think Pilar Alessandra, Alan Watt, and William C. Martell are great at teaching you how to actually use what you learn... Basically though, the idea is to find people who make storytelling and screenwriting make sense to you.

I am familiar with John Truby. In my personal opinion, his techniques and ideas encourage a lot of overthinking. In my experience, the more I overthink, the less I write, produce, or direct. But that's just me. The question isn't Truby or Field. The question is: Does this encourage me to write, and does it help me write, or not?

Yolanda Ruth Gaines

Robert is a great guy. Love his seminars. Had lunch with him long ago back in New York.

Ken Koh

Writing is where it's at. It all starts with the script. But like everything else, you either have it or you don't. You can learn the techniques and craft of writing, but can you write great that's a talent. I don't have it and very few do. Episodic tv is another matter.

Jorge J Prieto

I read an listen on YouTube to everyone, McKee is really good, but you have to in a small way have a personal connection with your story or at least like in acting truly believe and live what your characters are going through, if you care the audience cares.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Syd Truby. He's a hybrid, half-brother to both men and much more interesting.

D Marcus

I'm going back to what Ken said a couple of days ago; study both and then expand to others. Is there a reason you are asking about studying only one?

James Dalessandro

The word 'guru' is problematic. Syd Field was never a screenwriter, Truby is a writer and a good one. There's no comparison: Truby is the most insightful and articulate, and read everything ever written by Dr. Linda Seger. She breaks the mold: a non-screenwriter who thoroughly understands the art and craft.

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

Truby. He focuses on structure, and really gives you great insights into the genres.

Dan Guardino

All I ever did was read The Screenwriter's Bible and started writing screenplays.

Carol Chang

D Marcus. No I have no idea what's best to study. Thank you all.

Carol Chang

Which is the industry standard?

Dan Guardino

David Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible book teaches what is considered the industry standard. I really can't stand to listen to any of those gurus so I wouldn't know if anyone of them is better than the other.

Ken Koh

The Screenwriter's Bible is very good. Even though these 'gurus' haven't actually written a great script themselves, they actually do know what they're talking about and how to teach story for others. I have studied them all and they must have analyzed so many scripts to be able to do that. Remember, they can only teach the craft, but the art is completely up to you. actually has a few good screenwriting courses. You can try the 30 day free trial here's a good introduction:

Linda Perkins

Take a class, use a book as a source of reference.

Mike W. Rogers

I enjoy Michael Hauge. You can find him on You Tube. Talks about the Hero's Journey and story structure. That's where I started.

Patricia Hickman

Be sure to download recently produced scripts. They're typically free and let you know how formatting has changed since the publication of some of the older versions of scriptwriting books. Read many, many scripts/screenplays and the information will inform your work too!

Jake Pasley

I'm a DP but I love story. Robert McKee story seminar blew me away.

Debbie Croysdale

I second @Jacob and @ Dan. Personally I admire Robert McKee and have several of his quotes on my laptop Eg “The Camera is The Dread XRay of All things.” I also follow Pilar Alessandra, Christopher Vogler and John Truby ....All of whom I met at school. (I go to a lot of schools) Talking about movies, there is a trend for Non Linear and Tandem Narrative in a lot of recent box office hits. My latest read is Linda Aronson, who I managed to get a very brief personal conversation with Regents Park University. Tarrantino and Arriaga films such as Pulp Fiction and Amores Perros require a certain juxtaposition of the classic structure, where 3 act may not be ruled out, but time switch of separate stories is key.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

I have read Field, McKee and Snyder....not read Truby yet...but I got a little out of all three...mostly I read award winning scripts....and my favourites are Goldman and Mathieson

Aray Brown

Syd Field. I love Screenplay!

Owen Mowatt

Christ, I wish I had two pairs of hands so I could give Syd FOUR thumbs down.

Jacob Buterbaugh

The thing with Syd Field is that he barely scratches the surface. From what I remember, the first book was mostly about 3 acts and two plot points, and in the second book he added a few pinches and a midpoint. But he never really mentioned how to build those things. He never really mentioned sequences, scenes, or beats. He never really mentioned characters, or character development, or character arcs. I didn't learn about any of that until I started studying other teachers, and started really paying attention to my favorite movies and TV series.

I guess my point is that Syd Field is probably a good starting point, but I think you'll need to study someone else to develop a deeper understanding of storytelling in general, structure, characters, etc... Just my opinion.

Bill Hartin

John Truby's seminar is a literal roadmap, and I've read them all.

Chad Stroman

If you are completely new then I think both can give you enough info to get your feet wet. I would do Field first and then Truby and then move on to things that help build like Story by McKee or Save the Cat! by Snyder. At some point you're going to develop your own style and approach.

Carol Chang

Thanks everyone. I guess I will study them all eventually. I see some strong feelings on Syd Field, can someone elaborate?

Ken Koh

I fear this may be a can of worms. Some people have a real problem with the 3 Act Structure and the fact that Syd Field taught you need to know your ending first. Fact is, there are many ways to story telling and Syd Field's one of them. Respect and appreciation to Syd's contribution, and he is no longer with us to defend himself.

Russel Bonguen

I would say Syd, McKee focus on the craft from the storytelling perspective and they are very good in making you think like a storyteller. Seger and Truby are more into breaking down the techniques that set you apart. Snyder will help you develop your thinking as a concept creator first. He's more about "Know your market then write your script purposely"

Desiree Middleton

Why do you think you should study either one? What issues are you seeing in your writing?

Carol Chang

I am very new to screenwriting. Haven't written or studied anything yet, just ordered couple of books. I will be taking an online class soon.

Dominic J. DeJoseph

John Truby’s classes are the best out there. His book is very good, but you should probably read Robert McKee’s book, Story, first. Truby’s classes are available as audio-only, and those are great. They seem dense at first, but are well worth listening to time and again. Forget Field.

Phil Clarke

Why either/or? Why not both? In your eternal journey to master story and screencraft (as we all remain apprentices, forever learning) one should glean what one can from all sources out there. Read both Truby and Field. And while you're at it, read Seger, McKee, Snyder to name just a few others. And Carol Chang , if you want to talk more personally and privately about your writing, by all means come have an informal chat with me.

Dan Guardino

I agree with Kay that the fist book you should read is David Trottier's book. After that I don't know because I never paid any attention to any of those other gurus and have no intention on ever reading any of their books.

Bill Hartin

Yeah, what Phil said...and please include me in the informal chat.

Doug Nelson

Since this is a year old post, my question to Carol is: How many/whose screenwriting books have you read?

Craig D Griffiths

Since I didn’t comment a year ago.

None. Look at films, read scripts listen to podcasts. Develop who you are.

John Perivolaris


Bill Costantini

Both have helped countless writers learn the craft of dramatic storytelling and screenwriting - you can't go wrong with either.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Carol!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Billy's correct. Read them both and keep studying what others have to offer.

Dan MaxXx

Read both and forget, then get an industry job doing anything. Less books, more hands-on practice. The only gurus are working filmmakers like Chris Nolan. He shows you the "how" and the "Why".

Peter Roach

Syd gave me basis, a foundation, a platform to frame all the 'other stuff.'

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