Writing a Screenplay takes a lot of patience and imagination. I have always believed that if a writer can’t visualize a scene, it’s very difficult to put in on paper and explain it to the director. And even though the scene is written, it has to be in proper Hollywood format.
The advantage of books is you can read them while travelling to work in a metro or sitting on a balcony sipping your coffee. And then mark your notes inside then & there.
But which ones should screenwriting enthusiasts choose to read? Well, I have done all the research & put a list below the 18 Best Screenwriting Books.
Syd Field has written several books on screenwriting. In fact his book, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting is widely regarded as one of the best books to date on the subject.
He was a script consultant and also a renowned lecturer. His book actually laid the foundation for books that were written later on by many.
The main aspect of the book is the Three Act Structure. The whole book is a simple read for just about anyone who wants to understand the writing script from start to finish along with the concept..
This is the first book you should read if you have not read any other on screenwriting yet. You can read the breakdown of the book, done by Kim Hartman here(who is a well-known copywriter).
Rober Mckee is an author and mostly known for seminars on Storytelling. He has several books under his belt. His students include Avika Goldsman(A Beautiful Mind), Paul Haggis(Million Dollar Baby) and many others who have won or been nominated for Oscars.
If you are a big fan of the Aristotle style and philosophy, you should buy this book. There are many takeaways in this book. And that is because I feel he’s a good teacher and a mentor. His other book Dialog: The Art of Verbal Action is a good one too I hear.
By the end of his book, you’ll know the advanced style of story writing. you will also know how to avoid writing mistakes while penning down a story.
This book is for beginners as well as people who have sold screenplays. It gives details about the structure, formatting, and tips on selling scripts. From creating characters, explaining beats, examples of famous films, David covers it all.
It is a pleasant read and organized in a manner that some people with a background might skip the basics and still understand it well. You can also practice the art of screenwriting in available formatting softwares.
The bestselling book in the screenwriting business. If you are a screenwriter, I know you have heard of this one before. The action hero saves the day and you have a blockbuster movie. As Snyder has explained, Save The Cat is a scene where we (first) meet the Hero.
Some people have followed this book’s idea and writing style for years and used it on their own. Some have absolutely blasted this book. If you like that there’s a formula for writing great movies then you should read it.
However, it does have valuable tips inside. Read the reviews and then decide just as you do for online masterclasses.
Anyone who is new to screenwriting should start reading it right now. Laura as a professor knows how to teach and catch the attention of students(readers in this case).
The dummies word will fool you initially but don’t take it for granted. She gives you insights by giving some examples of Jaws and The Untouchables. A little bit of humor keeps to reading till the end.
It is the best book on story structure as some people suggest. Does a story need to have something different than the life of an average person? If it does then when do you bring in the character? These questions will be answered here in this book like no other.
The book is for screenwriters, novelists as well as TV writers. It’s a practical guide to storytelling. I recommend it even if you have read the other ones.
Also Read: 15 Best Screenwriting Podcasts for Writers
Well some people have thrown away Save The Cat as they read this one. There are no steps to writing a perfect script. But John breaks down the art of writing into 7-8 parts.
It might not be for beginner’s as it is a little tough to grasp the first time you read it. His own style of building stories is different from his counterparts. You can learn some great tips from this book.
Michel Hauge is a very well known story consultant and speaker. Due to his extensive work with executives inside Hollywood, he knows how to write and sell. The basic breakdown of his story arc is based on Syd Field’s Screenplay Book (the first on this list).
The in-depth section on screenwriting shows exactly how you should be telling stories. The question of how the audience will want to keep on watching the movie is answered here. His storytelling course on Udemy is a bestseller.
Not only Hague but many other professionals offer interesting screenwriting courses on Udemy.
This book is not for everyone. Many of the examples in it are outdated. Vogler explains the ideas of Joseph Campbell (a well-known professor in the 19th century) very well.
More philosophical than actual storytelling, this book is for those who might be interested in what is a story, and focussing extensively on the Hero’s journey, etc. And from there start connecting the dots to write your own.
A simple, understandable book. Not great, not bad, but a must-have. Scott explains the three-act structure at the end. Other things explained are formatting, beat sheets. He also mentions the screenwriting software to use. Writing is rewriting is where it ends at.
As the title suggests Michael Rogan has written an easily understandable screenwriting book here. For beginners this is worth buying. Professionals can skip this one(tips are useful). It is humorous. It’s a short read but fits the price.
His other book How to write a screenplay that doesn’t suck is also worth a read.
If you have an idea for a movie or a novel, and you don’t know whether it’ll be good enough to write about, go for this book. It explains how a perfect idea should be and how you can develop or mould bad idea into a good one.
A wonderful teacher of this craft, Alexandra has minutely told each element in building a story in a simple fashion in this book. She maintains the pace of the book for every type of reader.
Some common movies are taken as case studies and broken down in detail for their greatness. Recommended for everyone.
The one book that you should read on writing drama is this one.
If you are a novelist, this book will give you immense insights into the world of character. How will the character make the hero rise. The downfall of the villain is because of his ignorance, hate, etc. I think you can relate to David Mamet while reading this one.
This book is not very well known but it is still very good. Beginner’s and authors both should be able to understand it very easily. It covers the basics like formatting, story structure, overcoming obstacles. Jack also gives tips on working with directors and executives.
Richard’s writing style is humorous and comforting. He explains it by dividing it into 3 parts: Art, Craft & Business. A very different way of explaining but it works. Gives some script sales strategies at the end.
Many authors have contributed to this book. It’ll not teach you everything about formatting and telling a story. But you’ll know how to think like other screenwriters. How to find agents, self-publishing, etc. A very positive book and a must-read for everyone.
This book doesn’t teach you about writing. Almost everyone has wondered how screenwriters work in Hollywood. This book gives an insight into the real world, how deals are made and plots changed in the process.
This book dates back to 1983 but is still an eye-opener for people who think that it’s quite easy to get in Hollywood if you have a nice script. But don’t get dejected by this book. Keep on trying to get there.
Even if you read some of these books, there is no substitute for reading actual screenplays. You can even google for various tips and courses online. You can also download some great movie screenplays at IMSDB.
But keep on reading to get better. That’s how most of the greatest writers have done it and achieved success.