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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Screenwriting books to read/which ones to avoid Moderators: George Willson
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The Dark Horse
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 3:56am Report to Moderator
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Hi everyone.

With Christmas coming up I was gonna see what screenwriting books people swear by and ones they avoid.


My favs:
"Writing the Romantic Comedy" by Billy Mernit.
"101 Habits of Successful Screenwriters".

I enjoy Syd Field Guide to Screenwriting, Idiots Guide to Screenwriting (I read this again recently. My first screenwriting book when I was a teenager. Doesn't quite hold up many years later ha).

The one book I could never get into is Robert McKee. Probably the opposite of his intention, but 100 pages in and I start to feel really nervous and inhibited.

This Christmas, I'm considering perhaps "Save the Cat" or another Syd Field?

Specifically. Does anyone know of  any screenwriting books which provide you with good action direction?

This past year I've been collecting a lot of action direction (to help break up dialogue):

"He nods. She sighs. He shrugs. He gleams. He frowns.
He blinks. He is taken aback. He looks down... etc."

I was wondering if there was a book out there that could provide me with a short hand?
Few years back, I bought a book on emotions ha. And another two on positive traits and negative traits.

Anyways.
I'll check back on this thread Friday. Have a good week everyone.
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 5:26am Report to Moderator
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"He nods. She sighs. He shrugs. He gleams. He frowns.
He blinks. He is taken aback. He looks down... etc."


You'll get called out for "Directing Actors" in the major festivals/comps for that, just to warn you.

John Truby Anatomy of Story is very good.


The only thing really missing from it is the awareness that you can split the Protagonist (The one who pushes the action) and the Main Character (POV), which is a common problem in these type of books..they all focus on a singular "hero" who is both the Protagonist and the Main Character.


If you're confused by that think of Sherlock Holmes: Holmes is the Protagonist who constantly forces the story forwards, but it's Watson who is the Main Character and offers us his POV into the world




I've got those books on emotions...and their books on settings as well. Quite good, I think.


Save the Cat is OK. Quite basic. You probably need Save the Cat goes to the Movies, as well, to get the extra beats for the other genres. He offers differnt beat sheets for different genres eg monster in the House, Golden Fleece...something i think people don't realise when they discuss his work as they seem to focus on the singular beat sheet he made in the first book.
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JohnI
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 12:56pm Report to Moderator
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All LindA Seeger books are great and not overly expensive.

Also enjoyed and got a lot from Robert McKee’s Dialogue but it’s a hard read.

Everybody should start though with Trotier’s “Screenwriters bible”
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ReneC
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 1:39pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from The Dark Horse
Specifically. Does anyone know of  any screenwriting books which provide you with good action direction?
This past year I've been collecting a lot of action direction (to help break up dialogue):

"He nods. She sighs. He shrugs. He gleams. He frowns.
He blinks. He is taken aback. He looks down... etc."


This isn't an effective way to break up dialogue, it just adds unnecessary beats. I'm not sure it qualifies for "directing actors" as STF suggests, and there is a place for it on the page, but you should only be using it when it's absolutely necessary, such as responding to a question or reacting to the dialogue, not simply going along with what's being said.

Break up your dialogue with meaningful action or don't bother breaking it up. If you find that leaves you with a bunch of long monologues you have a different problem. Unless you're writing an Aaron Sorkin drama you shouldn't have that much monologuing. Cut it.

McKee's book is daunting for sure. I have a hard copy and the audio book and every time I get into either I discover something I hadn't noticed before. It's super dense and full of excellent advice, and it's no wonder the man can lecture on it for over twenty years and still get repeat customers.

My favourite resource is the Scriptnotes podcast. It has excellent screenwriting advice and tons of useful information about the industry. Having a knowledge of the industry, and also how films are actually made, greatly informs your writing and can inherently make your projects more attractive.

For books, it really comes down to what works for you. Some people are eternally grateful to Save The Cat for teaching them how to write a screenplay. Some say Joseph Campbell is their guru, or Syd Field, or John Truby, or Michael Hague, etc. No one book will tell you everything you want to know, and all of them boil down to essentially the same information presented in different ways. Find which ones speak to you and follow them.

Then, once you've learned what you need and are able to write without them, you'll learn to forget what they taught you and forge your own path. Nobody wants to read a Save The Cat screenplay any more. But I still think there's value in those books and their differing paradigms to give writers a solid foundation to build from. So use what works for you, reject what doesn't, and learn as much as you can until you have the knowledge and the confidence to start writing on your own.

And if that sounds like a lot of work...it is. Screenwriting is HARD. Treat learning about screenwriting like you would any career change. It takes the same amount of time and effort.


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LC
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 6:23pm Report to Moderator
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Do you like to eat pie after a good movie?

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How Not To Write A Screenplay -  Denny Martin Flinn

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.....flinn/9781580650151/

Great book Ren put me on to.


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AnthonyCawood
Posted: November 6th, 2018, 9:35pm Report to Moderator
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Most of the books seem to espouse some form 'system' that you should use, which I don't think helps anyone find their own voice and may be why may Hollywood films seem similar.

Only book I would recommend is Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible as it's great on the nuts and bolts of formatting.


Anthony Cawood - Award winning screenwriter
Available Short screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/short-scripts
Available Feature screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/feature-film-scripts/
Screenwriting articles - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/articles
IMDB Link - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6495672/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
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stevemiles
Posted: November 7th, 2018, 9:00am Report to Moderator
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I'd second LC on 'How Not To Write A Screenplay'.  A little more nuts and bolts approach to writing, but it offers a reader's perspective and features a section on writing action/description that a lot of books take for granted.


My short scripts can be found here on my new & improved budget website:


http://stevemiles80.wixsite.com/sjmilesscripts
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JohnI
Posted: November 7th, 2018, 11:37am Report to Moderator
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Writer’s journey - it espouses Campbell put into screenwriting. Excellent.
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CameronD
Posted: November 9th, 2018, 11:40am Report to Moderator
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STORY by Robert McKee.


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http://www.screenplaywritenow.com Write a screenplay. Write. Now.
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The Dark Horse
Posted: November 16th, 2018, 11:01am Report to Moderator
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Ha. I always think of Brian Cox in Adaptation when I think of McKee.

Hmm. Yeah. I might try out Screenwriter’s Bible. Writer’s Journey. I might even just watch more movies and read more screenplays.

With action description, I’m trying to get into the habit of cutting down dialogue and suggesting it through action (whilst retaining emotional clarity). It's amazing how a look or a nod can speak volumes.

So yeah. I’m only doing necessary stuff (someone clutching a comfort item or sneering, etc) as opposed to someone scratching their back for no reason ha or going into exact detail over what the character is doing.

All great suggestions,
Thanks everyone
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Dustin
Posted: November 17th, 2018, 3:59am Report to Moderator
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Action speaks louder than dialogue.

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Don't direct actors in your script = bullshit.
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eldave1
Posted: November 17th, 2018, 11:19am Report to Moderator
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I have never read completely read a screenwriting book.   Maybe that's a bad thing.

- I have used Trottier extensively for format. But that was all Google based search (e.g., how to format blah, blah, blah - and there's an answer. Same for the Screenwriting Bible. I think the key is to know what you don't know and make sure you search for an answer.  

- Read parts of both Save The Cats - hmm. Found the concept of beats informative and interesting. Found the rigorous page placement of those beats downright silly.

- Have listened to McKee on video - not a fan. Found him pompous and uninteresting.

etc. bits here - bits there.

Most of my learning has been for reading scripts, reviewing scripts and comments I received on my own scripts - most notably in places like this one.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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The Dark Horse
Posted: November 17th, 2018, 11:42am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dustin
Don't direct actors in your script = bullshit.


I agree. "A strained smile" can say a lot. "Slipping hands into pockets" can say a lot. "Slumping in a chair" says a lot. "They laugh, eyes tearing" up says a lot. "Softly shaking his head", etc.

However, I could imagine too much of it would just slow the pace.

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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: November 17th, 2018, 1:55pm Report to Moderator
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This is a very (very)  basic discussion on what I believe they're on about.

http://www.writesofluid.com/5-ways-direct-script-without-actually-directing/

In my experience it tends to go down better if you are more literary with it. You give the action and also some kind of internal process. At the higher end they don't seem to like just actions. I don't know. It's just something I mentioned because you'll find it crops up when you hit semis or finals of bigger stuff and they're really reaching for negatives to count you out.
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The Dark Horse
Posted: November 17th, 2018, 2:19pm Report to Moderator
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Oh right. So you’d just have.. e.g.

John looks around, confused.

Something quick like that?
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