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Six Screenwriting Guides to Sharpen Your Skills

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I went through an “I want to write a movie” stage last year—don’t we all at some point? Only when I sat down to put pen to paper did I realise that I had no idea how to structure a script. Should it have have three acts like a play? Do I write in the camera angles or is that the director? What about music… can I write my choice of songs in the side margins? I was wasting my time and I found myself questioning my decision. Research was needed, and plenty of it. And so I took great delight in sketching a list of the books that could guide me to my Hollywood dreams. Eventually, other things got on top of me, and I never did write that screenplay. But after reviewing the list, I’m certain that it could help others who have a bit more ingenuity and drive.

Screenplay

I’d never heard of Syd Field, but not only did the internet push me towards him, a friend recommended him as well. Field is the man who lived and died by the three-act structure (so one of my queries had been answered) and he used this ideal: from plot point to goal statement and mission in the first act; to protagonist confrontation in the second act; and then on into the turning point and the climactic third act. A standard and solid foundation for any wannabe screenwriter and one Field himself applied with great success in TV writing.

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Making a Good Script Great

It was Seger who created the occupation of “script consultant” in 1981, and since then she has consulted on over 2,000 scripts for clients including Ray Bradbury, Peter Jackson and Roland Emmerich. Making a Good Script Great breaks down the entire script process from gestation to production in a clear, step-by-step manner. It’s suitable for the absolute beginner as well as the intermediate looking for tips to improve.

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Save the Cat!

Save the Cat is always pushing you forward, asking you to realise your dream and to look out for the warning signs; there are many that your script is working… or not working. It’s a reasonably short book, and very accessible, but Snyder, who sold 12 original screenplays, has much advice to dispense. 

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Screenwriter's Bible

Trottier is a man who knows exactly what he’s doing, and has found a formula to stay at the top. He’s been a successful writer and script consultant for Disney, Jim Henson and ABC, to name but a few. The Screenwriter’s Bible is an intensely useful book, packed with advice and constructive ideas.

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Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

With no produced screenplays to his name, McKee is a bit of a controversial character. Nevertheless, he’s James Patterson of the screenplay world: vocal, highly influential and well known. His seminars are always huge hits and his popularity cannot be questioned—he even appears as himself, a screenwriting guru, in “The Simpsons” and the 2002 film Adaptation. His book Story serves as a practical, in-depth course in storytelling.

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The Art Of Dramatic Writing

The Art of Dramatic Writing has been used as a handbook for everything from short stories to novels to screenplays. If you’re not certain which direction you wish your script to take, this is a great place to begin. A successful playwright, Egri began teaching screenwriting in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, counted Woody Allen as a student. The backbone of his book the idea of the “premise”, what each premise means, and where it can lead. This is a construct that works as well today as ever and makes Egri’s book a timeless guide. 

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Shane O’Reilly has lived in Dublin all his life; that’s 34 years of memories and adventures around the city centre. While he watched as his friends emigrated during the recession, he started ... Show More

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