Stories are in our DNA. We grew up listening to stories. It is an intrinsic part of our traditional fabric. But, what has happened with our love for stories is that we all have become storytellers subconsciously. But does that mean we can write screenplays too? Screenplays and stories are similar, yet they are different. Can all storytellers write screenplays or they can learn through books?
Are Screenwriting Books Important for Beginners?
If you look closely, storytelling is there in all of us. We communicate differently with different people. The way you talk to your family members differs from the way you do to your friends. When you share a secret or a joke, your idea of executing is very different. Why is that? Are we exercising the art of telling stories here? Yes, We are. We are saying it differently because the audience is different and we know to tell them in the way that they will be engaged.
The audience understands screenplays:
Over time, stories took to the different style of narratives. But, the core remained the same. Only the setups, conflicts and the media changed. Since everyone is a storyteller, he or she can differentiate a good story from a bad one. The audience understands drama, conflicts, characters because of the structure is subconsciously imbibed in them.
As a filmmaker or a screenwriter, when we want to express our stories, we should be aware that the audience can’t be taken for granted.In fact, it makes our task even more challenging as a filmmaker or a writer. They will be quick to distance themselves if our stories fall short of being useful.
How do I tell my Story?
I never read any screenwriting books when I started. My earlier scripts didn’t follow any 3 Act structure as I wasn’t aware of it. My stories weren’t awful. But, they were large pockets in the scripts where it lacked engagement.Now, if I look back, I cringe reading them. But, it doesn’t mean that I will advocate books for the solution.
It is crucial, and I also suggest you write few screenplays first without any training or reading books. Write in your style. Finish few scripts and then read the books so that you will know where you are going wrong. When you understand how to write a screenplay, then you realize that you know very little about it. This process helped me immensely. I have seen many attempting to write as per the screenwriting books, but they never finish it as they are too overwhelmed by the technical things like structure and plots.
Now, don’t get me wrong that I am advocating a stupid theory. But, I can only suggest what I feel strongly. We all have different minds, different ideas, and unique life experiences. Our way of telling stories is subjective, and that is our identity. We should never lose it, or else we will burn out soon. I am saying this because the writing technicalities should not overrule our creativity. It should be the other way. Our stories should conform to the structure. It is a more efficient way to learn to screen-write.
You should unleash the storyteller inside you first. Then, train your brain to master the art. You will pick up things faster and better. When you break down your existing story into the art learned through books, it is a fascinating journey as you may have to choose a different path. Your mind won’t be overruled by the rules but your heart.
Are screenwriting books good or bad?
Frankly, I cannot answer that. Screenwriting books are good for newbies who don’t know the craft. A foundation is needed for any art to develop. As I suggest, write at least one script before picking up a screenwriting book. I still read and refer screenwriting books for my writings.
Disclaimer: The craft can kill your penchant for watching movies as the experience becomes too technical.
I was obsessed with checking my time when the first act ends, when and how are they planting the plots. Watching becomes so technical that you can mostly see through every movie. The ones that startle you are the ones which are original and innovative in their approach.
For a newbie filmmaker, if you are not writing your own stories, then you should be aware of the know-how of the screenplay structure, the plot points, the setups, etc. If you don’t know formatting a screenplay, or outlining through index cards, it shouldn’t concern you. Reading screenplays also helps to widen your knowledge of screenwriting.
If you write your stories, you should read screenwriting books. However, most of them are below average. For a newbie, your first few books are crucial. You may identify a story’s beginning, middle, and end but that is not all when you sit to write a good screenplay.
Many books stress so much on the technicalities and rules that it puts me off. There is no single way of telling a story. They eliminate the freshness of an original story. But, if you want to survive in Hollywood or other studio-based productions, you have to write in that regulative zone. The majority of books follow their lines, and I don’t condemn them because it is a practical way. Also, any book which teaches you a new thing is a valuable book.
Read as many books you can:
Never stop reading screenwriting books. You will find some gems hidden there and unless you deep dive into you won’t unearth them. Also, reading screenplays will help you on the pathbreaking styles adopted by screenwriters. It is just that the more experience you gain, the lesser books you will like.
What are the Best books on screenwriting for Beginners?
Any good elaborate book which touches on the basics of screenwriting is a good screenwriting book for beginners. I, however, will put my fingers on few which I have read and profited from them.
1- Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field –
Every filmmaker and screenwriter has it on his shelf. Syd Field is famous in the screenwriting domain, and this book is a killer of screenplays in a right way. Any movie you watch now will have Syd Field’s approach. It is this book which introduced me to the 3 Act structure and is, in fact, my first book on screenwriting. I had borrowed it from a friend but eventually bought it as this is a must for a newbie.
2- The Screenwriter’s Bible, 6th Edition: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script by David Trottier –
I bought this book much later, but I rate it much higher if I were a newbie. It is true to its name. It is an exhaustive and complete book on screenwriting. Your search should end here. This book is technical and also very educational. It also dwells in marketing your book and is a bestseller. It is an authoritative book on screenwriting with tons of examples and worksheets.
3- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder:
One of the most successful books on screenwriting sold online. “Save the Cat” is comprehensive, juicy and modern. It is a must have for newbies. It is a bestseller for the last 15 years. If you are not a newbie, you may not enjoy it as much.
4- The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri:
The Art of Dramatic Writing is not a screenwriting book but a playwright book and has all the essentials of a good dramatic writing. How to construct a drama by formulating the premise. How to choose character pivotal to the conflict and how to sketch a detailed character are its strengths. Why I am suggesting this book is not because of it flamboyant writing but its clarity on its depth of characters and story. No newbie should miss it.