Too many times, writers mistake information for drama. The need to make sure that the audience understands everything, that nothing is left out, overcomes our better judgement and as a result we write undramatic drivel that serves no purpose except to inform. Continue reading “The Difference Between Drama and Non-Drama”
If you’ve ever looked for screenwriting advice in books, on the internet, though seminars or even on the “Ask The Expert” feature on Final Draft, you’ll invariably come across the importance of the three act structure. All the books and gurus talk about how Aristotle detailed the theory of dramatic structure by breaking down story into three acts. Continue reading “The Myth of the Three Act Structure”
Today I completed the first draft of Wong of the Dead. This will be a feature length version of The Hopping Dead, my short about jiangshi – Chinese hopping vampires. This is the first script that I have written where I had fun writing and enjoyed the writing process. All in all, it took about 100 days to finish this script. More updates on this project soon.
Forget the gurus. They want to sell you useless books that you don’t need (see Robert McKee & Syd Field). There is no formula for screenwriting. These are all of the books that I find useful for screenwriting.
1. On Writing by Stephen King
I know what you’re thinking. Stephen King? It just so happens that this is the best book on creative writing that I have come across. This book is split into two parts. The first is a semi-autobiography of Stephen King that helps you understand the life and journey of a writer and how that shapes their work. The second part consists of a nuts and bolts breakdown of the craft of writing. While Stephen King’s advice is geared towards aspiring novelists, the advice he gives on plot, character and story are also applicable to the art of screenwriting.
2. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King
This is the audiobook version of Stephen King’s memoir on writing read by the ol’ Stevie King himself. Before I start a new script or begin rewriting an old script, I often find myself listening to this audiobook for both inspiration and as a reminder of what and how I should be writing. I recommend both the printed and the audio versions of the book and find each to be useful in different ways.
3. On Directing Film by David Mamet
I realize that this is a book on directing, as the title so clearly states. It is an excellent book for directors. However, it is also a great book for aspiring screenwriters. Although best known for his dialogue and his plays, Pulitzer-prize winner David Mamet was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter before he became a director. This book, which was taken from a series of lectures that David Mamet gave while teaching a directing class at Columbia University, will help you learn how to break down a story visually. This is an important skill for any screenwriter.
4. Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach by Paul Gulino
This is the method taught by my alma mater, the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It offers a non-conventional approach to structure that can be useful but is not, by any means, the only way to approach screenwriting.
4. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Every writer should have proper grammer, spelling and punctuation; screenwriters included. This timeless guide will not only make your writing look more professional, but also help you to make your writing clearer and easier to read.
These are the only books that I have found useful for screenwriting.
Billy Wilder was the Austrian born writer/director behind such classic gems as Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. As a filmmaker, Wilder knew the importance of writing and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards for screenwriting. Continue reading “10 Screenwriting Tips From Billy Wilder”