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Reading books about screenwriting? YES/NO?


#1

I’m afraid that when I read books about screenwriting/writing stories in general and such, my head will be filled with so many rules that it interferes with the creative flow.

Didn’t somebody say once that art is created in a “no-rules”-zone?



Thoughts?


#2

Screenwriting books show you the fundementals of screenwriting, they’re not rules, they’re principles that shows you what works and what dosen’t work. If you want to write screenplays you should definitely consider reading Syd Field books. Trust me you will see movies from a complete different perspective. He shows you that structure can liberate a story and much more…



www.sydfield.com


#3

Syd Field, ain’t that the guy that tells screenwriters “The first major plot point has to be exactly 20 minutes into the movie” and so on?


#4

Reading those books are a trap. The best way to learn the mechanics of screenwriting is to read all the screenplays you can for films you’ve already seen. If you borrow the form from a screenwriting book, you’ll get stuck writing within a formula. Quentin, for instance, proudly testifies not having read any screenwriting books.



There’s only one book that I consider the best. HOW NOT TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY, by Denny Martin Flinn.


#5

I thought Lew Hunters screenwriting 434 had a lot of good tips. If Richard Donner recommends it how can it be bad! I just take what I want out of books. Just because they all preach the 3 act formula, doesn’t mean you need to follow it.


#6

This is a tough question to give a simple YES or NO answer to. In fact, I think it is impossible to make it such a black and white situation.

For some, the books may work…for others, not at all.



A lot depends on what you want to do. Do you want to be a screenwriter or an auteur?



If you want to strictly be a screenwriter (i.e. writing with hopes of selling your scripts to a studio, or producer, or director), then the books are going to be of some help to you as far as getting you on track with the so-called “proper format” that the “industry” requires.



Personally speaking, I feel that beyond helping the reader get some good ideas on screenplay structure, or format, I don’t know that books really help all that much.

Keep in mind that when I am talking about structure and format I am not talking about story content or structure. All that point by point, 3 act formula stuff is just bullshit. I am talking about the page structure and format.



Also if you are wanting to strictly be a screenwriter, reading screenplays for films you are familiar with can be helpful, as well (like someone already said above). But, be careful…because most published screenplays (i.e., those in book form) for films you are familiar with are generally just transcriptions of the films the way they appear on screen (complete with camera movement descriptions, etc.) and that is NOT the way the studios want submitted scripts to be written. They don’t want any camera directions, and the like. Those decisions are up to the director. When possible, try to track down copies of the original scripts and not those that are officially published in book form.



Now, if you are wanting to be an auteur…entirely writing and directing your own stuff… NO RULES apply! Do whatever you want, however you want. Just follow what you feel.





That’s my take, anyway…


#7

Thanks for your thoughts, folks! :slight_smile:



By your definition Chris, I’m definately an auteur. I never think about “how can I sell this to anybody” or “what target group is this for”, etc. I write what feels best to me and the way I like it the best. I’m really writing for myself. I do hope though sobody else than me is going to like it. :stuck_out_tongue:



"I just take what I want out of books"

I like that idea…


#8

[quote=“HostOfThreads”]
I just take what I want out of books. Just because they all preach the 3 act formula, doesn’t mean you need to follow it.
[/quote]

And that is as it should be!

Like Bruce Lee used to say: “absorb what is useful and discard the rest”!

Great philosophy, in my book.


#9

I don’t know much about screenwriting, but most screenwriting tips seems to be more concerned with “how to sell a script” than “how to write a script”. Two very different things. Stuff like this gives me headaches.



“Aim toward a Happy Ending.

It’s the norm.”



Is that a joke? The Godfather films all have downbeat endings, and they are some of the biggest films of all time (the first one was even the most successful movie at it’s release). And Se7en wouldn’t have been Se7en without its downbeat ending.


#10

I can’t say I’ve ever heard someone say that writing a happy ending is

gonna help sell a script. The truth is if the big wigs like the script but

hate the ending they’ll either have you rewrite it or they’ll hire someone

else to rewrite it.


#11

Yeah, that was the deal with Se7en. The studio heads didn’t like it, but (luckily) Brad Pitt’s contract stated that he wouldn’t do the film without the original ending.


#12

Lew Hunter’s 434 is the best, with that new one by his former students almost just as good. I hate everything I write, but 434 makes me believe I can do it. He takes you through an original script he isn’t too attached to. Don’t know any other teacher in Barnes and Noble that does that. You can see everything applied, in one way or another. My 2 cents.


#13

thanks for the topic Krazy Kenneth


#14

I own 6 screenwriting books, and I can say that I’ve learned things from all of them. Still haven’t learned how to hold interest in a particular project for more than a couple of weeks though.



I need to be on medication.



My list of uncompleted scripts greatly outnumbers my list of completed shit. And the only reason the ones that I consider complete are done, is because I forced myself to finish it, and it turned out shite.



Gawd, it’s really a shame. I would give up writing all-together if I didn’t love it.


#15

[quote=“Geoi”]
I would give up writing all-together if I didn’t love it.[/quote]

What kind of stuff do you write, Geoi?


#16

[quote=“FoxForceFive”]
What kind of stuff do you write, Geoi?
[/quote]

Everything I write is fairly logical. Like, there’s a reason for everything, and everything happens for a reason. I don’t stick to any particular genre. I would describe my work as that ridiculous sort of shite that will never get sold.



Yeah, I’m not one of those dillusional types that is gonna get my hopes up. :wink:


#17

[quote=“Geoi”]
Everything I write is fairly logical. Like, there’s a reason for everything, and everything happens for a reason. I don’t stick to any particular genre. I would describe my work as that ridiculous sort of shite that will never get sold.

Yeah, I’m not one of those dillusional types that is gonna get my hopes up. :wink:
[/quote]

The fact that you enjoy it is the most important thing. Sometimes I write pretty serious stuff and then other times I just feel the need to write the most random ridiculous stuff! You never know, if you keep practicing at it you might come up with something great :slight_smile:


#18

[quote=“FoxForceFive”]
The fact that you enjoy it is the most important thing. Sometimes I write pretty serious stuff and then other times I just feel the need to write the most random ridiculous stuff! You never know, if you keep practicing at it you might come up with something great :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Ah, cheers! I’ll have to buy you a pint when I come to the UK next year.