Part 22 of an intermittent series where I read or re-read the writing books on my shelf to see if they’re worth keeping. See previous part here
I’ve moved on to Nuts & Bolts of Scriptwriting.
First up was the venerable Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. I’m not sure about this book. It has really good info and is a great primer for writing plays (and other dramatic writing – but mainly plays) BUT the writing makes my brain squirm. I’m not sure why but I just don’t get on with it. On balance I’m going to ditch it (I’m probably never going to write a play anyway, I have it because playwriting can teach you a lot about dialogue and how to reveal character through dialogue).
These two books from Jeffrey Sweet are a playwright’s guide to writing plays. Again, lots of great info but the writing style puts me off. Sweet is so full of himself and assumes that you know Shakespeare and other classics as well as contemporary (to him, not so much to now) plays in depth. I think that’s fair if you want to be a playwright you should read and watch a lot of plays. But as an interested observer I felt as though I was missing stuff. Great description of how dialogue/character exchanges are generally an act of negotiation and some nice tips on stagecraft but not so much use to a novelist (imho). The two books are basically one on theory and one that’s more a workshop in book form.
Another pair of books – one theory, the other a workshop in book form are the classic books on screenplay by Syd Field. These two books together will teach you how to write a script. They’re a little dated and Field loves Chinatown and uses it more than any other film to illustrate his points, so if you’ve not seen it (and are not prepared to fork out the money for the script which seems a) out of print and b) quite expensive) you may feel you’re missing some of the effects of the examples. (He does quote extensively from the beginning of Towne’s script though.)
I feel these are the basic building blocks of a scriptwriting library and are a very good explanation of the 3 act paradigm. The workbook talks you through a 16 week schedule for writing a script. Useful if you want to follow a set process.
I have a couple more screenwriting books and The Complete book of Scriptwriting by Straczynski to read next.
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