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Screenwriting Books

Updated: September 27, 2012

A collection of books designed to help you write that blockbuster screenplay.

McLeish, Kenneth, 1940-1997.
Call Number: 888 A739Mac
An ancient Greek philosopher writes about his favorite plays and how they work - and it's still relevant today. Smart screenwriters read this one every year. It's short and the McLeish translation is quite readable.

Egri, Lajos, 1913-1956.
Call Number: 809.2 E32 2004
A playwriting manual that many screenwriters swear by. It's filled with examples from Shakespeare, Ibsen and other hacks of that ilk. He establishes a great vocabulary for discussing dramatic literature.

Campbell, Joseph, 1904-1987.
Call Number: 291 C188 2008
Every development executive in town claims to have read this one (they haven't). It's a dense anthropological study of the need for and the practice of storytelling. It is more than worth the effort for the wisdom it imparts. What do Indian creation myths have to do with blockbuster cinema? Ask Spielberg and Lucas. The character of Indiana Jones was based on the author of this book.

Snyder, Blake, 1957-2009.
Call Number: 809.28 S675
Have your hero do something sympathetic (such as saving a cat) at the beginning of the film, and the audience will follow him the rest of the way is the eponymous bit of advice in this one. Snyder was a working screenwriter, and his fresh-from-the-trenches advice distinguishes this one from the crowd. A snappy compendium of screenwriting wisdom.

Field, Syd.
Call Number: 809.28 F456 2005
The book that started it all. Three act structure, the importance of the first ten pages, character arc, and more. If you're just starting out or need a refresher in the fundamentals of the craft, this is the touchstone.

McKee, Robert, 1941-
Call Number: 809.28 M154
People pay hundreds of dollars to have the author shove this down their throats in the course of a weekend seminar. You can get the same information in handy book form. A commonsense approach with a lot of valuable insight on structure and storytelling.