There are probably more books about screenwriting than on any other form of storytelling. I don’t know why this is, but I do know that a lot of storytellers (writers, musicians, poets, visual artists) deal themselves short by ignoring this incredible resource. Yes, mediums are very different and have individual crafts. But a story is story, no matter how it’s told. There are a number of screenwriting books that break down story, characters, plot and setting into practical, understandable, useful pieces.
This is a list of screenwriting books for non-screenwriters. Some of them focus on Plot and Characters others may have a lot to say about how to show and not tell. All of them are at least worth a skim.
by Christopher Vogler
From Amazon: At the beginning of The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler asserts that “all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies.” Some may be hard-pressed to accept this idea (and will wonder how storytellers from Homer to Shakespeare to Robert Altman might respond to the proposition). Others may imagine that since Vogler uses movies like the Star Wars trilogy and The Lion King to defend his mythological philosophy, he is, unwittingly, listing the reasons why Hollywood films of the last 20 years have been so unimaginative. But there’s no doubt that Vogler’s notion, based on psychological writings by Carl Jung and the mythmaking philosophy of Joseph Campbell, has been profoundly influential. Many screenwriters have used Vogler’s volume to understand why certain scenarios sell, and to discover a blueprint for creating mythic stories of their own.
by Robert McKee
Simply the best overall book on how to create compelling stories. Story doesn’t just focus on one “fad” kind of storytelling and doesn’t claim X steps to the bestsellers list. Instead, it dissects stories and give practical, usable advise.
A book that will help you construct more complex, deeper stories that resonate and feel real. John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood”™s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby”™s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.
by Bruce Block
If we think of stories in visual terms, then we are able to get to the core of a story. That does not mean that all stories have to be visual, but they do all have to create emotional imagery This book will help you get to the point where you can paint a powerful picture to accomplish exactly what you want your scene to accomplish.
by Blake Snyder
A great book with lots of very specific tricks to creating compelling characters, keeping the story moving, building just the right world, and much more. This is part of an entire series that deserves a very close look.
Beyond these, there are a number of good books. One thing that all storytellers could learn from screenwriters is the economy of story. Nothing makes it into a film unless it enhances the story. Film has to act this way, but the rest of the storytelling universe would do well to adopt this philosophy, even if in more subtle ways.