Essential Reading for Screenwriters

Here’s my recommendations:

Poetics by Aristotle

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

Story by Robert McKee

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapeter by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook

The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television by Julian Friedmann and Christopher Walker

If you know of others that have really helped you, let us know by adding a comment.

6 responses to “Essential Reading for Screenwriters

  1. I’d put the Linda Aronson ‘The 21st Century Screenplay’ on there as well as Garant & Lennon’s ‘Writing Movies For Fun And Profit: How We Made A Billion Dollars At The Box Office And You Can, Too.’

  2. Excellent selection of books there.

    My only addition would be The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J.Michael Straczynski (

    Instead of telling you how to write a screenplay, Straczynski focuses on practical, business aspects of writing for animation, TV, film, theatre and radio, to show how new screenwriters can help themselves to be perceived as being professionals.

    This addition is from 1997, so it really needs an update. But some of the advice in it is still relevant.

  3. Reblogged this on Camden Script Analysis and commented:
    Script editor Hayley McKenzie isn’t kidding when she describes this list as “Essential Reading for Screenwriters”.
    Asides from reading as many screenplays as you can lay your hands on, you should become familiar with these works.

  4. Best for me are Anatomy of Story by John Truby, Inside Story: Transformational Character Arc by Dara Marks, and Now Write! Screenwriting: Writing Exercises by Top Writers and Teacher (full disclosure – I’m co-editor of this one with Sherry Ellis)

  5. James T. Surtees

    Excellent list, I would add:
    The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lagos Egri.
    (esp. The section on characters and their development).
    Making A Good Script Great by Linda Sagar, Phd.
    A great approach to rewriting.
    The Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Writing for Film and Television by Richard Walter, the former head of UCLA’s screenwriting program, full of practical advice and guidelines from from the real world of screenwriting.
    Read great screenplays and reread them until you know their structure and see why the writers made the choices they made.

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