Books for Screenwriters

The world of screenwriting is crowded with books telling you how to write screenplays and treatments and pitches that sell. How can you tell the great from the adequate? Below is a small selection of some of my favourites – books I’ve found particularly helpful or inspiring…


Inside Story – Dara Marks   One of the best I’ve read on screenwriting, this book looks at the relationship between plot and character and the transformational arc. It looks at the deeper story built from theme and shows how to construct your screenplay from the inside out. Uses three films as illustrations: Lethal Weapon, Romancing the Stone, and Ordinary People.

The Soul of Screenwriting – Keith Cunningham   Another best, this book tackles the distance between how writers feel about their stories and how development and marketing people talk about scripts, as well as how we conceptualise our own work. An holistic approach covering creativity and structure. A book you can work through as you’re writing a script.

Writing Movies – Gotham Writers’ Workshop   Takes you through the process from concept, through scenes, dialogue and subtext, to rewriting and negotiating the business. Analyses five films as examples along the way: Die Hard, Thelma & Louise, Tootsie, Sideways, and The Shawshank Redemption.

Teach Yourself Screenwriting – Ray Frensham   A good overall reference book covering everything you need to know to put your screenplay together, from script formatting, developing ideas and character to industry, agents and pitching. Includes useful addresses and websites.

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler   Drawing on Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces, this book analyses how films use the basic archetypal journey to create powerful stories. More or less required reading if you want to be a screenwriter.

Story – Robert McKee   An inspiring read covering all the usual stuff. Fires your enthusiasm and drives you to your keyboard. One to revisit. Watch Adaptation for insight!

Story and Character – ed. Alistair Owen   A collection of interviews with British screenwriters giving a fascinating insight into the industry and the process of writing. Includes interviews with Lee Hall, Richard Curtis, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Beaufoy, amongst others.

The Writer’s Tale – Russell T Davies   Fascinating look into the process of writing Doctor Who series 4 told via emails between Davies and Benjamin Cook, featuring script extracts and lots of lovely pictures. Follow the development of each episode from script to shooting. Stephen Moffat (Doctor Who’s current showrunner) said of the book: “if you still want to be a writer after reading this, then you probably will be.”

More Books for Writers on my website here.