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Old February 14th, 2003, 04:01 AM   #1
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Two must-read recommendations for storytellers

As requested by Chris, here are details of two books which I hope you will find as indispensable as I have..

"Story" by Robert McKee. A practical guide (some would call it a Bible) on how to structure your screenplay. As the title suggests, McKee is all about good story, well-told - you can have all the clever effects technology can create, but unless your story is "true" the film will suffer. I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

"The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler. This touches on the same themes as "Story" but with a different angle - it examines how themes of classical strorytelling can be found in just about every film you ever saw (apart from the French ones about moles being chased by apartment blocks and the like.)

Neither of these books are about formula, dogma, or sure-fire ways of coming up with a Hollywood blockbuster etc. They are about how there's something in a good story which connects with us on some fundamental level. Both writers are passionate about film of every kind, and I commend both of them to you.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Cheers

Damian
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Old February 14th, 2003, 04:03 AM   #2
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Old February 14th, 2003, 04:19 AM   #3
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I'm wondering if these books might help me, or not. I already
own the Screenwriters Bible so I know all there is to know about
formatting, story structure, acts, technically writing, characters
etc. etc.

What I need is a book that will give me some views or ideas on
how to progress from an idea (or couple of ideas, or couple of
scenes/shots you have) to a fully fledged story. I understand that
for such a thing there is not blueprint ofcourse. Someone else
cannot tell you how your story should progress.

What I mean, which is hard to describe in words, is a book with
experiences on how other people got from point A to point F.
What helped them think up the other subplots and basically fill
in the huge gaps that are inbetween your couple of ideas.

I'm really interested in this. Currently I'm taking my own path and
I am wondering whether this is going to yield succes on some of
my larger ideas. Some ideas, hints, pointers etc. would be welcomed
here. And perhaps anyone knows of a book that might tell a bit
more about this difficult and very personal subject.

Thanks!
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Old February 14th, 2003, 04:46 AM   #4
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Rob, I do have a couple of recommendations for you - I would get hold of "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri - written in 1946 but still available, I think this will give you some of the help you're looking for.

There's also another book which I almost hesitate to recommend, as I've always been sceptical of books which claim to show you 'exactly' how to do something, but this one's a very useful way of getting you to structure your efforts - "How to Write a Movie in 21 Days" (see what I mean? Awful title!) by Viki King.

I do believe, though, that as useful as all these books are, ultimately it's up to us as individuals to sit down and struggle with an idea until we come up with something from inside ourselves (not that I've ever managed it!.) Don't you agree?

Good luck and happy reading!

Cheers

Damian
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Old February 14th, 2003, 05:08 AM   #5
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Thank you for the pointers. I assume the earlier books from this
thread are of no use then to me for that particular area?

I agree with you that most of the work must be done by yourself.
Think it more of a guidance or light up a possible path kind of thing
I'm after. I have like 10 solid ideas lying around from small shorts
to full movies and am trying to get a structure in place to work
them out etc.

Thanks again!
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Old February 14th, 2003, 05:11 AM   #6
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No Rob, I'd definitely get the first two books. If it came down to it, I'd recommend "Story" above all else. It'll inspire you, I promise.
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Old February 14th, 2003, 05:27 AM   #7
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Heya,

I actually did a mini honors thesis on "The writers journey" and i tell you one thing, it damn straight has a formula, it has been a few years but if i remmember correctly it was a step process of events that should happen in a story.

Many movies follow it exactly, starwars is prob the best example.

Usually an orphaned boy wishing for a better place, feels trapped, an undeniable event happens (turning point) forces a massive shift in his life and he must move on, which is when he adopts an older wise mentor.

I think you can see where this is going?

His entire rational is mostly based on martial chivalry. The main hero never has sex, never falls in love, has no ties, no family, his past is mysterious and almost never shows emotion. He always outsmarts everyone in the end. And so on and so on.

It is a very interesting read, but he does sum up the entire book into a chart of exactly what he feels a story should be structured. And you can almost just photocopy that page and not read the book.

Anyways,

Zac
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Old February 14th, 2003, 06:02 AM   #8
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Hi Zac

Vogler acknowledges this critique of his work, and is at pains to point out that his theories, themselves based on the work of the mythologist Joseph Campbell, should not be seen as some sort of foolproof formula to be applied in all circumstances:

"Taking this metaphorical system too literally, or arbitrarily imposing its forms on every story can be stultifying..... It should not draw attention to itself..... it should be used as a form, not a formula, a reference point and a source of inspiration, not a dictatorial mandate."

He doesn't, as you claim, recommend it as a step process of events that SHOULD happen in a story. But the theories he develops do indeed stand up to examination if you hold them up against very many films, of which Star Wars is just one example.

Regards

Damian
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Old February 14th, 2003, 06:23 AM   #9
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Rob,

Some other book recommendations for screenwriting:

Writing Screenplays that Sell - Michael Hague

Making a Good Script Great - Linda Seeger

As I mentioned in a different forum here, wordplayer.com is an excellent site. Read the columns.

You should also read screenplays. Drew's script-o-rama has a lot of them available on the web (script-o-rama.com, I think).

A couple of things to remember about writing:

"The first draft of anything is s***." Ernest Hemingway

"There are three rules to writing and nobody knows what they are." Somerset Maugham
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Old February 14th, 2003, 07:15 AM   #10
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A someone who has had some limited success in screenwriting. (Two options (six figures), some awards), I can pass on my recomendations regarding the books mentioned. I own all of them. If I had to reccomend two, it would be "The Writers Journey" and "How to write a movie in 21 days."

By the way, when I stop writing for longer than three minutes, my screen saver scrolls across the following message.

"Don't get it right.... Get it written..."

Bill
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Old February 14th, 2003, 07:35 AM   #11
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As of right now, so does mine. Thanks Bill.
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Old February 14th, 2003, 07:56 AM   #12
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books that i've read, and i know a few others (at least) here have read them:

Power Screenwriting by michael chase walker; takes you through and explains different settings for stories, story structures. it starts off on the basics, nothing really about format/"technical" aspects.

The Screenwriter's Bible by david trottier; loads of clear-cut examples of how to do things, starting points. also leaves enough out so you can expand on your own.

Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect by claudia hunter johnson; i really like this book. it breaks down key story elements to get your story moving and connect to the audience. even if you never intend on writing a short screenplay, this book is a must read.
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Old February 14th, 2003, 09:05 AM   #13
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PostScript...

For books about the screenwriting career... but not particularly about screenwriting per se..

"Adventiures in Screenwriting"
and the follow up
"Which Lie Did I tell" by William Goldman.

These books are a must read for anyone who wants to know how crazy, hard and dissapointing it can be to get something made, even if you are Bill Goldman. A cold splash of reality, and a rousing good read.

Bill
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Old February 16th, 2003, 10:53 AM   #14
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Thanks for the response and tips!
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Old February 19th, 2003, 04:02 PM   #15
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One of the best books I've read for "practical" screenwriting is Syd Field's "The Screenwriter's Problem Solver". It is one of my top 3 books as an amateur. (The Screenwriter's problem solver, The Little Digital Video Book, In the Blink of an eye)

It's a really great book for solving writer's block. Don't expect any hard headed advice - it's very touch feely and philosophical in it's approach but that's why I find it very useful when I'm too locked into a scene or piece of dialogue. It's good for stepping back from your text and getting a handle on defining problems so you an come up with avenues to take from there.

Syd Field is a big believer in the 3 ACT movie structure/outline so being familiar with that is important to get the most out of the book.

Syd Field has also written several other books which I've read, but this is the only one I keep handy next to my amateur video work desk/NLE.

I'd recommend buying this one. As for his other books, personally I found just taking a few afternoons to go sit in Barnes and Noble was enough :-)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...stomer-reviews
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