What’s on my bookshelf

Screenwriters Bookshelf
My Screenwriting Bookshelf

I love books.  One of my absolute favorite things to do is to wander through our local independent store – Third Place Books – or even a chain like Barnes and Noble.  A latte in hand, meandering, soaking in all of the cover art and titles of hundreds of books.  The knowledge to be gained, the stories of wild imaginations and laughs waiting to be made. I also love the newstand section – layers and layers of glossy colorful magazines with that magazine smell, the gifts section with amazing journals and stationery. I also love libraries – especially University libraries.  I relished every research paper assignment in all levels of education.

Anyone close to me knows that I have a bit of an obsessive streak that runs through me.  Last fall when I decided to take on coaching basketball,  my first task was to order a few books online.  Then I ordered all sorts of coaching and practice aids.  I spent hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours reading and preparing – to coach 8- and 9-year-olds. I had coached before, but that was over ten years ago and the girls were more experienced and easy to manage, being in the sixth grade.  This is what I do; I throw myself completely into things and obsess over every detail.

So, naturally, within a week or two of deciding that I wanted to put the effort and energy into completing and editing the script I had been writing, I ordered a half-dozen books.  Then, as I read the forewords to those books, and received recommendations from people ‘in the biz,’ I added several more. 

In case you can’t quite make it out in the photo, the titles are:
Top to bottom:
Stuart Voytilla and Scott Petri – Writing the Comedy Film: Make ’em Laugh
Jeremy Robinson and Tom Mungovan – The Screenplay Workbook: The writing before the writing
David Trottier – The Screenwriter’s Bible
Finally, not pictured, as it’s in my purse for on-the-go-reading – Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!

Now, you might be asking “but did you really read all of those, cover to cover?”

I was surprised, in looking at the stack, that there are really only two books in the stack that I haven’t read – Anatomy of Story and The Writer’s Journey.  I’ve really only skimmed the workbook and ‘bible’, but the rest I have read completely.

The first (and often only) book I mention, when asked, is Story.  It is thorough, has just enough detail but good flow – you can cruise through it and also learn a lot.  Remember that I have never had a real creative writing course, so some of it described The Basics, but it covered those in a fun and engaging way.  I find myself going back to it, at times, when trying to get through a mental block.

My favorite book to pick up and thumb through, even though I’ve read it a couple of times, is the Cinematic Story Telling.  The large format and plethora of pictures open your eyes to so much about what visually makes us love films and recognize a great one when we see it.  So many “ah-ha!” moments when you connect what you learn with movies that you just love to watch.

There are numerous books on writing romance, but only one or two, that I have found, that add in the comedy piece.  The one mentioned here does a pretty good job explaining how two genres come together to work well.

I wouldn’t have normally picked up the too-good-to-be-true 21-days book, but it was one of those unlikely recommendations in the foreward of another book, so I picked it up and found that I appreciate it providing basic structure to a very creative effort.

Each of the “tips” type books also had various golden nuggets.  And golden nuggets are things you need to appreciate, reading multiple books, because there is a lot of repetition and overlap in the books, but sometimes an author will express something in a new way, or use a film example more effectively, and the light bulb goes on.

I’m currently really enjoying the direct and humorous Save the Cat! and will follow up once through it, as well as the other two books.

– April

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