Yes, Screenwriting Structure Matters (8 Books To Help)


I have noticed lately there has been a push against screenwriting structure within the community. Those who push against structure as non conformists boast about breaking the rules of convention and creating from the heart. They argue that structure is stifling and limits their art. They encourage other writers to shirk away from structure. That they don't need it and there are no rules. Are they right? Well, it depends.


Telling a new writer they don't need structure is irresponsible

Here's the thing. To tell a new writer that there are no rules and to just go ahead and write whatever they want ends up leading them astray. As an instructor I work with writers whom have never been formally taught screenwriting and read on some fb post or reddit thread that they could just write what's in them. Structure free. Encouraged they hit the keys. Do you know what they end up with?


A meandering script which spans the lengths of hundreds of pages. Yes, hundreds. This unfortunately mislead screenwriter is totally lost. Completely alone. No one will read the 200-300 plus page script they've written because it's gone so far off the rails. They can even become ostracized by a community as they can't find any help, which then leads them to become desperate, and easy pickings for the money grubbing predators out there. Do you see the cycle? All of this from a simple social media post.


I know what you're thinking. Well that's ridiculous that couldn't happen. I can assure you it's all too common and I find it heartbreaking to see someone lost like that by being mislead whether intentional or not.


Now if a screenwriter is seasoned. That's a different story. Perhaps they need to push beyond their comfort zone. Try to break free from what they are used too as far as structure is concerned in order to birth something truly original or even groundbreaking.


That writer is intimately familiar with structure so they already know the rules which can be broken. They are ready for it. So when someone asks if structure matters. The answer isn't a simple yes or no. It depends on where they are in their own personal screenwriting journey.


Below is a list of books that have helped me on my path over the years and I believe in them. You'll recognize a few classics but there are some newer one's as well which I recommend you check out.

-Geoffrey D. Calhoun (Best Selling Author of The Guide for Every Screenwriter #7)


1. The Writer's Journey

The Writer’s Journey details a twelve-stage, myth-inspired method that has galvanized Hollywood’s treatment of cinematic storytelling. Vogler’s comprehensive theory of story structure and character development has met with universal acclaim, and is detailed herein using examples from myths, fairy tales, and classic movies. This book has changed the face of screenwriting.

Amazon 4.8 ⭐'s

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2. The Nutshell Technique

Chamberlain takes readers step-by-step through thirty classic and contemporary movies, showing how such dissimilar screenplays as Casablanca, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo all have the same system working behind the scenes, and she teaches readers exactly how to apply these principles to their own screenwriting.

Amazon 4.7 ⭐'s

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3. The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.

Amazon 4.7 ⭐'s

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4. Screenwriting Unchained

This practical, no-nonsense book leaves behind one-size-fits-all story theories and offers a refreshingly modern approach to story structure, making it a precious resource for anyone involved creatively in the Film and TV industry (or aspiring to be): writers, directors, producers, development execs, showrunners and, more generally, storytellers eager to reach a wide audience at home and abroad without compromising their creative integrity.

Amazon 4.7 ⭐'s

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5. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are fundamental guidelines to help all screenwriters—novices and Oscar-winners—hone their craft and sell their work.

Amazon 4.7 ⭐'s

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6. Save The Cat!

Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including: The four elements of every winning logline The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script

Amazon 4.7 ⭐'s

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7. The Guide for Every Screenwriter

Screenwriting made simple. This book cuts past verbose exposition and gets straight to work, delivering sample-driven outlines and templates that anyone can follow. It is quick to apply to your work and serves as a side-by-side checklist for the writing process. This is the book for anyone looking to write a screenplay and for any professional needing a refresher.

Amazon 4.6 ⭐'s

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8. How to Write a Movie in 21 Days

The ultimate survival guide, How to Write a Movie in 21 Days takes the aspiring screenwriter the shortest distance from blank page to complete script. Viki King's Inner Movie Method is a specific step-by-step process designed to get the story in the writer's mind onto the page. This method guides the would-be screenwriter through the writing of a movie.

Amazon 4.6 ⭐'s

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