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Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters Paperback – September 1, 2006


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Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters + The Art of Plotting: Add Emotion, Suspense, and Depth to your Screenplay + Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Quill Driver Books (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 188495653X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884956539
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #725,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I love it, have worn it out, and will buy anything else he does.
Jodi Henley
Peter Dunne's Emotional Structure is an amazing insight into how to tell a story in screenplay form.
Emily Wallin
This is a great book for the beginner or the advanced screenwriter and applies to any genre.
D. Mendez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By D. Mendez on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've read numerous books on screenwriting and this one is at the top of my must-have list. This book gives you the tools to analyze scripts/movies/your own writing from a point of view that is rarely taught or understood. It takes you beyond 3-Act structure and gives you the tools to write not just a clever plot, but a great STORY - one that moves the reader and makes the reader care.

Learning the principles in this book has been an awakening for me as a writer. I feel I have gained the insight I needed to tell the stories I want to tell in a way that connects with and moves my reader on an emotional level. If you are writing lots of cool stuff that "happens" but it doesn't feel like it holds together as a script, this book will teach you how to bring together the plot and the story into a cohesive script and hopefully a cohesive movie.

This is a great book for the beginner or the advanced screenwriter and applies to any genre. A great reference to have on your desk while you're writing. Highly recommend!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Old Pro on April 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You have to dig for it, but there's gold in these pages. In between, there's a lot of cute stuff about the author -- pure unedited egoic writing. Who cares how grateful he is to the inventor of Index Cards?? A serious writer really wants to know How he uses them, Why, What benefits he finds in the process. That info is in the book but it's necessary to scan past the author's love affair with himself.

On the other hand, he does write for film and not for general readers -- maybe no one told him to be more attentive to the reader and less attentive to himself?

If you are a seriously creative writer of fiction or film, buy the book and X-out the paragraphs that are empty of the content you seek.

You will find a lovely concept of emotional flow for you story telling -- great stuff that no one else has addressed in the many "how to write" books that I have read.

He makes good distinctions between Plot [what happens] and Story [the emotional impact on the characters as well as the film viewer or fiction reader].

And he details the emotional path your character must travel.

Dunn is only focused on film scripts but I bought the book as an aid to working on novels.

Get the book and go mining for the good stuff -- take a deep breath and pass over the gunk.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By writerly on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Peter Dunne's practical and experience based book on screenwriting gives very specific analyses of a variety of well-written films to demonstrate his principles of emotional structure. The films include the unanimously critical and audience acclaimed Lost in Translation, (a low 4 M budget, 40M box office), Witness and Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. Whether you are writing low or high budget you can relate. The book fleshes out methods of developing emotional underpinnings for each character in a way that propels the plot, instead of plot driving character. Drawing on his years of teaching, writing, producing, and working with writers it is obvious he knows how long it takes to really absorb this kind of material and not just `understand it' intellectually, and wisely uses thorough explanations of techniques. He follows the development of an original screenplay, beginning with three short sentences then through each step of the writing process to a finished screenplay, with notes in the margin discussing the logic of character/story choices. Most books on screenwriting present structural concepts and discussion of the three acts, as does this one, however the uniqueness of this book is its' use of rich metaphors and exploration of characters emotional dynamics that create a much richer context from which to write. There is in depth exploration of the distinction between story and plot showing clearly how these two work in parallel in well-written scripts and how understanding their complementary nature can help you design scenes and sequences that grab and hold your audience. The book is a very powerful writing companion, no matter what genre or budget you are writing.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Harrison Demchick on August 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
In the past few years, I've read quite a few books on the art of screenwriting, some very effective, some very not. Peter Dunne's Emotional Structure is the first I've ever been inclined to write a review of, as it's one I fear could cause some serious damage in the wrong hands.

Dunne approaches his subject with an incredible amount of arrogance. That is, in short, his experience is the universal experience. What he believes is what all screenplays should be about. What works for him is the only way to write a screenplay.

His take on the three-act structure is especially absurd. In his approach, every film must be a buddy picture in which the end result is the restoration of faith. Every film must have a happy ending. "If the point of your script is not some human's recovery," Dunne writes, "then go write poems." Because God forbid you should try to branch out to other topics.

I'm a strong believer in the three-act structure. Adapting your concepts to the skeletal structure of the screenplay, and making it work in a beautiful, organic way, is a major factor in what makes the art of the screenplay so fascinating. But Dunne's version of the same is so tedious and mechanical--you must start use notecards, you must have a co-protagonist, you must make grand statements--that any result from this book will be purely mechanical, not emotional.

And Dunne proves it himself. I've read a lot of these books, but only Dunne has the balls and the arrogance to use his own screenplay, in full, as his primary example. But his screenplay is flat-out terrible--unintentionally hilarious at times.
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