- Paperback: 426 pages
- Publisher: Silman-James Press; 4 Updated edition (August 20, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1879505843
- ISBN-13: 978-1879505841
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 10.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 114 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script, 4th Ed. Paperback – August 20, 2005
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Given the near-reverence in which this book is held, I bought a copy of the current edition. It's a near-perfect example of how a "how-to" book should be written. It's divided into sub-books, each of which covers a particular aspect of writing and selling a script completely and in depth. The organization is outstanding, and contrary to another reviewer (writing five years ago), you won't find yourself flipping from one page or section to another. What little overlap there is, is necessary, and not the fault of poor organization.
It's also extremely well-written. Trottier explains everything in a simple (but not simple-minded) fashion, without fuss, without constantly repeating himself, almost as if he were talking directly to you. (No surprise; he teaches courses in scriptwriting.) If you don't understand this book, the problem is with you.
However... you should be warned about David Trottier's biases, and what is /missing/ from the book. Though the book is a "guide to writing, formatting, and selling your script", Trottier's view is that there is no point in writing a script that won't sell. To put it a rudely... Trottier cares about the artistic quality or originality of your script only to the extent that they make the script marketable. If you're looking for advice on how to write the next "Amadeus", * you won't find it here.
Nor does Trottier spend much time discussing /why/ particular scripts are poor. This is perhaps significant, because the samples he provides from his own scripts, though well-illustrating the points he's making, are dreadful commercial hackwork. If there were ever an example of "those who can, do; those who can't, teach", Trottier is it.
He is, however, an excellent teacher. Read this book and learn.
* A high-quality film can be both a popular and critical success. "Amadeus" took in almost three times its production costs in the US alone.
For years, I thought I could learn enough by reading screenplays, watching movies and reading books like "Story," by Robert McKee. Those are all good steps towards understanding the craft, but at some point, any writer who considers him/herself a professional needs to know why they are making certain formatting decisions, how to write for subtext and how to structure scenes to build action/conflict. If you don't take the craft seriously, then who is going to take your creative output seriously?
Some of the material is really basic, but the textbook format allows you to skip around to find any subject you need help with. I went straight to the formatting section, because I'm not as well informed as I need to be on that front (thought I was, but I wasn't). You might decide to skip to the section on writing for subtext, etc.
What's great about this book is that Mr. Trotter gives examples of how to improve scenes in a screenplay without being too didactic. He might say something like, "There is no one correct way to revise [a] scene. I'm hoping your version is better than mine." He takes a stab at revising bad material, explains why he made his choices and then encourages you to have a go at it.
This book provides a great foundation, and I think it's a better way to learn the basic principles of good screenwriting than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on workshops or writing programs.