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on June 19, 2005
This is an easy to read introduction to screen writing by someone who has successfully written scripts and has taught at UCLA Film School.

The author, Cynthia Whitcomb, provides a detailed, step-by-step method to turn your story ideas into a screenplay. The book quickly gives you an overview of the process that she teaches in classes and seminars and then spends a chapter on each topic she considers important to developing your script.

For example, in Chapter 1, the author has you running your story idea against a 16 point checklist to make sure it is a likely to be accepted and produced.

In Chapter 2, she's giving you hints on how to do your research. Her thoughts on "lunch interviews" were very interesting. In Chapter 3, she reviews the 3 act structure weaving in examples from the movie Erin Brockvitch. Then in Chapter 4, she has you filling out 3x5 cards for the scenes in your story.

Although the use of 3x5 scene cards is not new, she proposes some unique ways to develop and go through the cards as you develop your story. After that, in Chapter 5 she provides very clear material involving sub-plots, and how to integrate those with your 3x5 cards.

Chapter 6 was quite interesting to me and covered the topic of characterization and how to analyze and develop the character's transformation. From this point forward, the book continues on to other important topics - one chapter for each. Some are: the ticking clock, keeping scenes tight, set-ups in order to prepare your audience for logical and big emotion events (pay-offs).

She provides many references and a great list of videos to watch at home if you are going to analzye the various aspects of screen writing.

The book is aimed at the introduction through the intermediate level. The author works hard to present an orderly process for you to follow in screen writing.

John Dunbar

Sugar Land, TX
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on December 18, 2007
Top of the line. Easy to read and pleasant-toned in layman's terms. Organized and simple. Demonstrates the usefulness of 3x5 index cards for story-plotting. Tells you how to make good characters, scenes, dialogue, plot, etc. by demonstrating good and bad examples in movies that we are very familiar with. Simplifies the Three Act Movie formula by telling you how many minutes in the movie you should be starting your act and the significance of each act.

Additionally, the book demonstrates correct formatting for a screenplay, explains screenwriting terminology, explains the "& vs and" in writing credits. Explains certain dos and dont's with your script when presenting to a agent/producer. Whitcomb also tells how she started off as a preacher's daughter who was not allowed to watch TV and ended up becoming a successful screenwriter. She's a prime example of starting from square zero and proves you don't need to know someone in hollywood in order to make it big.

For all beginners--read this book first!
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on February 11, 2016
I was looking for a more or less procedural guide to scripting a screenplay. What I found is that the processes Cynthia provides can easily be followed to fashion more or less a novel that is very visual. I guess what I was looking for was explaining skills of timing dialogue, blend visuals, build action/tension, etc, but it still remains in the realm of written visual before I can begin to apply this guidance to creating a screenplay. From what I've read through, it is a good basic way to organize your writing so that your finished work can be considered for a possible screen play. I will use "Writing Your Screenplay" to guide me in developing story lines in future writing attempts. Strongly recommended to answer the question of whether or not what you've written is good enough to be a screenplay.
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on September 15, 2005
I recently purchased Cynthia's book and am about two-thirds done reading it. What an informative and helpful book. Cynthia does a fantastic job of presenting the methodologies she has incorporated in her successful career, and balancing them with very practical, real-world examples. (ie. Equally balanced protagonist/antagonist like in the movie "Face-Off")

As a rookie in the screenwriting world, I have found page after page of helpful hints and can already see a ton of ways I can improve a script I had previously written.

For purchasers of this book living in the NW, Cynthia also teaches a screenwriting class through Portland State University [...] I begin these classes in just over a week and can hardly wait to tap into this wonderful resource.

If my plan continues and you see me winning an award for Best Original Screenplay in the next few years, just know that after God and my wife/family the next person on my list to thank will definitely be Cynthia Whitcomb!!

Enjoy the book and good luck with your screenwriting!
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on July 25, 2012
A little biased on movies referenced but still one of the best books on the subject. She really breaks down the process into manageable tasks. I tend to get overwhelmed as I look at the entire process instead of treating the process as several blocks that stacked individually create a structure I can be proud of. I read this book when I need to be reminded of that.
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on March 14, 2007
I've read other screenplay books, watched videos and this book is the best! Not just telling you what to do but with real world suggestions. She rewrites movie endings for you so you can see how a good movie could have been a great movie. She shows you mediocre dialogue and rewrites it so it's great movie dialogue.

It's a great book for novelists too. Creating crisp believable dialogue, creating conflicted characters, pacing. It's all here.

She is direct and like a great movie, gets to the real issues fast.
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on October 20, 2015
I'm fortunate to take Cynthia's screenwriting class to apply some of the techniques to writing my young adult sf/f novels. The book is basically her class, including anecdotes from an industry insider. From the basics to the minor details that will prevent you from looking like an amateur -- it's in this book.
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on November 12, 2007
This was both informative and useful. Cynthia's use of examples are few, but powerful and relevant. I have read both this book and Michael Chase Walker's Power Screenwriting: The 12 Stages of Story Development, and if you have to choose one, buy this one.

I'd like to say more, but I'd be repeating myself. Highly recommended.
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on October 24, 2012
Easy to read bringing together a step by step process of taking a story idea to script. Whitcomb generously shares her extenstive experience without pretense encouraging the reader to get his or her story from idea to written piece. References to recent well known movie scripts provide ready examples for the novice writer to apply the ideas discussed.
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on July 3, 2006
Whenever I am about to buy a 'how to write' book, I first look at the bio to see what the writer has actually done. Just about every 'how-to' is written by a 'haven't-done-much.' Cynthia Whitcomb's professional experience is far and away the most.

Not to say other books don't have sound advice, but I sensed a depth here that was lacking elsewhere. I attribute that to her experience.

BTW, I'm a published prose writer, and I recommend this book for prose writers, since a lot of what she says translates over to the written page. It wouldn't hurt novelists to structure plots and develop scenes with as much craft and skill as screenwriters do.
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