Here’s a list of books I’ve gone to for ideas on writing. I pick up one or more of them when I’m working on a script, if I think something inside the book will help me make the script better.
What I recommend (and recommend for myself) is to read these books as if you’re having a discussion with the author about writing or film-making or acting. They may know more about the subject in question, but it should still be a discussion. I suggest you don’t go to these book to learn rules that you must follow. My personal opinion is that doing so will ultimately limit you as a writer.
Having said that, I think there are some awesome things to learn, consider, or be reminded of in the books listed.
Let’s start with one that says it’s about film-making, but spends most of the book talking about story and scripts — which is in fact film-making.
On Film-Making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander Mackendrick.
This is one of my favorites. Mackendrick directed for many years, and then taught for twenty-five years at CalArts. Among the films he directed are: The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, and Sweet Smell of Success, the last of which was shot by the great cinematographer, James Wong Howe. So, Mackendrick knows a little something about film-making. This book is basically the result of his teachings over those twenty-five years.
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway.
First, I’ve included a link to the book on Amazon, but whoa — $104! There’s a strong argument, no writer should ever pay that for a book on writing. I have the 2nd edition, and I don’t know what they’ve done to improve on that edition, because that edition is awesome. She is very good at writing about story — conflict, want, character …
My copy is filled with underlined text, and re-underlined text — that’s been highlighted. Find it used. Maybe the previous owner will save you some underlining.
More books to come …
Photograph: Egret Under Manhattan Beach Pier