The most recommended screenwriting books

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to screenwriting, and here are their favorite screenwriting books.
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Book cover of TV Writing On Demand: Creating Great Content in the Digital Era

Emmanuel Oberg Author Of Writing a Successful TV Series: How to Pitch and Develop Projects for Television and Online Streaming

From my list on developing TV series (and the art of running a TV show).

Who am I?

I’m a professional screenwriter with a passion for story structure. I’ve worked on film & TV projects for more than 25 years – not only as a writer for independent producers and studios such as Warner and Universal – but also as a development exec and creative consultant. Over time, I was shocked to see how many talented storytellers felt stuck between prescriptive paradigms and a “seat-of-the-pants” approach. So I set out to fill that void and defined a more flexible yet powerful method in my first book, Screenwriting Unchained, which I’ve now enthusiastically applied to TV series. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Emmanuel's book list on developing TV series (and the art of running a TV show)

Emmanuel Oberg Why did Emmanuel love this book?

This fantastic book is full of useful tips on the craft, contains many interviews and is thoroughly documented.

It’s especially relevant for streaming. I love to discuss theory, but one of the best ways to learn is from practitioners. That’s why I’m a big fan of interviews. Not only do they give you a chance to learn from the masters, but they’re also inspiring. I always go back to my own writing with more energy when I’ve listened to someone talk passionately about their work.

Neil Landau’s book is a great resource, and it was very hard to decide between this one and The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap, another excellent work of his featuring interviews.

By Neil Landau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked TV Writing On Demand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

TV Writing On Demand: Creating Great Content in the Digital Era takes a deep dive into writing for today's audiences, against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving TV ecosystem. Amazon, Hulu and Netflix were just the beginning. The proliferation of everything digital has led to an ever-expanding array of the most authentic and engaging programming that we've ever seen. No longer is there a distinction between broadcast, cable and streaming. It's all content. Regardless of what new platforms and channels will emerge in the coming years, for creators and writers, the future of entertainment has never looked brighter.

This book…


Book cover of Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

David Baboulene Author Of The Primary Colours of Story

From my list on how stories work and how to write your story.

Who am I?

I was lucky enough not only to get published in my thirties, I also got a film deal for those first two books. I was flown to Hollywood and it was all very grand. However, what they did to my stories in translating them into film scripts horrified me. And ruined them. And the films never got made. I started to look deeper into what ‘experts’ did, and it was awful. I became obsessed with how stories work, developed my own ‘knowledge gap’ theory, proved it through my Ph.D. research, and became a story consultant in the industry. Story theory has completely taken over my life and I love it!

David's book list on how stories work and how to write your story

David Baboulene Why did David love this book?

This was the first story theory book I read and it was hugely influential on me, because it is probably the definitive work in terms of a formulaic, structural approach to story.

This book gave me a depth of knowledge of the traditional approach to story theory, but also a clear understanding of how people in the film industry are going about their work today. It is all wrong, in my opinion, but it is also the truth of what is going on.

It is wrong because a story does not begin with structure. A story begins in the mind, and a structure arrives later once the story is present. This book set me on my journey to find an alternative to structure.

By Robert McKee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Structure is Character. Characters are what they do. Story events impact the characters and the characters impact events. Actions and reactions create revelation and insight, opening the door to a meaningful emotional experience for the audience. Story is what elevates a film, a novel, a play, or teleplay, transforming a good work into a great one. Movie-making in particular is a collaborative endeavour - requiring great skill and talent by the entire cast, crew and creative team - but the screenwriter is the only original artist on a film. Everyone else - the actors, directors, cameramen, production designers, editors, special…


Book cover of Calico

Chris Goff Author Of Dark Waters

From Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Traveler Reader Birdwatcher World War II buff Rogue Woman Writer

Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Chris Goff Why did Chris love this book?

As a writer, you come up with a lot of ideas, and some of them don’t fit the mold.

The message is usually not to mix genres. But in his new book, Calico, Lee Goldberg melds a police procedural with an old-fashioned western, and created an explosive time-travel thriller everyone’s going to want to read. 

Any Goldberg novel entertains, but this one will blow your mind.

By Lee Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Calico as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

Larry A. Brown Author Of How Films Tell Stories: The Narratology of Cinema

From my list on the art of filmmaking.

Who am I?

One reason I became a professor of humanities, teaching subjects like film, theater, and literature, was to share my enthusiasm for the great works of imagination which have inspired people for centuries. Stories shape our lives and pass on our most important values and beliefs to future generations. In my academic career, I have directed plays and have written two novels, but teaching film has been my major passion for the last several years. 

Larry's book list on the art of filmmaking

Larry A. Brown Why did Larry love this book?

This popular text on screenwriting relates films to narrative ideas found in ancient myths around the world.

Vogler does an excellent job in demonstrating how films often use elements of plot and character that have proven to be universal characteristics of stories for centuries. He applies these concepts not only to fantasy films but standard Hollywood dramas such as Titanic

By Christopher Vogler,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Writer's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally an influential memo Vogler wrote for Walt Disney Animation executives regarding The Lion King, The Writer’s Journey details a twelve-stage, myth-inspired method that has galvanized Hollywood’s treatment of cinematic storytelling. A format that once seldom deviated beyond a traditional three-act blueprint, 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 worldwide over the last 25 years, and continues to do so.


Book cover of Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays

Julian Friedmann Author Of Creative Strategies

From my list on for elevating your screenwriting career.

Who am I?

Julian Friedmann is co-owner of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency and was the publisher of ScriptWriter magazine. At the agency, he has represented both book and scriptwriters for over 40 years and also acts as Executive Producer for and with clients. Julian is a TEDx speaker and is the author of the Make Money Screenwriting series, co-author of The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television, and editor of two volumes on Writing Long-Running Television series. He has taught at universities and film schools all over the world. He designed the MA in Television Scriptwriting at De Montfort University, and PILOTS (for developing long-running television series) for the EU MEDIA Programme. 

Julian's book list on for elevating your screenwriting career

Julian Friedmann Why did Julian love this book?

Lucy is a screenwriter and script consultant and has created a whole eco-system around supporting writers, with frequent blogs, courses, newsletters, and consistently good advice. It is almost like having a writing partner.

By Lucy V. Hay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It may be drama features that win the most awards and kudos from critics, but in the current marketplace you're unlikely to sell a drama screenplay in the way you would a genre script.

Breaking down the nuts and bolts of what differentiates drama from genre, Writing and Selling Drama Screenplays will consider questions such as:

What is 'emotional truth'? What separates stereotypical and authentic characters? What are the different types of drama feature screenplay? How do we make these films, when there's 'no money'? What are the distribution opportunities for dramas?

Exploring the ways in which drama and authenticity…


Book cover of My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Ten Ways to Toughen Up Your Screenplay from Opening Hook to Knockout Punch

Marshall Dotson Author Of Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret

From my list on story structure.

Who am I?

I’ve been a student of story structure for decades. As a novelist, this initially started as a means to learn as much as I could from those with more experience than myself, but quickly grew into a passion. I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on and eventually began analyzing the plots of novels and movies for myself, amalgamating what I had learned with my own theories and insights which coalesced into a wholly new structural paradigm. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented screenwriters and novelists to help them shape their stories using Six Act Structure. 

Marshall's book list on story structure

Marshall Dotson Why did Marshall love this book?

Schechter divides the traditional 3-act structure into four parts; Act 1, Act 2A, Act 2B, and Act 3. While that’s not revolutionary in itself, he uses this four-part breakdown to structure multiple story elements like theme and motivation. My favorite element is his breakdown of the character’s story evolution into four archetypes: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, and Martyr. Seeing how these archetypes can be metaphorical such as Jason Bourne being “orphaned” from his previous life at the beginning of The Bourne Identity, or literal, such as Rose martyring herself by returning to the sinking Titanic to rescue Jack, is worth the price of admission alone.

By Jeffrey Alan Schechter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Story Can Beat Up Your Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My Story Can Beat Up Your Story! is the same powerful, easy-to-learn system that industry insiders have used to generate millions of dollars in script sales and ?assignments. In a clear, step-by-step fashion, this book is a fun, eye-opening, ?brain-expanding, and often irreverent guide to writing stories that sell. Covering everything from Heroes to Villains, from Theme to Plot Points, from cooking up good ideas to a business plan for smart writers, this book forever eliminates that horrible feeling every writer goes through — staring at the blank page and wondering “what comes next?”


Book cover of Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

Martin Edwards Author Of Sepulchre Street

From Martin's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Crime writer Reader Fan

Martin's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Martin Edwards Why did Martin love this book?

I love mystery novels and crime films and Perplexing Plots explores the tricks and techniques that writers use to conjure up fantastic plot twists.

The author is an academic but I found this book easy to read as well as informative, entertaining, and astonishingly insightful. I’ve read a lot of books and articles about the crime genre, but I enjoyed this more than any other. Best of all, it left me with a great list of future reading.

By David Bordwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Perplexing Plots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Narrative innovation is typically seen as the domain of the avant-garde. However, techniques such as nonlinear timelines, multiple points of view, and unreliable narration have long been part of American popular culture. How did forms and styles once regarded as "difficult" become familiar to audiences?

In Perplexing Plots, David Bordwell reveals how crime fiction, plays, and films made unconventional narrative mainstream. He shows that since the nineteenth century, detective stories and suspense thrillers have allowed ambitious storytellers to experiment with narrative. Tales of crime and mystery became a training ground where audiences learned to appreciate artifice. These genres demand a…


Book cover of Stealing Hollywood

Marshall Dotson Author Of Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret

From my list on story structure.

Who am I?

I’ve been a student of story structure for decades. As a novelist, this initially started as a means to learn as much as I could from those with more experience than myself, but quickly grew into a passion. I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on and eventually began analyzing the plots of novels and movies for myself, amalgamating what I had learned with my own theories and insights which coalesced into a wholly new structural paradigm. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented screenwriters and novelists to help them shape their stories using Six Act Structure. 

Marshall's book list on story structure

Marshall Dotson Why did Marshall love this book?

I read Alexandra’s book years ago and she’s since released several revised editions. This book provides an insightful history of the 3-act and eight sequence structures she uses, and offers invaluable insight into overcoming the pitfalls of the dreaded “second-act sag”. But perhaps the most important lesson her book instilled in me is the importance of taking the time to analyze the structure of your own favorite movies and novels to understand why they resonate with you. She calls this your Master List and it’s a tool that every writer should have in their toolbox to improve their craft. 

By Alexandra Sokoloff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stealing Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you finally committed to writing that novel or screenplay, but have no idea how to get started? Or are you a published author, but know you need some plotting help to move your books and career up to that next level? You CAN write better books and scripts—by learning from the movies. Screenwriting is based on a simple (and powerful) structure that you already know from watching so many movies and television shows in your lifetime. And it's a structure that your reader or audience unconsciously expects, and is crucial for you to deliver. In this textbook of the…


Book cover of The Science of Writing Characters: Using Psychology to Create Compelling Fictional Characters

Julian Friedmann Author Of Creative Strategies

From my list on for elevating your screenwriting career.

Who am I?

Julian Friedmann is co-owner of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency and was the publisher of ScriptWriter magazine. At the agency, he has represented both book and scriptwriters for over 40 years and also acts as Executive Producer for and with clients. Julian is a TEDx speaker and is the author of the Make Money Screenwriting series, co-author of The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television, and editor of two volumes on Writing Long-Running Television series. He has taught at universities and film schools all over the world. He designed the MA in Television Scriptwriting at De Montfort University, and PILOTS (for developing long-running television series) for the EU MEDIA Programme. 

Julian's book list on for elevating your screenwriting career

Julian Friedmann Why did Julian love this book?

A wonderful book that looks at the psychological bases for the development of sophisticated characters in screenplays. Don’t be afraid of writing complex characters: they are more effective in engaging the audience and this book will help you achieve that.

By Kira-Anne Pelican,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Science of Writing Characters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Science of Writing Characters is a comprehensive handbook to help writers create compelling and psychologically-credible characters that come to life on the page. Drawing on the latest psychological theory and research, ranging from personality theory to evolutionary science, the book equips screenwriters and novelists with all the techniques they need to build complex, dimensional characters from the bottom up. Writers learn how to create rounded characters using the 'Big Five' dimensions of personality and then are shown how these personality traits shape action, relationships and dialogue.

Throughout The Science of Writing Characters, psychological theories and research are translated into…


Book cover of Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen

William Noble Author Of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

From my list on writing provocative, dramatic dialogue.

Who am I?

Words have been part of my life since I was ten years old when my father suggested I read a page from the dictionary each school night. “Words have lives and histories,” he said, ”make them your friends.” In my teens, I saw individual words setting the tone for how someone felt, and I promised myself one day I'd write a book about words and how they were a window to one's inner self. Little did I realize that when I wrote that book, it would morph into one about dialogue writing and achieve international kudos. The book offers this simple truth: make sure each line of dialogue moves your story forward...

William's book list on writing provocative, dramatic dialogue

William Noble Why did William love this book?

This author is a renowned Master Teacher of storytelling art whose students have won numerous writing awards across the media spectrum. He covers dialogue writing for live theater, film, and television and offers suggestions on building effective dialogue writing skills, no matter the media, even showing how a dialogue line might change depending upon the writing category. He provides easy-to-follow examples of both good and bad dialogue writing in the various media categories.

By Robert McKee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dialogue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The long-awaited follow-up to the perennially bestselling writers' guide Story, from the most sought-after expert in the art of storytelling.
Robert McKee's popular writing workshops have earned him an international reputation. The list of alumni with Oscars runs off the page. The cornerstone of his program is his singular book, Story, which has defined how we talk about the art of story creation.

Now, in Dialogue, McKee offers the same in-depth analysis for how characters speak on the screen, on the stage, and on the page in believable and engaging ways. From Macbeth to Breaking Bad, McKee deconstructs key scenes…