The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
Screenwriting From the Heart
Screenwriting From the Heart
The Technique of the Character-Driven Screenplay
By James Ryan
Billboard Books, New York: 2000
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - Posted February 27, 2012
Writing to a formula has one big advantage - you know that someone has already tried it, it worked, and then the same formula was used again with equal success. Otherwise, it would not be considered a formula. The question, especially for novice writers is; Do you copy the formula and hope that this will help you get your foot in the door, or do you write something that is well-written, creative, and unique? While writing to a formula might, in some instances, give your career a boost it can also sabotage it. This is especially true when it comes to screenwriting, when so many films follow tried and true, but often tired formulas.
James Ryan addresses the question of formula writing, and so much more in his informative and engaging book, Screenwriting from the Heart: The Technique of the Character-Driven Screenplay. Ryan shows the benefits of writing non-formalistic scripts, and how by making your scripts character driven, rather than plot driven, will help you to create dynamic, professional scripts that will get you out of the slush pile faster than if you just follow common plot formulas.
The sub, subtitle of this book is An Indispensable Guide to Developing Dramatic and Passionate Screenplays Based on Compelling Characters. This subtitle ably sums up of the purpose and scope of this book! Ryan provides all the information that a novice screenwriter needs from why 'Acts' are used in a screenplay to defining exactly what a character-driven screenplay is. As important, Ryan also offers a step-by-step guide that will help you craft your screenplay from finding a story idea to pitching your movie.
Ryan has the credentials to back up the information that he presents in this book. Not only is he a professional screenwriter and director, but he is also an adjunct Professor of Playwriting at the New School University in New York and he regularly conducts screenwriting workshops. Much of the information contained in this book is drawn directly from his workshops. In addition, he has included several practical exercises that will help you incorporate the information provided into your own writing, and he also provides ample examples drawn from real screenplays.
Screenwriting from the Heart is an incredible resource for novice screenwriters, and even professional screenwriters will find useful tidbits within the pages of this book. Not only will this book help teach you the skills that you need to write a successful and character driven screenplay, but it will also help you release your creative essence by learning how to write from the heart. This is by far one of the best beginner's books on screenwriting that I've come across, and I highly recommend it for novice screenwriters writing for film, stage, and television.
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