4 Books Every Screenwriter Should Read - Charla Lauriston. Watch this educative video.

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Aspiring screenwriters often find themselves grappling with the intricacies of storytelling, struggling to structure their narratives effectively. In this article, we'll delve into the insights shared by Charla Lauriston, a seasoned screenwriter and owner of The Working Writer/Comedian, as she discusses four must-read books for every screenwriter. These books serve as invaluable guides for those seeking to hone their craft and navigate the challenges of storytelling.

Unlocking the Essence of Story: John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story"

    • For screenwriters grappling with structure, Charla recommends John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story."
    • New writers often overlook the innate nature of storytelling, and Truby's book breaks down the organic structure of stories.
    • Charla emphasizes that understanding the patterns and organic flow of stories is crucial for effective storytelling.
    • Truby's work is hailed for revealing the organic and innate aspects of storytelling embedded in the human experience.

Amidst the myriad books on screenwriting, Truby's work stands out as a beacon, offering profound insights into the essence of storytelling. New writers often grapple with the intricacies of structure, and "The Anatomy of Story" serves as a guiding light, breaking down the organic nature of narratives with precision and clarity.

Charla, with her wealth of experience, highlights the tendency of new writers to overlook the innate patterns that govern storytelling. Truby's book, however, becomes a compass, directing writers to understand the fundamental structures that underpin effective storytelling. It goes beyond conventional formulas, delving into the organic flow of stories, providing screenwriters with a comprehensive toolkit to craft narratives that resonate deeply with audiences.

At the core of Charla's recommendation is the emphasis on comprehending the organic and innate aspects of storytelling, intricately woven into the fabric of the human experience. Truby's insights transcend mere technique; they unravel the secrets of storytelling embedded in our collective consciousness.

"The Anatomy of Story" is celebrated for its ability to unveil the profound connection between narrative and the human psyche. Truby's work becomes a mentor for screenwriters, guiding them to tap into the timeless patterns that evoke emotion, engagement, and resonance.

For those aspiring to be better screenwriters in every conceivable way, John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story" is not merely a book; it is a transformative journey into the heart of storytelling. Charla's recommendation echoes the sentiment that understanding the intrinsic elements of storytelling is not just beneficial but indispensable for any screenwriter aiming to leave an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape.

Crafting Natural Dialogue: "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri

    • Charla identifies dialogue as a challenge for many writers and suggests "The Art of Dramatic Writing" to overcome this hurdle.
    • This book emphasizes starting with well-defined characters and delves into the importance of character struggle.
    • Dialogue, character, and story are interconnected, and Egri's insights help writers seamlessly integrate these elements.
    • Charla sees Egri's book as the next level after understanding the foundational elements of storytelling.

Becoming a Writer: Stephen King's "On Writing"

    • Charla praises Stephen King's "On Writing" for its memoir-like approach, providing a glimpse into King's writing process.
    • King's emphasis on descriptive writing resonates with Charla, especially for screenwriters who must convey visuals through words.
    • The book underscores the importance of being observant and descriptive, vital skills for effective screenwriting.
    • "On Writing" is portrayed as a valuable resource for understanding the intricacies of a writer's mind.

Charla's praise for "On Writing" is rooted in its unique combination of autobiographical elements and instructive insights. King seamlessly weaves personal anecdotes with valuable lessons, creating a narrative that is not only informative but also deeply engaging. The book becomes a mentor, inviting readers into the inner sanctum of one of the most successful writers of our time.

For screenwriters navigating the intricate path of storytelling, King's emphasis on descriptive writing strikes a resonant chord with Charla. In the cinematic realm, where every scene is a visual tableau, the ability to convey vivid imagery through words is a skill of paramount importance. "On Writing" becomes a beacon for screenwriters, guiding them to master the art of descriptive writing and breathe life into their narratives.

The book serves as a reminder of the fundamental skills that transcend genres — the importance of being observant and descriptive. These qualities, Charla emphasizes, are not mere embellishments but the lifeblood of effective screenwriting. In a world where every detail contributes to the richness of a story, King's insights become a valuable resource for honing these vital skills.

Charla's recommendation of "On Writing" extends beyond the mechanics of screenwriting; it delves into the very psyche of a writer. The book unfolds the layers of King's creative process, demystifying the enigmatic realm of a writer's mind. It becomes a source of inspiration, assuring aspiring screenwriters that the journey toward mastery is both personal and universally shared.

"On Writing" is not just a book; it is an exploration of the craft, a guide for those embarking on the journey of becoming writers. Charla's endorsement underscores the transformative power of King's words, making this memoir-cum-guide an invaluable companion for anyone seeking to enhance their skills and become better in every way as a writer.

Cracking the Nutshell: Jill Chamberlain's "The Nutshell Technique"

    • Charla recommends "The Nutshell Technique" by Jill Chamberlain for its insights into story structure.
    • The book focuses on patterns in storytelling, offering a technique for writing scripts or novels effectively.
    • Chamberlain's approach helps writers understand the underlying patterns that exist across various forms of storytelling.
    • Charla highlights the importance of structure and dispels concerns about formulaic approaches, emphasizing its role in delivering impactful stories.

"The Nutshell Technique" is more than a guide; it's a key to unlocking the secrets of effective storytelling. Charla applauds Chamberlain's focus on patterns, recognizing that understanding the underlying structures is pivotal for any writer striving for excellence. The book unveils a technique that transcends the boundaries between scripts and novels, offering a universal approach to crafting narratives that captivate and resonate.

Chamberlain's method doesn't just scratch the surface; it delves deep into the essence of storytelling. Charla emphasizes the importance of structure, debunking concerns about formulaic approaches. Instead, she champions the idea that a well-defined structure is the backbone of impactful stories. In the intricate dance of words, scenes, and characters, "The Nutshell Technique" becomes a compass, guiding writers through the labyrinth of creativity while ensuring their narratives remain compelling and resonant.

For Charla, the real strength of Chamberlain's approach lies in its universality. It doesn't confine itself to a particular genre or medium but rather lays bare the fundamental patterns that weave through all forms of storytelling. Whether you're crafting a screenplay or penning a novel, "The Nutshell Technique" becomes an indispensable tool, offering writers the clarity needed to navigate the complexities of their craft.

In essence, Charla's endorsement of "The Nutshell Technique" goes beyond a mere recommendation; it is an acknowledgment of the transformative power embedded in Chamberlain's insights. It is an invitation for writers to crack open the nutshell of storytelling intricacies and, in doing so, enhance their abilities in every way imaginable. This book isn't just a guide; it's a masterclass in the art and science of storytelling, and Charla's recommendation solidifies its place among the 20 best books for screenwriting.

Addressing Controversies:

  • Charla acknowledges the frustrations writers may face when dealing with structured approaches to storytelling.
  • She suggests viewing structure not as a restrictive cage but as a tool that helps buoy and deliver the story effectively.
  • Drawing from her own experience, Charla encourages writers to learn the structure and then transcend it, allowing for a more natural and creative expression of their stories.
  • The article emphasizes that structure is not a hindrance but a necessary foundation for achieving storytelling excellence.

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Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Do I need to read all these books to become a successful screenwriter?

Reading all these books can certainly provide you with a solid foundation in screenwriting, but it's not mandatory. Many successful screenwriters have found their unique path to success. Start with one or two books that resonate with you and go from there.

Which book is the best for beginners?

"Save the Cat!" by Blake Snyder is an excellent choice for beginners. It breaks down screenwriting concepts in a straightforward manner and is highly accessible.

Are there any free resources for learning screenwriting?

Yes, there are free resources available online, including blogs, forums, and YouTube channels dedicated to screenwriting. However, books often provide a structured and comprehensive approach to learning that can be invaluable.

Can screenwriting books replace practical experience?

While books are a valuable resource, practical experience is equally important. Apply what you learn from books by writing scripts, seeking feedback, and engaging with the industry.

Is it essential to read books on screenwriting if I'm already studying film or screenwriting in college?

Studying screenwriting in college is a fantastic opportunity, but reading screenwriting books can still enhance your knowledge and provide different perspectives on the craft.


Embarking on a journey as a screenwriter requires a deep understanding of the craft, and these four recommended books serve as indispensable companions. By delving into the wisdom shared by seasoned writers like John Truby, Lajos Egri, Stephen King, and Jill Chamberlain, aspiring screenwriters can equip themselves with the tools needed to navigate the complex world of storytelling. Embracing the balance between structure and creativity, these books pave the way for writers to craft compelling narratives that resonate with audiences.