Screenplays aren’t meant to be read, they’re meant to be seen. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t enjoy reading your scripts.
Some screenwriters are famous for their writing styles, like Quentin Tarantino and Shane Black, whose prose might break the fourth wall or read more like a novel than a screenplay. However, in these cases, the writers are also directors who understand the cohesive vision they’re trying to create.
What if you’re not trying to direct but still want to make your writing style stand out on the page? The prose in a screenplay should create a vibe and momentum that makes the reader race through the pages to see your complete vision. At the same time, you don’t want to write the internal emotions and poetic descriptions you might see in novels.
Read More: Is Your Prose Project Actually Prose?
It’s a careful balance, but the books listed below can help you strengthen your craft to create a well-drawn story that thrills potential reps and producers.
Have a great manuscript? Enter it into the Launch Pad Prose Writing Competition!
Writing Skills Lesson: Write with Active Voice Confidence
James E. Britton
Active voice is one of the most crucial tools that writers of all mediums must embrace. Screenwriting is a visual art form, and you have limited space on the page to get your story across to the reader.
Britton teaches writers how an active voice ensures that your reader knows who is driving the story and how they do it, giving you better odds of drawing them in.
Action!: Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques
Ian Thomas Healy
If you write action films or sequences, you’ll want to understand how to depict that choreography in a screenplay. This book uses screenwriting to show novelists how to write action, but there’s no reason you can’t use the lessons to improve your scripts.
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
Choosing the right word to convey everything you need is incredibly challenging, and it doesn’t help that modern language seems to reinvent words’ meanings constantly.
Pinker’s writing looks at modern prose examples to show you what works, what doesn’t work, and why, bringing a touch of humor to make what could be very dry reading actually really fun.
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
Don’t let the title fool you. This book is for any writer of any level. John Gardner is famous for teaching creative writing and as an author himself.
He goes deep into style, showing various works and techniques to help you develop your own unique voice.
Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting it Right
If you’re a writer who looks at Aaron Sorkin’s wordplay and marvels, this book will show you a new way to look at words and language to create your own fun in every element of your script.
In this book, Bryson highlights where so many writers go wrong with grammar and writing while showing you the tools to hone your craft.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Screenwriting isn’t a format that’s thought of as needing perfect punctuation, especially with dialogue. But much like your word choice, there’s a lot you can do with your punctuation choice.
Lynne Truss makes a loud and clear case for all writers to pay more attention to their use of punctuation.