The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting by Syd Field


This is an excellent introduction to screenwriting as well as a reliable reference work that should be given space on screenwriters bookshelves: once into the craft it is easy to get bogged down and for basic principles and procedures to be forgotten. The easy style and layout of this book lends itself to being a quick reference work whenever needed.


The author generously shares his knowledge and experience in a manner that enables a compressive understanding of the subject. He considers the foundations of screenwriting, structure and strategies, and the nuts and bolts, including:

  • Story/Subject.
  • Character creation.
  • Setup.
  • Plot structure.
  • Plot points.
  • Sequence development.
  • Scene configuration.
  • Beginnings.
  • Endings.
  • Building the screenplay.
  • Holding the script together.
  • Format.
  • Collaboration.

Problem sheets are also incorporated into each section. These are designed to help the reader/screenwriter fully understand what can go wrong and how it may be corrected. An aim they achieve.

Throughout, a number of scripts, of well known films, are used as examples. Thankfully, due to the excellent style of writing and explanation, it is not necessary for the reader to have seen the films though, of course, it would be good if they have. Certainly the films should be bookmarked for viewing by those who have not seen them, and for reviewing by those that have.

Some will argue the formats and styles suggested in the book are now outdated and indeed some maybe: policies; fashions; likes and dislikes change over time nevertheless, the fundamentals included in this book remain valid and relevant.

In my opinion, this is a worthwhile guide and one I recommend. As said I think it really deserves a place on every screenwriter’s bookshelf.

The book is available from multiple retailers.