Free eBooks on Screenwriting and Writing Screenplays

Free eBooks on Screenwriting

In my quest to hone my screenwriting skills and learn how to become a better screenwriter, I've encountered several useful eBooks. Many of these eBooks are written by professional screenwriters or creative story writers whose purpose is to distill their own tips and advice to succeed at screenwriting.

Some of these eBooks are short (up to 30 pages) and focus on one or a few specific topics related to screenwriting, such as: 1) formatting a new screenplay, 2) writing a treatment to sell your screenplay, 3) writing action blocks and character descriptions, 4) creating life-like characters, 5) developing plots and sub-plots, and 6) what film producers want from screenwriters.

You can—as I have—read one eBook a day. Just set 30 minutes aside. By the end of the week, you will have a better knowledge of writing a screenplay and understanding what makes a story so great. Each eBook is in .pdf—simply click on the link and you can read the eBook on your computer, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook, or any mobile device.

eBook #1: A Crash Course in Screenwriting

A Crash Course in Screenwriting
This is a free 100-plus page eBook on teaching the techniques of successful screenwriting read it here ]. Main chapters include:

1) What a screenwriter does and does not do; how to create a strong story for the big screen; and understanding log-lines to help sell your script or finance the movie.

2) Understanding Drama, Comedy and Tragedy to create an engaging plot and story.

3) Choosing a genre such as horror, thriller, love stories, mythical, biographical, etc.

4) How to create fascinating and engaging characters. You will learn how to create a main character who moves your story forward, as well as how to describe your characters.

5) How to develop a story using the 3-Act Structure developed by master storytellers Syd Field, Michael Hauge, and Robert McKee.

The author makes it clear that when you are writing a screenplay, you are not writing a short story or a novel; rather you are writing individual scenes that connect coherently to produce a story for the big screen. You will learn: 1) Scene Headings, 2) Action Blocks, 3) Character Names, 4) Writing Dialogue, and 5) using Parentheticals (directions on how the actor should speak the lines). The author provides concrete examples on story structure, screenplay formatting, and writing scenes.

eBook #2: The 25 Habits of Highly Successful Writers

The 25 Habits of Highly Successful Writers
This 25-chapter eBook offers advice, tips and inspiration on both writing and work ethics from professional writers and screenwriters read it here ]. The publisher presents each writer's anecdotes in a logical sequence to mirror the linear progression of achieving success as a writer.

The eBook includes:

1) Believing You Are Talented
2) Writing Through Your Fears
3) Evoking Emotional Responses from Readers
4) Setting Writing Goals
5) Creating Believable Characters, and
6) Write About What You Love
7) Face The Blank Page
8) Write Through Your Fears
9) Record Your Ideas As Soon As They Appear
10) Write Terrible First Drafts
11) Find Time To Recharge
12) Realize The Importance Of Characters
13) Evoke An Emotional Response
14) Overcome Writer's Block
15) Don't Be Paranoid About Your Ideas Being Stolen
16) Learn From Other Writers
17) and many more topics

eBook #3: How to Write a Documentary Script

How to Write a Documentary Script
This 50-plus page eBook will teach you how to write a successful script for a documentary film read it here ]. Although the author will teach you the similarities and differences between writing a movie screenplay and writing a documentary, you will mostly learn writing, research and story structure techniques found only in creating documentaries.

Documentaries, as you will learn, are naturally tied to their topic. Since their objective is so topic-specific and their events are non-fictional, the topic is the uppermost expression of documentaries. There are no standard story structures for documentary films. Every topic and event unfolds on film in its own unique way.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Writing a screenplay is much different than writing for print: film is visual, shows action, transcends time and space, and evokes different emotional reactions from the audience.

2) Every movie, particularly a documentary, has a relevance value attached to it. This might be cultural, bureaucratic, historical, metaphysical, imaginative or some other attribute. The amount of research that you do is closely connected to the relevance of the film.

3) Theoretically, we can classify a scene as a formalistic unit of film communication, but what it incorporates is more vital—action. Scenes consist of A-C-T-I-O-N. Action must occur in a scene for the audience to see and react to it. It's insufficient just to have occasional action on screen. The visuals, the action, and the events must all carry meaning.

4) The beginning of a story must establish the events that will gradually unfold before the viewers' eyes. An engaging beginning should set the mood and vibe for the film, as well as solicit surprises along the way. In a documentary, the story must introduce the topic of the film and the subject (the principal person or persons) to the viewers.

5) The advancement of sequences typically increases momentum. Viewers expect a story to imitate life, to have action, pulse, and pace. A sequence carried on for too long in a scene begins to feel superfluous.

eBook #4: The Missing Ingredient

The Missing Ingredient
This eBook is written exclusively to help screenwriters write a compelling screenplay that producers and agents would want to read read it here ]. The author teaches you: 1) the importance of developing a promising log-line to sell your screenplay, 2) knowing what producers want and don't want, and 3) how to make sure you are delivering the best screenplay.

The premise of this eBook is summed up with what the author says on page 21: "99% of screenplays fail to meet producers' basic needs. The producer's basic need is to find a great screenplay that exceeds a compelling promise." You will learn how to deliver a "compelling promise" to producers.

eBook #5: How to Write a Screenplay

This eBook teaches high school students how to write their first screenplays read it here ]. The author reveals how to: 1) write an interesting story, 2) create intriguing story plots, 3) build memorable characters, and 4) write engaging dialogue. Students also learn the basics of formatting a screenplay and the importance of the rewriting process. The author provides examples of dramatic story structure using the 3-Acts of Storytelling.

How to Write a Screenplay
Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Stories include three Acts, commonly referred to as the 3-Act Structure. Act I captures our interests by introducing the main characters and the plot. Act II unravels the conflict and obstacles. Act III carries the viewers to the climax.

2) Every compelling story, including sci-fi and comedy, has to do with life. The best stories show us an element about the human condition. To write an interesting story, add a human touch.

3) The best method to create a story is knowing what your characters want and the obstacles they will face.

4) A screenplay is made up of individual scenes. A scene is a successive section of expressive action that happens in one setting. Whenever time or location changes in your story, you need to create a new scene for it.

5) The slugline always follows the description of the scene. A slugline is one line which reveals the setting, time of day, and the location of the characters.

eBook #6: A Guide to Feature Film Writing

A Guide to Feature Film Writing
This 95-page eBook shows you how to write your screenplay from initial idea to a final draft read it here ]. The author gleans the best screenwriting theories, tips and advice from seasoned screenwriters and summarizes them in topic-specific chapters. You will learn about Blake Snyder's "Story Beat Sheet," Robert McKee's Screenplay Structure, "The Hero's Journey," and Polti's "36 Dramatic Situations."

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) A screenplay treatment, running 20-40 pages, is basically a short story. It is a fleshed out rendition of the Outline, except that it includes more character detail and different dramatic events.

2) The four stages of a writer's creative process are: 1) Preparation, 2) Incubation, 3) Illumination, and 4) Verification.

3) Near 350 B.C., Greek philosopher Aristotle set forth theories of dramatic structure which many seasoned screenwriters still use today.

4) A screenplay typically has five different types of conflict; they include:
PERSONAL - skepticism or insecurity;
RELATIONAL - romantic, personal, friendly;
SOCIETAL - character's social surroundings;
SITUATIONAL - the physical atmosphere; and
COSMIC - versus God, Satan or other deity.

5) Anthropologist Joseph Campbell analyzed thousands of world beliefs and refined them to one narrative diagram called "the monomyth" or "The Hero's Journey."

eBook #7: How to Be a Hollywood Script Writer

How to Be a Hollywood Script Writer
This eBook is one aspiring screenwriter's point-of-view on how to succeed read it here ]. The author offers his own insights and viewpoints on what a beginning screenwriter needs to know to write a screenplay.

Chapters include:

1) The Write Tools: advice on screenwriting programs to handle formatting.
2) Correct Formatting: a sample screenplay format. It shows you the various elements that make up a typical screenplay.
3) Bad Films Can Be Good: learning what to omit from your screenplay by studying poorly-written movies.
4) Write What You Know: advice on generating story ideas to write a compelling script.
5) Reading Other Scripts: reading free sample movie scripts online to learn about story structure and formatting.
6) Story: writing a story in three acts, within a specific page length.
7) Characters: creating memorable characters that move the story forward.
8) An Over Excess of Boring Words: how to use exciting words to make a screenplay more interesting to read.
9) The First Draft: what to do next once you have finished your first draft.

eBook #8: Joe's Guide to a Professional Looking Screenplay

Joe's Guide to a Professional Looking Screenplay
This eBook teaches you about the major elements that make up a spec screenplay and how to format each one, such as Scene Headers, Character Names, Dialogue, and Parentheticals read it here ]. You will also learn how and when to use page break footers, such as "(CONTINUED)," and "(MORE)", as well as how to include Music, Voice Overs, and Character Point of Views as part of a scene.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Single space between Character Name and Dialogue or Parenthetical. Double line space between Action Blocks and Dialogue. Double line space between Sluglines belonging to the same scene. Triple line space between Master Scene Headings.

2) A screenplay is between 90 and 120 pages in length, typed on 8.5" X 11" paper with a 3-hole punch in the left margin for binding with two brad fasteners.

3) A title page consists of the Title, your byline, and contact information. Center the Title horizontally and vertically on the page and uppercase it.

4) Start a screenplay with FADE IN: flushed against the left margin. End your screenplay with FADE OUT: flushed against the right margin.

5) Keep Action Blocks and Descriptions under four lines. Producers dislike perusing through bulky paragraphs.

eBook #9: The Secret Skill of the Truly Professional Screenwriter

The Secret Skill of the Truly Professional Screenwriter
This is a short eBook about fine-tuning your skills to work more quickly and effectively at writing a screenplay read it here ]. A screenwriter must harness many skills to write a screenplay that producers will love. A few of these skills include:

1) Create a powerful premise that lures the interest of an audience;
2) Create lifelike characters with genuine traits and mannerisms;
3) Establish themes, and properly rouse them;
4) Devise engaging dialogue that advances the story and characters;
5) Extend, pick and combine ideal subplots with the main plot.

eBook #10: Screenwriting for Dummies

This eBook shows you how to become a successful screenwriter, whether you decide to write a movie script or adapt a novel read it here ]. The authors provide their own expert advice to help you plan and plot your story and construct lifelike characters. More importantly, the authors show you how to write a treatment for your screenplay and how to pitch your script and sell it to a Hollywood producer or film agent.

Screenwriting for Dummies
Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Fiction constitutes about 80 percent of what folks read nowadays, but fiction writing shares only a few similarities with screenwriting. Although both styles encourage an expression of detail and a preference to introduce multiple characters and settings, fiction writers must write more elaborately to tell a story, whereas screenwriters can convey the same scene with a few images.

2) Many of the best movies are recycled and retold because screenwriters approach them with their own unique viewpoints. Reading the works of seasoned screenwriters can teach you how to write about similar (proven) stories from a different perspective.

3) Studio executives hunger for the same thing—a screenwriter with universal appeal. Are you that writer whose story will appeal to the masses?

4) Plots and subplots use secondary characters to add depth and dimension to a story. Movies without subplots tend to make a story stale and predictable. Secondary characters introduce new experiences, contrasting beliefs, and different viewpoints from the main characters.

5) In a typical 5-page screenplay treatment, the first page is allotted to Act I; Pages 2 through 4 cover Act II; and Page 5 summarizes Act III. A movie's Act II is twice as long as Act I or Act III and needs more exposition.

eBook #11: Screenplay Format Guide

Screenplay Format Guide
This eBook will show how to correctly format a spec screenplay read it here ]. The author gives you the specific measurements for margins, indentations, screenplay elements, and page numbering. You will also learn how to write proper Scene Headings (sluglines), Action Blocks, Dialogue, and Transitions. The author provides examples of each screenplay element so you can see how to do it yourself.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Number Scene Headings in shooting scripts, not in spec scripts.

2) A proper Scene Heading includes either "DAY" or "NIGHT" as a reference to time of day.

3) In an Action Block, type the character's name in uppercase when you first introduce the character. After that, type the character's name in Sentence Case.

4) If a character is not present on the screen but viewers can hear his/her voice, then affix (O.S.) or (V.O.) as part of the character cue. O.S. stands for "off-screen." V.O. stands for "voice over."

5) Only use all uppercase in an Action Block: 1) when ushering in a new character, 2) to mark camera instructions, and 3) to underscore sound effects.

eBook #12: After the First Draft

After the First Draft
This eBook teaches you 30 essential writing and re-writing tips to improve upon the first draft of your screenplay read it here ]. Although focused more on story writing, the author helps you: 1) improve your characters and story settings, 2) add emotion to scenes, and 3) build a better plot.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Canadian-American novelist David Morrell prefers to write compressed chapters, so that a reader can finish one chapter without interruption. This increases the reader's attention span because the story has a comfortable pace to it.

2) If you're composing a present-day or a contemporary history narrative, use suitable character names for that time period.

3) Make your story's environment embody the story plot to add greater depth. This might involve placing your story in a specific time period, a geographic area, a foreign landscape, a specific day of year, an awkward social activity, and so on.

4) Great stories consist of characters who are engaged with each other in arguments and conflict.

5) The beginning of your story should establish the ending. If you introduce a problem at the beginning, the ending should resolve it.

eBook #13: Character Arcs

Character Arcs
Running just 16 pages, this eBook helps you hone one of the most important elements in writing a story: character arcs read it here ]. All seasoned screenwriters build character arcs before they begin writing their screenplays. A character arc is the position of the character as it unravels over the course of the story. Characters start a story with a specific viewpoint, and the events transpiring in the story gradually or suddenly change the character's viewpoint. The author shows you how to create your own character arcs.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Always know what motivates your main character because motivation is the reason why your story progresses. Determine your character's occupation, interests, fears, and passions.

2) Character-based fiction usually focuses on the main character's inner change. External action usually brings forth this inner change. As the character experiences obstacles and triumphs, he or she changes internally, thus making for a more interesting story.

3) You can manage character arcs in scenes in two ways: use a scene structure to produce the change, or use it in a sequel.

4) A character arc is essential in character-based fiction because readers want to know your character's desires, emotions, thoughts and experiences.

5) A character arc will help you create lifelike characters with whom people can connect on a personal and emotional level.

 eBook #14: FADE IN: From Idea to Final Draft

FADE IN: From Idea to Final Draft
This eBook provides a remarkable in-depth exploration of the writing process that screenwriter Michael Piller used to write the screenplay for Star Trek Insurrection from start to finish read it here ]. Besides the writing process, the eBook includes internal memos, correspondences between film executives, script pitches, story rewrites, and on so.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Michael Piller was the primary writer from beginning to end on the screenplay. Many movies and Indie films are written by several writers, most of whom do not receive credit. Freelance writers and "for hire" screenwriters are recruited like members of a tag-team wrestling team. A story writer is followed by an action writer, then followed by a character writer, then followed by a dialogue writer, and then followed by other writers, and so on.

2) Michael Piller recommended reading Tim Gallwey's The Inner Game of Tennis. It has nothing to do with screenwriting. Instead the book covers how to improve your tennis game. Michael used the principals in this book to help screenwriters working for him improve the quality their creative work.

3) Michael recommended writing seven days a week on a project, but limit the amount you write to about six pages per day. The comfortable pacing helps screenwriters relieve mental pressure and avoid writer's block.

4) Michael approached each act as a one-act in itself, ensuring it has a strong starting point, a middle and an end. Every line of dialogue needs to perform some function, even the casual "yes" or "no" replies. The way in which a character says "yes" or "no" can reveal much about the inner sanctuary of that character.

5) In writing dialogue you never want a character to say exactly what he/she is feeling. Instead you want your characters to communicate their feelings via action, no matter how slight.

eBook #15: From Script to Screen

From Script to Screen
This eBook read it here ] acquaints the aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker to many of the legal issues and challenges in the film and entertainment industry, such as understanding: 1) copyright laws and public domain works, 2) option, music and distribution agreements, 3) copyright clearance procedures, 4) court litigation, and 5) rights transfers and transactions. The authors provide extensive analysis of the conventions and requirements that the film industry observes on a national and international scope. The eBook provides sample agreements and contracts, as well as case studies on various laws on licensing, distribution, and copyright.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) A movie is a compilation of copyrights. It consists of the screenplay (perhaps adapted from a novel), music, sound effects, talent, directing, as well as set designers, fashion designers, and a technical crew.

2) The distribution channel is classified on three levels: 1) large movie production companies with national releases and million-dollar budgets; 2) major Indie films with local or international releases and limited budgets; and 3) misc. outlets such as local releases, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV series, streaming video, etc.

3) You can use without a license anything that occurs in public or is reported in the news. However, you must be sure you do not defame a person or public figure because it could trigger a lawsuit.

4) If transferring or assigning a copyright, you and the party must have the agreement in writing because it involves compensation in some way.

5) To use music in a movie, you must purchase two rights: 1) "synchronization rights" and "master use rights."

eBook #16: The Coverage, Ink Spec Format & Style Guide

Spec Format & Style Guide
This eBook is a comprehensive style guide that aspiring and professional can use to learn how to format a screenplay, obey specific writing rules, and create engaging scenes with dialogue and action read it here ]. The author teaches you about common screenplay terminology, writing correct sluglines, and creating a title page.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Spec screenplays and TV drama scripts are single spaced, whereas multi-camera TV scripts are double spaced.

2) Use the parenthetical (CONTINUOUS) if you want to tell the reader that some action is continued immediately after the action before it. Use (MORE) when a character's dialogue breaks at the bottom of the page and begins on the next page. Use (CONTINUED) when Action breaks at the bottom of the page and continues on the next page.

3) Capitalize the character's name when he or she first appears in the scene description. This tells the reader that you are introducing a new character. After that, use standard mixed case for the character's name. Describe a new character in one to three sentences, revealing his or her personality and age.

4) Use all uppercase for introducing new characters, to emphasize sounds or special effects, and to underscore important action verbs.

5) Your screenplay should not run over 120 pages, otherwise industry pros will think you lack self-editing skills and do not know how to tell a story in under two hours of viewing time.

eBook #17: The Death of the Screenwriter

The Death of the Screenwriter
This eBook shows you how to become a successful screenwriter in a lackluster economy based on the experience of a CEO and President of a well-known film production company read it here ]. The author reveals a simple formula to succeed in the so called "Hollywood 2.0" age of multimedia, streaming video, adaptations of novels, rewrites of older movies, and significantly scaled-down studio resources.

The author helps you cope with the unsettling changes in the the film industry, how to get your screenplay read, optioned, and produced into a movie, regardless of the economy's status.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) Once considered "recession-proof," the movie industry has suffered in this economy in many ways, especially the way in which investors loan money and invest in movies.

2) Current trends point to viewers who want to see big budget action films, comedies and horror films.

3) In a crisis of of change, successful screenwriters always return to the basics, and adapt to the new changes from there.

4) Always know what your target audience wants to see. Do not rely on basic instincts or gut feelings. Conduct extensive research before you begin a screenplay. You must know what producers are buying right now, what movies are being produced, and what's in development.

5) You need to develop strong selling and marketing skills to get your screenplay in the hands of producers. If you lack such skills, find an agent who can market your screenplay to his or her own industry connections.

eBook #18: Top 10 Screenplay Rewrite Tips

This eBook is a collection of problem-solving strategies to help aspiring screenwriters tap into their full potential for writing a story-driven screenplay read it here ]. The author offers advice on rewriting and editing, creating conflict, adding traits and mannerisms to characters, setting up locations for your story, and stirring up interest and emotions.

Five things I learned from this eBook:

1) To control the pacing of your screenplay as a reader peruses it, you can use a technique called "shot spacing." During the rewriting process, let your screenplay play out in your mind as it would on a movie screen, and simply strike the "Enter" key on your keyboard each time you see the shot in your mind change.

2) A story's theme is the viewpoint about the subject matter of your screenplay, which the lead character "validates" over the duration of the story.

3) Scouting for a location is essential in pre-production film-making. "Virtual scouting" is equally important to a screenwriter in which you can visually describe the surroundings that you will place your characters in.

4) Optimize your characters' dialogue by speaking it aloud.

5) Character tags are physical characteristics or dialogue peculiarities which are distinct to a specific character.

Wishing you great success in all of your screenwriting ventures,
Brian Scott
Join me on Facebook