67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2010
The usefulness of this book is going to greatly depend on what sort of screenplay(s) you are intending to write, as the scope of Blake Snyder's guide is very narrow. If you are yearning to tell the story of how child abuse rips apart a family in a small, Scottish fishing village... then do not look here. It will be of no help. If, however, you are looking to write a mainstream (preferably high concept) idea then this book is, in my opinion, the best out there.
I have read 20+ Screenwriting books and for straight structural insight into the popularist Hollywood model, this is fantastic. People have questioned Synder's own track record in other reviews. That's nonsense. Great actors are not taught by screen legends but by people you've never heard of. It's the same with screenwriting. Syd Field, Robert Mckee, Chris Vogler - when's the last time you saw their names before a film? In fact Synder has more credentials than most out there.
Yes, he picks out some less than briliant examples of cinema (Legally Blonde?!) but the content here is sound and evident in much, much better films than the ones mentioned. This is just good, clear advice on how to plan and fix a particular type of script. It is absolutely not for everyone, nor should every film adhere to this model, but in the narrow (but MASSIVELY successful) market that this is aimed at, it's simply essential.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2011
The book delivers what you expect.
It is an easy read and the 12 step beat sheet will be incredibly useful to budding screenwriters.
However, there was one aspect of the book that really made me question the integrity of the author and that is his use of examples of what works as a screenplay and what does not.
He often references his own spec scripts and movies, none of which I have heard off and none of which impressed me.
He uses forgettable films (Miss Congeniality being the best of a sorry bunch) as examples of what is a successful film (yes in terms gross) and then critises films such as Minority Report and Open Range (2 of the most perfectly realised films of the noughties) because they break his rules of structure.
At this point in the book Blake Snyder lost all credibility for me.
It is fine to create a system to simplify the structuring of a screenplay but I did not like the way he dismissed films that are far superior in every department to anything he has been involved in because they did not follow his own set of rules.
The conclusion I came to is this guy knows how to write something that will sell and if that is why you are reading the book then I would have to recommend it despite my dissapointment in the way he references other peoples work.
Souless but effective.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2009
Some of the reviews are missing the point; this is not a book intended to make anyone an artist. Sadly I don't think such a book could exist; art is within you or it isn't, it cannot be taught.
Blake Snyder was teaching the craft, the nuts and bolts construction of a screenplay. His rules are no more cynical than Joseph Campbell's work on mythic archetypes, they're just presented in a much more accessible way. This is populist writing about populist writing.
So if you want solid guidelines on building the emotional machinery of a screenplay then this book will help. If you want to try to reinvent the cinematic artform, if your gods are Charlie Kaufman and Harmony Korine, then your journey begins elsewhere and probably inside yourself.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2012
A clear, well-written guide to presenting your story to other people. It's aimed at screenwriters, but it's also a well-known tool for fiction and non-fiction writers. A lot of the information (such as know your genre, have a one line pitch) will be familiar to anyone who's been following writing blogs or lurking in the query trenches, but if not then it's a great place to start.
It covers lots of essential information, including genres, character archetypes, and my personal favourite the 'beat sheet', which breaks down most plots into a simple structure and can be very helpful for working out pacing problems and structural issues.
Blake can come across as irritating with his every-other-page self-promotion. I loved when he pulled out popular movies for examples of genres and styles, but I got sick of him reference his own ever-so-successful films and TV ideas. I'd never heard of any of them. This would have been fine in a smaller dose, but there was just too much of it.
I think I'll dip into this book occasionally when I need a refresher on cliches, tropes, and plot structures - but it's a difficult book to read from start to finish without Snyder's comments getting on your nerves.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2013
Originally posted on Serendipity Reviews.
I have lost count how many times this book has been recommended to me over the past couple of years and I always dismissed it. It was a screen writing book for God's sake. Why on earth would it be of any use to me when I am writing a book?
Well, I will no longer scoff at this very thought because this book is awesome and totally relevant to writing fiction! This book saved my plot! I had reached a stage in my MS, where I had lost sight of what was actually happening. I was writing scenes but I couldn't see where they would fit in the grand scheme of the story. By reading this book, I could easily see the bigger picture. I was able to put all my chapters into an order and look at the plot as a whole.
The style of writing is conversational and you feel like you are sitting in a room with the writer, drinking coffee and discussing your next steps in a casual manner. I warmed to the author straight away and felt confident that he knew what he was talking about. You trust his judgement.
I loved the beat sheet. I thought it was tremendous and I quickly made my own copies to use alongside my plot. I also found myself looking at books I had read recently with a clearer and more critical eye than perhaps I would usually have done. I could easily pinpoint problems in them that previously I wouldn't have noticed. In future, I will actually use the beat sheets to examine the plot in other books which I hope will help me get mine just right in the future.
There are parts of the book that are irrelevant to writing fiction, but they are easily identifiable and I was able to skip right past them.
I thought this was one of the most useful and most accurate writing books I have come across in ages. So I would definitely advise reading it to help save your plot from the death spiral!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2014
I am not a screenwriter, nor do I intend to be, but I had heard interesting things about Snyder's guide and was fascinated to have a look at his method. I do understand that his aim is not to teach the art of producing great screenplays, he says as much in the first few pages - this is a step-by-step guide to producing a saleable piece. Snyder's bottom line IS the bottom line, his assessment of a movie's value is based solely on its box office take.
Page 96: "And if you want to seriously debate the value of Memento in modern society, please go ahead and contact me... But be ready for one hell of an argument from me!! I *know* how much it made."
Great. If you aren't familiar with 'Memento', an early indication of the cinematic promise of brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, then wikipedia has a good page. Yes, it took only $39 million (not a bad return on a $5 million budget), but the Writers' Guild of America West put it in their top 100 screenplays OF ALL TIME. It is an astounding piece of work, so why on earth would Snyder choose to dismiss it? Because it didn't make enough money.
Snyder gives plenty of tips based on his own huge successes in the industry - 'Stop or My Mom Will Shoot' is one of his ($70 million box office from a $45 million budget). Wait. $25 million profit... A fair bit less than Memento then. I'm starting to think that this Snyder guy is running a con. His other big hit 'Blank Check' is also frequently used as a touchstone. Let's see. $30 million box office from a $13 million budget. Critically a dismal failure. He *is* running a con!
The book is packed with examples of Snyder cherry-picking movies which fit elements of his grand plan, which allow him to declare once again his brilliance to his increasingly nauseated reader. He equally dismisses some really odd movies. He really does believe that he knows why these movies failed, and moves his own goalposts when it suits him. So money really is the bottom line? Well, not by page 126 when the $821 million (nearly a BILLION) take of Spider-Man (2002) is glossed over: "Why is it that you went willingly to see this movie, it became a big hit, and yet when it comes on cable you don't want to see it again?"
We're worried about income from cable/DVD licensing now? After we took nearly $1 billion at the box office? You're using this massive blockbuster as an example of where something went wrong?
This book is written by a delusional egotist. His claims are easily refuted by searching IMDB. He is apparently effective at marketing his 'method', but it strikes me as just an example of an "I will tell you the secret of how I became a millionaire" scam. His relentless self-praise is truly wearing, as is his failure to properly credit his sources. He briefly mentions Campbell's 'Hero With A Thousand Faces' in his introduction, but doesn't recognise that much of what he spouts is to be found as far back as in Aristotle's 'Poetics', and passes off much of his structure as entirely his own design - he even names it after himself - the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.
I have to stop, but as a parting shot, on page 76 Snyder gives us a new way of thinking about the three act play. Most people, he says, call them three acts, but he "call[s] 'em thesis, antithesis, and synthesis". The line reeks of the suggestion that he thought of this little sequence himself. Clever man.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2011
Like all good stories all the elements in this book have been heard before. the structure is not unique, but it is delivered in a different way. The different way that Blake is trying to get across is the essence of good writing!
This is not a quick fix! For those who have read other screenwriting theory books in the past the honest truth is that this book isn't going to tell you anything ground breaking. If you are looking for an easy way to make, write and sell a billion dollar film this isn't going to magically make one appear on the table.
However, it is a great read and it will take you through a very logical approach to screenwriting, It emphasises certain areas you may have overlooked as minor detail and tells you that these are the key to getting it all right a. It is also all written in a very readable way. This isn't a book of theory that will beat you over the head until you are sick of hearing terms like 'three act structure.' It is a book of good advice from someone who has been there and lets face it Blake Snyder is a legend!!!
The Blake Snyder beat sheet looks like a very useful resource, though I can't say I have tried it yet. Overall this has been an incredibly useful read to me if only to bring me back to basics and get me fired up again for a new batch of writing.
This book would be invaluable for new writers and is still well worth a read for those who have been doing it for years. If nothing else Blake seems like a friend who is here to help you through and in the world of writing that is a precious thing to have!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2014
As soon as he slagged off the script for Memento, he lost me. The advice on screenwriting was okay, but how can I trust someone I no longer respect because of a stupid outburst towards a script he didn't write.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2013
I have a friend who is a fellow aspiring screenwriter who kept telling me to get this book as it would change my life. After a few months I finally caved in and decided to give it a go.
Although I agree that this is a decent book, I can't say that I found anything here that hasn't already been covered in any Syd Field or Robert Mckee work, although Snyder's writing style is refreshingly simple and easy to read.
Personally I found much of the book to be a little bit too cold and sales orientated. Snyder claims to have worked out the perfect formula to writing the perfect screenplay, giving his step by step approach, but I found this all a little bit too simplified and restrictive.
All in all, I thought it was a good reference and I do not regret reading it, but don't assume, as the title says, that it will be the only book on screenwriting you will ever need.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2014
Five stars for a book I hate - why?
This book started out as an analysis of successful films and the beats they all shared. The writer got a little proscriptive in the telling of his results, and so every junior script reader at the studios thinks it's the bible and absolute truth. This means every script that they send up to their employers pretty much hits all these beats to the page, and so every film feels the same. This book is why. That's why l hate it.
It is, however, a great analysis of story structure and how to implement that in a form that studio execs will understand and like. If you're a scriptwriter and trying to sell to studios, spend a few quid and learn what they're buying, then tailor your script too actually be saleable. Great book, I hate it!