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on 6 June 2012
This is a great book, amongst an ocean of 'how to write' texts.

From the start there is an assumption that the reader loves drama and picking apart, from different angles, how stories work. The reader isn't patronised, but challenged to think more actively about why certain stories and characters succeed on stage, film or radio.

For me, it was a very insightful guide from a seasoned professional about how characters work. In particular, how they engage an audience and then drive the plot and story (and not the other way around).

It's easy to say 'stories are about characters' - it's quite another to show you, in perceptive detail, the dynamic they must create and drive for a dramatic story to succeed.

There are numerous other aspects of drama covered in this book, each with the same care and insight.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in writing for the theatre, film or radio.
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on 8 March 2012
This is an informed, intelligent and enjoyable discussion of scriptwriting that has helpful insights and advice on every page. The author is someone who is steeped in experience of both writing and reading scripts. What writers can forget is that a good writer must also be a good reader. The ability to appreciate what makes a script stand out and how it achieves what it has set out to do is firmly rooted in sensitive and analytical reading. Paul Aston's vast experience garnered as the Development Producer for the BBC's Writersroom, and his tremendous generosity of spirit to both new and more established writers, shines out throughout the book. This is a text that is useful to both the beginning writer and to those who are more experienced. If you are serious about developing your writing craft -- buy it!
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on 17 July 2013
An excellent book I wish I'd have come across a year or two earlier.

Depressing, in that it points a harsh spotlight at the hundred-and-one mistakes I'd made in my previous efforts at scriptwriting; inspiring, in that it provides every tool I'd need to avoid making such a balls-up of my next.

Quite simply, the best book on scriptwriting I've read.
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on 12 July 2011
This extremely readable and accessible book guides you through every aspect of writing a calling card script for tv, film, stage or radio. A toolbox of help and advice for both new writers and for those looking to diversify into new areas, it's something I can also see myself turning to again and again whenever I start a new writing project - and for those times when a script isn't working and I need help identifying where the problem may lie.

What also makes it stand out from other scriptwriting books I've read is that it takes a uniquely British viewpoint, using familiar UK dramas to illustrate each point. I loved the comments from writers such as Joe Penhall, Ashley Pharaoh, Jack Thorne and Toby Whithouse. The book states that it's not just for people who want to `be a writer' but for people who want to `write better.' It doesn't offer any quick fixes and acknowledges just how difficult it really is - I think I should use Matthew Graham's quote that `You're only a hair's-breadth away from being s**t' as my permanent screen saver.
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on 26 September 2013
You just cannot argue against this book being very useful for anyone who wants to have their script accepted and produced professionally. After all, it's written by an industry insider - someone who continues to have power over what is and what is not accepted - and it's packed with good advice, addresses the most pertinent issues and presents a range of views by many of today's successful writers.

So what's wrong, then?

Apart from the symptomatically overly florid style - so many accepted scripts are over-written now, even the most supposedly naturalistic scenes - it's the emphasis on what is acceptable and what is not. Technical issues are one thing, but judgements of taste and fashionability are, surely, another? Fashions do change, after all, and shouldn't there be a place for truly individual voices, rather than just for those that are similar to those already lauded?

It's all rather like having Simon Cowell tell you about music.
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on 19 June 2011
What's so great about this book is that it investigates story and character using material from British artists from Shane Meadows to Shakespeare, and examines television dramas we all know and love such as Life on Mars and Shameless. Even Ian Beale from Eastenders gets a mention!

This is exciting because although the book doesn't exclude Hollywood, it acknowledges you don't have to aspire to write for Hollywood or the Hollywood model to get produced. Yay!

The book is carefully considered, honest, practical, thorough and rammed with information and advice about stuff I didn't even know I still need to learn. It has definitely deepened my understanding how scripts (and stories) function.

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on 25 July 2013
Recently I have been reading a lot of books on screenwriting as part of a research project and "The Calling Card Script" had to be the least helpful. The book is padded out with long lists of adjectives and nonsensical babble that on the surface appears philosophically deep (like writing from your "voice" and so on), however, when I actually put the book down, I didn't feel enlightened - more like I had just read a thesaurus.

This book will tell you the "what" but then it won't push further in telling you the "how" - how do you apply this knowledge? How do you improve your technique?

Unless you like a strong pretentious, long-winded tone in 227 pages of faux advice, I wouldn't buy it. If you are going it read it however, I'd say approach with caution whilst reading and keep putting the advice into perspective.
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on 23 August 2011
There are few books so insightful and inspiring! I just wish I'd discovered this before having to trudge through the dreary tomes of Hollywood books on screenwriting or the paltry few of either rather dated or disappointingly dilute UK books that I'd tried before finding this absolute gem!

This book is just leaps and bounds ahead of anything else that I have come across on the subject. Some books try to blind you with science by boiling the art of writing down to mind boggling diagrams, that seem clever at first but then you realise you haven't learned anything more than classification. Other books are either way too long (and subliminally discouraging), or too sleek and snappy -designed to attract those not really serious about writing who are looking for the quick fix, dot-to-dot/paint by numbers approach and unfortunately...if it were that easy... The bottom line is that if you are serious about writing, this book will most definitely help you in ways no other book on the subject will. It's passionate, honest and hugely insightful. I found it fun to read, yet in depth enough that I know I will be going back to dip into it again and again - like the rich feast of a toolbox that it is!

The only tiny niggle I have is that the font it is printed in is a tad small and close together - but that really is being picky.

In a nutshell - if there is just one screenwriting book on your bookshelf, make this it!
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on 17 August 2011
Tediously dense with a lot of questions but few answers and a sprinkling of glib quotes from the current crop of TV favourites.
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