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Books & Movies 

Adapted from Writers Workshop Script Doctor

Copyright © 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 Dorian Scott Cole

Reference books | Other thought provoking books | Movies with exemplary plotting | Movies with exemplary characterization | Movies with unique plot development

I have made no attempt to formally and exhaustively review and list all the reference books or movies that might be helpful. The following is a list of books frequently mentioned by others, or consistently used by myself. If it is on this page, I can vouch for its merits.

These books are available at local libraries and bookstores (may be ordered), or may be available through:

    Samuel French Theater & Film Bookshop,
    7623 Sunset Blvd.,
    Hollywood, CA 90046.
    Ph. 213-876-0570, FAX 213-876-6822.
    Out of area: Ph. 800-822-8669, CA: 800-722-8669.
They are also available from Barnes and Noble ( and, as well as other book stores. These sources and references are given as a courtesy to site visitors.

Reference books

Cole, Dorian Scott. Script Doctor, Atlanta, 1998. My book "Writers Workshop Script Doctor," which I wrote by researching sources at National Writers Workshop, is available free in PDF format at Writers Workshop Script Doctor. All of the information in it is on the site, which I have authored since 1996, plus a lot more information. (Note: For screen, stage, and novels. Constructive advice on entertainment writing. Identifies the twenty mistakes most often made by writers, and offers suggestions on how to find and correct them. Also has advanced tips on characterization, plotting, originality, visual writing, writing methods, and things to get the writer's mind out of a rut. The current edition, Writers Workshop Script Doctor, ISBN 1-890039-01-2, is no longer in print because of updating.

Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1946. (Note: Covers many aspects of story development with emphasis on human motives.)

Epstein, Alex, Crafty Screenwriting
Online book at Musofire Web page

Field, Syd. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, New York: DTP, 1984.

Field, Syd. Selling A Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide To Hollywood, New York: Dell, 1989 (Note: Syd, a screen consultant, is the author of several books on screenwriting.)

Pike, Frank and Dunn, Thomas. The Playwright's Handbook, New York: Plume, 1996. (Note: This book from the theater is a good resource for story development, workshopping scenes, and live readings.)

Seger, Linda. Making A Good Script Great, Los Angeles: Samuel French Trade, 1994. (Note: Linda, a script consultant, is the author of several books on screenwriting. Emphasis is on rewriting.)

Stuart, Linda. Getting Your Script Through the Hollywood Maze, Venice, California: Acrobat Books, 1993. (Note: Linda, a screenwriting instructor and story analyst, gives an insightful look at what readers and producers reject, like, and why.)

Whitcomb, Cynthia. Selling Your Screenplay, (Currently out of print) 1988. (Note: Cynthia, a writer, gives advice on getting in the business with good scripts.)

Other Thought Provoking Books

Some books I have found very thought provoking because they are on the cutting edge of philosophy, psychology, or science (relating to character change and the meaning of life), or they are landmarks in their field, or because they are exemplary in the way they present characters or information. I don't necessarily endorse what they say.

Andreas, Connirae. Core Transformation, Reaching The Wellspring Within, Utah: Real People Press, 1994. (Note: Ten steps facilitating personal change related to relationships, anger, illness and abuse.)NLP

Berman, Phillip. The Search for Meaning, (Currently out of print - other titles) Ballantine, New York, 1990. (Note: Reports of individual experiences about what life means to them - what they believe and why.)

Broughton, Richard. Parapsychology, The Controversial Science, New York: Ballantine, 1992. (Note: favorable report on research findings using strict scientific methodology.)

Bruner, Jerome. Acts Of Meaning, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1990. (Note: A new transforming view of psychologies that refocuses on cultural (folk) psychology as providing society with its meaning framework, with much emphasis on narrative (story) as the vehicle for meaning. Art mimics life. Life mimics art.)

Frankl, Viktor. Man's Search For Meaning, Washington Square Press, New York, 1998. (Note: Finding meaning where meaning could not hope to exist.)

Gendlin, Eugene. Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1962, 1997. (Highly recommended for those looking for tools for dealing with relativism.)

Neimeyer, Robert and Mahoney, Michael, editors. Constructivism in Psychotherapy, American Psychological Association, Washington, 1996. (Note: Constructivism is taking a central place in psychological science and the Postmodern world, integrating models of psychology, as well as helping individuals to use narrative to reweave their lives.)

Eco, Umberto. The Limits Of Interpretation, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1994. (Note: Symbols and myth: open architecture. Serials and the meaning of repetition.)

Eco, Umberto. Interpretation and Overinterpretation, Cambridge University Press, 1992. (Note: Various novels discussed and debated.)

Fingarette, Herbert. The Self In Transformation, (Hard to find - other titles) New York: Harper & Row, 1963. (Note: Psychoanalytic view.)

Grof, Stanislav. The Holotropic Mind, : The three levels of human consciousness and how they shape our lives, San Francisco: Harper, 1993. (Note: Resulting from years of original and unique research with thousands of subjects.)

Howatch, Susan. Glittering Images, Crest, 1996. (Note: fiction. Excellent wholistic characterization.)

Kohn, Alfie. No Contest, The Case Against Competition, New York: Houghton Mifflin,1992. (Note: The counterproductive results of competition, compared to other forms of motivation.)

LaBier, Douglas. Modern Madness : The Hidden Link Between Work and Emotional Conflict, (Out of print - try your local library or check this link for related books.) Touchstone, 1989.

Levine, Katherine. Parents Are People Too: an emotional fitness program for parents, New York: Penguin Books, 1997. (Note: For parents overloaded with advice, openly and honestly deals with the guilt, anger, and self-doubt that plague all parents, written by a parent of over 369 difficult to raise children, and psychotherapist.)

Loftus, Elizabeth. The Myth Of Repressed Memory, New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1996. (Note: False memories and abuse.)

Luscher, Max. The Luscher Color Test, (hard to find - other titles) New York, Simon and Schuster, 1969. (Note: Worth looking at because of its unique use of color as a pathway into the psyche. Psychological revelations are often very accurate.)

May, Rollo. The Discovery of Being, New York, W.W. Norton and Company, 1994. (Note: From the best selling author of Freedom and Destiny, and Love and Will, and The Art of Counseling, this book looks at Existentialism and psychotherapy.)

Muller, Wayne. Legacy Of The Heart; The Spiritual Advantages Of A Painful Childhood, New York: Simon & Schuster, Fireside Book, 1993. (Note: Includes the twelve common reactions to childhood pain, and exercises to help integrate them.)

Naylor/Willimon/Naylor. The Search For Meaning, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1996. (Note: Searches for meaning through exploring meaninglessness, separation, having, and being. Obvious biases. Interesting life matrix, and results diagrams.)

Sheehy, Gail. Passages, NewYork: Bantam, 1984. (Note: Explores the typical drives of people at various stages of life. Sheehy has a more recent book that I haven't read.)

Whitmont, Edward. The Symbolic Quest: Basic Concepts of Analytical Psychology, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1969, 1991. (Note: Psychoanalysis and symbolism from the Jungian (and psychoanalytic) models.)

Schwartz, Jeffrey M., and Begley, Sharon. The Mind And The Brain: Neuroplasty and the Power of Mental Force. 2002. (Note: an impressive review of neuroscience, especially the last ten years in which investigators have pushed deeply into the area of how "plastic" the brain is. By "plastic" is meant the ability of the brain to respond physically to external and internal stimuli by making new neuronal connections, changing the location of entire functional areas, creating new growth, and overcoming psychotic behavior that has responded poorly to pharmaceutical and behavioral treatments.


Movies With Exemplary Plotting

Dead Again, 1991, UIP/Paramount/Mirage
Writer: Scott Frank
Director: Kenneth Branagh

Total Recall, 1990, Guild/Carolco
Writers: Ronald Shushett, Dan O'Bannon, Gary Goldman. Story: Philip K. Dick Director: Paul Verhoeven

The Fugitive, 1993, Warner Bros.
(Information unavailable in published sources, 1994)


Movies With Exemplary Characterization

Fiddler On The Roof, 1971, UA/Mirisch
Writer: Joseph Stein. Story: Sholom Aleichem
Director: Norman Jewison

Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991, Rank/Act III, Electric Shadow
Writer: Fannie Flagg, Carol Sobieski.
Director: Jon Avnet

Groundhog Day, 1993
(Information unavailable in published sources 1994)

Grumpy Old men
Director: Harold Ramis (Information unavailable in published sources, 1994)

It's A Wonderful Life, 1946, RKO/Liberty Films
Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra. Director: Frank Capra

Mr. Holland's Opus,
(Information unavailable in published sources 1996)

Scrooged, 1988, Paramount/Mirage
Writer: Mitch Glazer, Michael O'Donoghue.
Director: Richard Donner

Short Circuit, 1986, Rank/PSO
Writers: S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock
Director: John Badham

On TV, Bedford Falls Productions creates highly character oriented stories: My So Called Life, Sisters, Relativity. David E. Kelly combines strong characters and strong plotting in Picket Fences and Chicago Hope.


Movies With Unique Plot Development


It's A Wonderful Life (See previous listing)

Fried Green Tomatoes (See previous listing)

Joy Luck Club, Buena Vista Pictures/Oliver Stone Productions
(Information unavailable in published sources, 1994)

Forrest Gump, 1994
(Information unavailable in published sources, 1994).

Other distribution restrictions: None

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