As most regular readers of this blog know, I have little time for screenwriting books generally. It's not that I hate them, it's just that I feel they often state the obvious or worse, are self-congratulatory on being "the" way to write. There are no "ways" to write, no one knows what they're doing, we're all in this together at the same time as being on our own too, end of as far as I'm concerned (yes I know that's a contradiction).
So when Collette at Clown Enfant emailed me and offered me a copy of Yves Lavandier's Writing Drama, there was a jaded part of me that wondered what this French guy might say that was different to all the others. I mean, not much probably. But hey, why not have a look.
So imagine my surprise when I bloody loved it.
This is not for newer writers still working their way through the basics. Rather it is for those writers who've been writing for a good while, have lots of ideas and opinions of what makes "good" drama and want a platform to explore and compare these notions. It's a whopping book but handily each chapter is divided into bitesize chunks you can dip in and out of, as I have been the last few months. It's also got a really well-referenced index which has served me well in finding Yves' view of certain aspects I've struggled with in my own writing and each chapter starts with some illuminating quotes from movies, plays and industry bigwigs. Nice.
The book explores all the usual - characterisation, obstacles, notions of creativity, contrast, symbolism and he even echoes my thoughts about dialogue. Crucially though, this is not a "how to" book: instead Yves explores the notion of drama and what makes it effective. It delves not only into the mechanics of writing like so many screenwriting books, but into the philosophies of writing, filmmaking and even audience response. Yves makes no apologies for his own response to certain pieces - good or bad - and whilst I don't always agree with what he says and/or sometimes I haven't seen the movie he's referencing to make the comparison, yet I can see his logic with absolute clarity.
Best of all, he loves Antigone as much as me and makes references to sex A LOT. It feels like a journey through his personal DVD collection and brain at the same time. Wicked.
What's so great about this book though is there are no assertions. You are not a terrible writer if you write a particular way, but equally you are not a great writer either if you don't. What a refreshing change.
Buy Yves' book here. (this is the only place online you can buy it by the way).
Read sample chapters of the book here.
Read Scott The Reader's Review of the book here.