An insightful how-to guide for writing screenplays that uses Aristotle's great work as a guide.
Long considered the bible for storytellers, Aristotle's Poetics is a fixture of college courses on everything from fiction writing to dramatic theory. Now Michael Tierno shows how this great work can be an invaluable resource to screenwriters or anyone interested in studying plot structure. In carefully organized chapters, Tierno breaks down the fundamentals of screenwriting, highlighting particular aspects of Aristotle's work. Then, using examples from some of the best movies ever made, he demonstrates how to apply these ancient insights to modern-day screenwriting. This user-friendly guide covers a multitude of topics, from plotting and subplotting to dialogue and dramatic unity. Writing in a highly readable, informal tone, Tierno makes Aristotle's monumental work accessible to beginners and pros alike in areas such as screenwriting, film theory, fiction, and playwriting.
This earnest how-to puts a new spin on Aristotle as the master of philosophy, calling him not only the "greatest mind in western civilization," but also the "world's first movie story analyst." Asserting that Aristotle's Poetics has become a standard for constructing movies that reach audiences (and studio heads), Tierno, a director and Miramax story analyst, shows how to apply the basics of the great work to one's own screenplay. He introduces the "Action-Idea" as the way to understand the demands of the story, and debunks the belief that, in Poetics, Aristotle mandates a three-act structure. He also lays bare how people misread Aristotle's advice to employ the "imitation of a serious action." Tierno stresses the importance of ditching subplots for a story featuring "one complete action" and constantly supports his points with examples of successful films, such as Titanic and Rosemary's Baby. The frequent capsule plot summaries of favorites including The Godfather and Gladiator make Aristotle's instructions concrete, and Tierno helpfully breaks the movies down into plot essentials. Throughout, he is respectful but informal toward Aristotle. Tierno praises Aristotle for representing "beautiful truth," although the breeziness and the eager tone he takes may, at times, put off more serious readers. Still, screenwriters looking beyond the "three-act structure" mantra will find applicable strategies, and those who dismiss Aristotle as old hat will find their perceptions set straight with Tierno's modern movie examples.