Soul of Screenwriting: 16 Story Steps: On Writing, Dramatic Truth, and Knowing Yourself

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Uniquely inspired by the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and psychologist Jean Houston, The Soul of Screenwriting demonstrates how the "screenwriting by numbers" approach that offers templates into which the writer may mechanically drop his or her story idea is fundamentally incomplete. Keith Cunningham maintains that in doing so, one ignores the process of writing. Screenwriting is a long jourbaney and even the most gifted screenwriters get lost along the way. Getting lost, Cunningham reminds us, is part of the process too.

What the writer experiences in the act of writing has never been taken into account, yet this is where the screenplay comes from: the writer's here-and-now experience while working on the story. Information—left-brain concepts and techniques about plot structure, character development and orchestration, the dynamics of scenes and  sequences—is all necessary. But it is what one does with the information that makes a truly great screenplay. In The Soul of Screenwriting, Cunningham demonstrates that good screenwriting is more than hitting the big "plot points" with exciting action. G ood screenwriting also has integrity and authenticity. It has a "voice," and because it has a voice it speaks to the audience. To gain a voice, the writer needs the heat of creative imagination: passion, commitment, enthusiasm, a drive to know the truth of the characters, and an urge to get to the core of the dramatic conflict without resorting to escapism. These are qualities of the heart, and as Cunningham argues, screenwriting can indeed be, in Carlos Castañeda's phrase, a path with heart.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826428691
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 9/19/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith Cunningham is a screenwriter and consultant based in Chicago, Illinois and Munich, Germany. He taught for many years in the Columbia College Film and Video Department. With Tom Schlesinger, he has been leading screenwriting and story development seminars worldwide since 1984—including seminars for the Director's Guild, and The Writer's Guild of America. His essays on myth, cinema, and creativity have appeared in numerous journals and books.

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Table of Contents

Part One : The Living Story

Chapter One: The Night of the King Coho

Chapter Two: Mirrored in the Story

Chapter Three: The Mythic Dimension of Screenwriting

Chapter Four: Need vs. Mode, The Core of Conflict

Chapter Five: The Story Molecule

Chapter Six: Character Webs and Story Worlds

Chapter Seven: Orchestrating Character and Style

Part Two: Plot and the Dynamics of Creation

Chapter Eight: The Soul of Screenplay Structure

Chapter Nine: The Journey in Four Movements

Chapter Ten: Act, Sequence, Scene, Beat: The Dramatic Present

Chapter Eleven: The Sixteen Story Steps

Chapter Twelve: The Creative Journey of Story Development

Epilogue: Writing Practice is Life Practice

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