Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Scriptwriting - The Mechanics by Guy Meredith

Guy Meredith has earned his screenwriting and script doctoring spurs both in the UK and abroad. Apart from writing everything under the dramatic sun (radio scripts, TV drama and comedy, features, documentaries, stage plaus), he's also been an educator, giving seminars at the BBC, several universities and all across Europe (he was attached to the late and lamented Pilots program). And he's been nominated for a slew of awards.

In Scriptwriting: The Mechanics, Meredith has committed his hard-earned writing wisdom to E-paper for all eternity. It's a relatively short book, coming in at just over 140 pages, at a relatively high price for an 'e-book only' release. But as there's no filler and quite a few topics are examined which show up only rarely in most other screenwriting one-stop manuals, you don't have to worry about getting a bad deal. On the contrary, for new writers especially the information provided in here will allow you to make giant steps forward in your understanding of the art and craft of good (and preferably great) screenwriting.

So, what does the book cover? Well, starting out with the age-old question 'what should I write about', it goes on to define the four story elements (world, characters, plot and tone of the story).
This is followed by an extensive section on character, where special attention is paid to image - self-image, the image presented to others, and the image the character projects unconciously. This is really excellent stuff, and one of the reasons that the work of great British TV screenwriters (Paul Abbott, Jimmy McGovern, Andrew Davies...) comes across as so rich and true to life in the depiction of the characters.
The chapter about inner contradictions in your characters is also pure gold, as is the material about motive and motivation. Essential concepts which are all too often ignored or handled badly, sometimes even by professional writers.

Structure is examined at length. Yes, it's the three-act structure again, but mr. Meredith puts a number of plot points in each act which are different from but comparable to those you'll find in Save The Cat!. It's another good variation on the theme, which will be of great help to new writers and offers an interesting alternative option to more experienced writers looking for some new wrinkles.

And you also get chapters voice-over and flashback, scene construction dialogue, misundertanding and deception, superior and inferior position (of the audience and the characters among each other), and - a first, I think - there's a whole chapter devoted to URST! And if you don't know what URST is - go and buy the e-book, already! It'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

So, in short, a first-rate British contribution to screenwriting literature, and especially worthwhile for new and intermediate screenwriters. And you can get it right here:

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