SAVE THE CAT
by Blake Snyder
"Save the Cat" seems to be the everyman's screenplay book, but at the same time it's a book for beginners and seasoned pros alike. It teaches you to define WHO your screenplay is about and walks you through the process of writing a log line that will capture everyone from a stranger in line to a studio executive. It also helps define the genre of your screenplay, therefore establishing parameters for you to write in.
The meat of the book is the Beat Sheet, a 15 beat outline that Blake Snyder claims every movie functions within. He references a handful of movies that fit into this formula and upon closer look your realize that he has a point. A high number of successful films and well written screenplays fall into a "formula" and while this "formula" can seem, well... "formulaic", he puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of your characters and dialogue, summing it up by saying "give me the same thing, but different". In other words, writing a screenplay with unique characters and original dialogue that follows a traditional, tried and true story format, will increase your chances of success. After all Snyder's intent with this book is to write a "successful" "sellable" screenplay.
Save the Cat claims to be "the last book on screenwriting that you'll ever need". While that may not be 100% true for everyone, as a beginning screenwriter having read several screenwriting books and STC twice already, I have found it to be a noble and worthy claim.
You can buy the book here. Happy writing.