5th Edition

Alternative Scriptwriting
Beyond the Hollywood Formula

ISBN 9780240522463
Published February 8, 2013 by Routledge
486 Pages

USD $45.95

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Book Description

Learn the rules of scriptwriting, and then how to successfully break them!

Unlike other screenwriting books, this unique guide pushes you to challenge yourself and break free of tired, formulaic writing--bending or breaking the rules of storytelling as we know them. Like the best-selling previous editions, seasoned authors Dancyger and Rush explore alternative approaches to the traditional three-act story structure, going beyond teaching you "how to tell a story" by teaching you how to write against conventional formulas to produce original, exciting material. The pages are filled with an international range of contemporary and classic cinema examples to inspire and instruct. 

New to this edition:

New chapter on the newly popular genres of feature documentary, long-form television serials, non-linear stories, satire, fable, and docudrama

New chapter on multiple-threaded long form, serial television scripts

New chapter on genre and a new chapter on how genre’s very form is flexible to a narrative

New chapter on character development

New case studies, including an in-depth case study of the dark side of the fable, focusing on The Wizard of Oz and Pan’s Labyrinth

Table of Contents


  1. Beyond the Rules

  3. Structure
  4. Critique or Restorative. Three-Act Form
  5. Counter Structure
  6. More Thoughts on Three Acts: 15 Years Later
  7. Narrative and Anti-Narrative: The case of the two Stevens: The Work of Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh
  8. Multiple Thread Long Form Televisoin Serial Scripts
  9. GENRE

  10. Why Genre? (New chapter)
  11. Working with Genre I
  12. Working with Genre II: The Melodrama and the Thriller

11.Working Against Genre

12. The Flexibility of Genre )New chapter)

13. Genres of Voice

14. The Non-Linear Film

15. The Fable: A case study of Darkness: The Wizard of Oz and Pan’s Labyrinth (New chapter)


16. Reframing the Active/Passive Character Distinction

17. Stretching the Limits of Character Identification

18. Main and Secondary Characters

19. Subtext, Action and Character

20. The Primacy of Character over Action: The Non-American Screenplay.


21. The Subtleties and Implications of Screenplay Form

22. Agency and the Other

23. Character, History and Politics

24. Tone: The Inescapability of Irony

25. Dramatic Voice, Narrative Voice

26. Digital Features

27. Writing the Narrative Voice

28. Rewriting

29. Adaptations from Contemporary Literature


30. Personal Screenwriting: The Edge

31. Personal Screenwriting" Beyond the Edge.

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Ken Dancyger is a Professor of Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University as well as the author of numerous books on screenwriting, editing, and production.

Jeff Rush is an Associate professor at Temple University's Department of Film & Media Arts as well as author of numerous articles on screenwriting and narrative theory.


Praise for the fifth edition:
"Screenwriting is about making choices. What Dancyger and Rush reveal so effectively in Alternative Screenwriting is just how many options are possible, how the various available choices work and how different decisions will impact screen storytelling. This book substantially broadens every screenwriters' -creative horizons."
-David Howard, USC screenwriting professor and author of The Tools of Screenwriting and How to Build a Great Screenplay."

"It’s so refreshing to read a book that helps to develop a creative trade like scriptwriting that is written by people who encourage you to differ from the three-act structure and not conform to all the codes that are drilled into us at college. It outlines to us the limitations of common film conventions and dissects mainstream characteristics for structure, dialogue, action, genre, discovery and turning points in a clear and coherent manner. It then teaches us how to be resourceful and take inventive risks to create a more original story that you can call your own and lets you know that there are endless roads for your story to go down... It is perfect for those who get that little itch and sense of disagreement when someone tells you that "you must do scriptwriting this way". With this new edition featuring new case studies on Pans Labyrinth and The Wizard of Oz, it really is a great book to read if you want to keep your story unique, refreshing and rich with memorable characters and themes that will give it a certain emotional weight and show that it was not written by a business man, but by a true story teller."- Raindance.org

"Alternative Scriptwriting is invaluable to anyone interested in screenwriting or in directing fiction. Using plain language it demystifies storytelling for the screen, and opens up myriad possibilities for using the cinema with invention, freshness, and imagination." - Michael Rabiger, Professor Emeritus, Film/Video Department, Columbia College Chicago.

"Just as Aristotle's "Poetics” and André Bazin's "What is Cinema” are an inseparable part of a Screenwriting reading list, Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush's "Alternative Scriptwriting” is an absolute must read for a deeper understanding of the structure of Screenwriting. -Dr. John Bernstein, Director, Graduate Program in Screenwriting, Department of Film and Television, Boston University

"Alternative Scriptwriting," by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush, is one of the few books on the subject that doesn't make you feel stupid while you're reading it.
Instead of the usual boring list of "tricks of the trade" that replaces a real table of content in so many "How To Write A Screenplay And Sell It For A Lot Of Money To An Even Bigger Lot Of Talentless Hopeful People" Dancyger & Rush offer real insight for those who take their screenwriting seriously and are not afraid to venture a little bit "beyond the rules". Both as a filmmaker and as a teacher I have found this volume very precious because what the authors do best is mix American craftsmanship with European sensibility.
An excellent cocktail, if you ask me. And you did."
-Marc Didden - Head Of Screenwriting at St. Lukas Hogeschool, Brussels , Writer/Director ( "Brussels By Night", "Istanbul", "Sailors Don't Cry" )

Praise for the third edition:
"An insightful alternative to mainstream narrative and character analysis that presents the reader with a clear dissection of the mainstream before revealing the alternatives."
-- Script Factory

"[Alternative Scriptwriting] aims to challenge its readers to create writing that is exceptional. While no book can possibly replace your own creative vision, as a resource it's thorough and is a good way to help yourself consider alternative ideas."
-- Plugin Cinema

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