6th Edition

Alternative Scriptwriting Contemporary Storytelling for the Screen

By Ken Dancyger, Jessie Keyt, Jeff Rush Copyright 2023
    442 Pages
    by Routledge

    442 Pages
    by Routledge

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    The three-act structure is so last century! Unlike other screenwriting books, this unique storytelling guide pushes you to break free of tired, formulaic writing by bending or breaking the rules of storytelling as we know them. This new edition dives into all the key aspects of scriptwriting, including structure, genre, character, form, and tone.

    Authors Ken Dancyger, Jessie Keyt, and Jeff Rush explore myriad alternatives 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. Fully revised and updated, the book includes new examples from contemporary and classic cinema and episodic series, as well as additional content on strategies for plot, character, and genre; an exploration of theatrical devices in film; and approaches to scriptwriting with case studies of prolific storytellers such as Billy Wilder, Kelly Reichardt, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Kathryn Bigelow.

    Ideal for students of screenwriting and professional screenwriters wishing to develop their craft and write original scripts.

    Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments for the Sixth Edition



    1. Beyond the Rules

    3. Structure
    4. Critique of Restorative Three-Act Form
    5. Counter-Structure
    6. The Three-Act Spectrum
    7. Strategies for Plot and Character: Surprise, Triangulation, and Subtext
    8. Multiple Threaded, Long-Form Episodic Scripts
    9. GENRE

    10. Why Genre?
    11. Working with Genre
    12. Working with Genre II: The Melodrama and the Thriller
    13. Working with Genre III: Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges
    14. Working Against Genre
    15. The Flexibility of Genre
    16. Genres of Voice
    17. The Nonlinear Film
    18. The Fable, a Case Study of Darkness: The Wizard of Oz and Pan’s Labyrinth

    20. Reframing the Active/Passive Character Distinction
    21. Stretching the Limits of Character Identification
    22. Main and Secondary Characters
    23. Subtext, Action, and Character
    24. Exceptional but Opaque Characters in Flattened Scripts

    26. The Subtleties and Implications of Screenplay Form
    27. Theatricality on Screen
    28. Tone: The Inescapability of Irony
    29. Dramatic Voice/Narrative Voice
    30. Writing the Narrative Voice
    31. Regionalism vs Commercialism: Kelly Reichardt, Eugene Martin, and Kathryn Bigelow
    32. Adaptations from Literature
    33. Rewriting

    35. Personal Scriptwriting: The Edge
    36. Personal Scriptwriting: The Short Film



    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.

    Jessie Keyt is a writer and Assistant Arts Professor in the Department of Dramatic Writing at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University as well as a story and script consultant for independent filmmakers and production companies in the US, UK, and Europe.

    Jeff Rush is an Associate Professor at Temple University's Department of Film & Media Arts as well as the 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