Saturday, November 19

Screenwriting Tips, You Hack by Xander Bennett

Want to be a screenwriter?  Yeah?  Have you sold anything yet?  Yes?  No?  Regardless, you’re a hack.  Just ask Xander Bennett, author of one of my favorite blogs, Screenwriting Tips You Hack (yes the book and the blog share the same name).  

 I’ve been reading Xander’s blog for about a year now and it’s by far one of my favorite blogs (ranking up there with Scriptshadow).  Each day Xander posts a new tip.  They’re usually only a few sentences long, but they’re quite useful, such as, “‘Wise beyond his years’ is a character description cliché – and not a very useful or informative one.”  Xander is able to infuse humor into his short tips, and reading his blog may quickly deflate the ego of any amateur writer before proceeding to provide practical advice.

Since I loved the blog I decided to give the book a try.  I was worried that the book would be nothing but tips copied and pasted and bound together.  What Xander smartly did was to divide the book into chapters about different ideas.  There’s a chapter on creating ideas, writing description, dialogue, rewriting, and much more.  Within each chapter he presents a series of tips.  Yes, all of the tips look like they came straight from his blog.  But, most tips usually comes with a page or two of deconstruction.  He offers more detail, offers up good and bad examples, and takes time to show us the right way and the wrong way.  There are usually a few tips at the end of each chapter without the extra explanation, but they usually serve as a good closing to the idea.

Having experience as both a script reader and a writer, I could tell while reading that Xander definitely knows what he’s talking about.  His writing style is engaging, and given the way that he seems to understand screenwriting, I am interested in reading some of his writing.  In fact, that seems to be the main thing lacking.  In the bio, Xander is said to have written for TV, film, and video games.   I was hoping to see some references to situations regarding these, or at least to see some of his works listed.  When I didn’t find any I checked the blog, but to no avail.  While I don’t doubt him, I thought this would’ve added a strong element to the book.  It would also encourage readers to engage with stories he’s written, and surely that couldn’t be bad thing.

Though some of the tips may seem obvious, or redundant from other screenwriting books, Xander manages to either put a fresh spin on it, or at least include bits of humor.  This is a book I definitely plan to have ready as a reference whenever I am writing.  The unique style both separates it from other screenwriting books and makes it easy to skim and return to points of interest.  Since the blog still continues, with new tips being constantly added, I hope that he is able to publish another one.  If he does, there will definitely be a place on my bookshelf for it.

4.5/5 stars

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