Screenplay: Writing the Picture Review

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If writing screenplay interests you, you really need to check out Robin U. Russin’s and William Missouri Downs’ book, Screenplay.

Russin and Downs do a great job covering the ins and outs of screenplay, and many of their topics, like character development as well as plot and subplot planning, are issues not restricted to screenwriters. Novelists and other fiction writers could definitely benefit from many of these chapters.

Breaking It Down

Coming in at over 400 pages, Screenplay’s contents are quite varied. Here are the topics and features I found the most important:


Love, love, love these.

At the end of each chapter, you’ll find exercises to apply that chapter’s theories. 

Sometimes this includes templates and graphic organizers (which always make my teacher’s brain do a happy dance). Other times it is a guided analysis of Hollywood successes that you then apply to your own script.

Plotting out your story

Russin and Downs share and a few variations on hero’s journey archetypes. As they move into plot and scene planning in following chapters, they provide great tools for visually laying out your story’s elements.


Up until this point in the book (Chapter 12), much of what Russin and Downs shared has been easily utilized in any medium– from screenplay to novel– barring the formatting variances.

In this chapter, they make the distinction between screenplay (gotta keep it moving) and novel (can linger a while on a physical detail) apparent. Their side-by-side analyses offer clarity to their points, and I found their list of common narrative mistakes particularly helpful.

Marketing and pitches

After breaking down writing and rewriting screenplays, they don’t stop there. Their marketing and pitch advice is just as thorough. It includes letter formatting for pitches, a run-through of what to expect in a conversation with a producer or agent, and strategies to get in the door.

Appendices and more

Russin and Downs included a list of suggested readings, cliches to avoid, and a glossary of terms common to screenplay. 

Interested? Follow my affiliate link to check out Screenplay and support Curious Words! 

Don’t forget to check out my other writing resources and advice!


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