Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets from the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization

Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets from the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization

by Michael Tierno


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An insightful how-to guide for writing screenplays that uses Aristotle's great work as a guide.

Long considered the bible for storytellers, Aristotle's Poetics is a fixture of college courses on everything from fiction writing to dramatic theory. Now Michael Tierno shows how this great work can be an invaluable resource to screenwriters or anyone interested in studying plot structure. In carefully organized chapters, Tierno breaks down the fundamentals of screenwriting, highlighting particular aspects of Aristotle's work. Then, using examples from some of the best movies ever made, he demonstrates how to apply these ancient insights to modern-day screenwriting. This user-friendly guide covers a multitude of topics, from plotting and subplotting to dialogue and dramatic unity. Writing in a highly readable, informal tone, Tierno makes Aristotle's monumental work accessible to beginners and pros alike in areas such as screenwriting, film theory, fiction, and playwriting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786887408
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 08/21/2002
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 226,637
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Michael Tierno is an award-winning writer/director of feature films, including the independent film Auditions. He is a story analyst for Miramax Films and teaches screenwriting seminars nationwide. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Action-Idea1
1.Let's Start at the Very Beginning, Middle, and End7
2.Why You Want Your Movie to Be a Bomb!13
3.The Subject Is an Action ... Not a Person19
4.Forget Sub-plotting--the Best Plots Have One-Track Minds25
5.Plot Is Soul31
6.The Ends Are Always in the Means of the Plot33
7.Why Is My Beautiful Plot Growing a Hand Out of Its Head?37
8.The Four Species of Plot41
9.What the Poetics Says About Epics Like Lord of the Rings47
10.Destiny Is an Accident Waiting to Happen55
11.Keep It in the Family ... The Tragic Deed59
12.Oops! I Caused My Own Undeserved Misfortune Again63
13.How a Little Moralizing Turned a Gladiator Gore Fest into a Best Picture71
14.A Movie Is Long Enough, So It Ends Happy or Sad75
15.If You're Happy and You Know It ... Time for a Reversal of Fortune and Discovery79
16."It Scared Me Because I Saw It Coming" ... The Rolls Royce of Complex Plots83
17.The Devil Is in the Realistic Details of the Plot of Angel Heart87
18.Whatever Causes the Action Better Be Up There on the Screen93
19.A Movie Gave You a Bad Case of Pity and Fear? The Doctor Recommends a Catharsis97
20.Action Speaks Louder Than Words, and Together They Can Speak Volumes!101
21.The Perfect Hollywood Sad/Happy Plot versus the Perfect Poetics Sad Plot105
22.Move Your Audience by Teaching Them What They Already Know109
23.The Good, the Bad, and the Intermediate Hero113
24.It's the Thought Behind the Action That Counts: Creating the Tone of Your Screenplay117
25.How to Cheat If You Can't Hire a Whole Chorus119
26.How to Create Characters That Are Really Really Really Alive123
27.Dialog Is a Piece of the Action129
28.If the Pitch Doesn't Fill Me with Horror and Pity, the Movie Won't Either135
29.The Non-Linear Soul of Quentin Tarantino139
30.If Your Story Were a Musical, Where Would the Numbers Be?143
31.History Repeats Itself ... Real and Imagined149
32.Aristotle's Take on the Importance of Drama153
33.Aristotle Took Comedy Seriously157
Closing Comments163

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Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets from the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
WriterAtTheSea More than 1 year ago
I am now reading this book for the 4th time. I am a film writer, and this is hands down one of the best books I have read covering the writing process. It is a POWERFUL read for the professional or the student. Whether you are writing a feature film, or any work of fiction, this book is an outstanding tool. Michael Tierno takes Aristotle's theories and then contrasts them with modern drama, quoting many of Aristotle's timeless methods that writers continue to embrace.
ebnelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great little book that not only helps in writing and film analysis, but thanks to Dan Miller's musings in A Million Miles and/or Stranger Than Fiction, it's got great advice for life--because "the elements that make up a good story, make up a good life."This is not a book for someone who just wants to write a successful screenplay. If you're simply interested in advice on screenwriting, there are books like Screenwriting for Dummies and such that will teach you the craft in a much more linear fashion.This book is for the writer who wants to understand screenwriting--why it works, how to align the screen with human experience. It dives into these inscrutable waters. Tierno's genius is his simple between philosophy and writing that is constructed with ancient advice and modern examples. The book is broken up into short chapters with clear headings and classic examples for film. It's accessible to a wide audience, though may not have much appeal outside those who are already drawn to character study.
SimonLarsen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although it's interesting to look at what the ancient Greeks had to say about storytelling, as for screenwriting books, there are lots of better ones on the market.Michael Tierno "analysis" of different movie also leaves lots to be desired. For instance he devotes an entire chapter (5 pages) to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction but in the end only uses about ½ page on the movie itself. The rest of the chapter is spent on saying that it is important to have a tone to your movie. Yes, yes, it is.Lastly, Michael Tierno end almost every chapter with something along these lines; "Do this and you'll sell your screenplay in a minute". I know that he's a story analyst but leave these things out. They just clutter up the message.