023 | Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters by Michael Tierno

It’s been considered “the screenwriter’s Bible” from the very moment Tinseltown started to tinsel. A forty-two page pamphlet nearly 2,400 years old, Aristotle's Poetics still serves as the guiding light for many of the best screenwriters in Hollywood today. In Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters, Michael Tierno helps to translate this literary classic not only from Greek to English, but also from myth to movie.

In this easy-to-read page-turner, Tierno walks his readers through the meaning of Aristotle’s original language, which can be quite pregnant at times. By cutting out all thee’s and thy’s and all the other Aristotle-y stuff you'd expect, Tierno helps us to capture the golden nuggets Aristotle wanted to convey all along, hidden in every chapter. Some of them include:

… the plot should be so tight that if you took away any one incident, the whole would literally collapse.

… catharsis (emotional purging) is the whole point of dramatic storytelling, and it’s what every single story event is working to achieve in the audience.

… it’s important for the audience to understand the emotional meaning of the action for the hero, which must be connected to a strong, single desire of the hero’s soul.

If there was any lesson that stood out most in Tierno’s writing, it was that less is almost always more. When considering any screenplay, book, or song, just remember… it needs to be about something, yes, but anything more than that has to go. The work needs to be targeted. You have to be focused on answering just one central question in the reader’s mind. That, and that alone, will keep them hooked.

So that, my friend, is what this book is all about.

And that’s all I have to say about it.


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