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

ISBN: 0786887400

ISBN13: 9780786887408

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

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Book Overview

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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

John du Prey - Classical Review

Having taught Aristotle's Poetics for many years at the college and university level, it is refreshing to read an "improvised" commentary on this foundational lecture on structural and dramatic theory. It can be a flawed interpretation of the Poetics to dismiss the importance of the sacred 1-2-3 structural patterns in sonnets, dramatic poems, dramatic vignettes, epic poetry, stage plays, screenplays, short-short stories, short stories, novellas, and novels. Aristotle used examples of playwrights and poets, who adhered to these precise breaks. It is almost impossible to find an exception to the rule among the literary classics. For the record, the Prologue has three parts; Act I, three scenes; Act II, three scenes; Act III, three scenes; and the Epilogue has three parts. There are three dominate parallelisms for professional writers throughout the world: the 1-2, the 1-2-3, and the 1-2-3 & 4. Of these three, the 1-2-3 parallelism or pattern is dominant. To be honest, I never used a commentary on the Poetics when teaching theory and application (from this text); we read directly from the textbook, compared Aristotle's structural theory to the classics in front of us, and pinpointed the breaks; this was done in order to study the ascendancy of the crescendo through the two minor climaxes, right up to the major climax; thus, creating the "moment in time" for the unravelling of the plot into the denouement, followed by the decrescendo (structured within the Epilogue). Artists labor long and hard on that fine-tuned crescendo. Reference the works of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles; and the works of Chaucer, Milton, and Shakespeare. Reference the artistic works by poets and writers throughout the Latin-based languages throughout the world (that's 20 languages right there); and that's just for starters. That includes virtually every professional screenplay from 1925 to 1960; their treatments indicated the breaks in the Prologue, Act I, Act II, Act II, and Epilogue with storyboard precision, script delineation, and "blocking" efficiency for the director, the production team, the script supervisor, the producer (who studied the structural breaks in terms of financing the production), so on.

Tragedy Teaches Us Something About Life

I read these works for a graduate seminar on Aristotle. Poetry appeals to human passions and emotions. Powerful beautiful language and metaphor really appeal to emotion. This idea really disturbed Plato, who takes on Homer in the Republic. Plato thought that early Greek poetry portrays a dark world; humans are checked by negative limits like death. Tragedy has in it a character of high status brought down through no fault of his own. Plato says this is unjust. Republic is about ethical life and justice. It starts with the premises that might makes right and then moves onto the idea much like modern religions that justice comes in the afterlife. Plato hates the idea that in tragedy bad things can happen to good people. He wanted to ban tragedy because he found it demoralizing. Aristotle's Poetics is a defense against Plato's appeal to ban tragedy. Tragedy was very popular in Greek world so Aristotle asks can it be wrong to ban it? Yes, it is wrong thus he decides to study it. Plato says Poetry is not a technç because the poets are divinely inspired. Aristotle disagrees Poetics is a handbook for playwrights. Mimçsis= "representation or imitation." Plato uses it in speaking of painting, thus art is imitation. Another meaning is to mimic, like actors mimicking another person. Plato and Aristotle use it to mean psychological identification like how we get absorbed in a movie as if the action were real, eliciting emotions from us. We suspend reality for a while. Aristotle says this is natural in humans; we do this as children, we mimic. If imitation is important for humans then tragic poetry is worthwhile for Aristotle to study. Definition of tragedy- "Through pity and fear it achieves purification from such feelings. This is a famous controversial line. Katharsis= "pity and fear" thus the purpose of tragedy is to purge katharsis. Katharsis can also mean purification or clean. There is a debate if it means clarification, through which we can come to understand katharsis. Aristotle thinks tragedy teaches us something about life. Tragedy is an elaboration on Aristotle's idea that good or virtuous people sometimes get unlucky and in the end, they get screwed. Tragedy shows this so we can learn to get by when life screws us. The whole point of tragedy is action over character. Action is the full story of the poem like the Iliad. Character is only part of the action. Aristotle distinguishes between poetry and history. Poetry is concerned with universals, history is concerned with particulars. I recommend Aristotle's works to anyone interested in obtaining a classical education, and those interested in philosophy. Aristotle is one of the most important philosophers and the standard that all others must be judged by.

A great way to introduce Aristotle's Poetics.

If you are (or want to be) a serious screenwriter, you probably already know names like Robert McKee, Syd Field, Linda Seger, David Trottier and even David Bordwell... The good thing about Mr. Tierno's book is that it goes back to the one fundamental text who, 2300 years before the birth of Cinema, already thought about many of the things all other screenwriting authors still talk about - what do we do in order to achieve higher drama? And it is surprising how fresh Aristotle still sounds today, according to Mr Tierno's reading. Even if we consider that the object of Aristotle's thought was not the Cinema, but the Classical Greek Theatre - or the mimetic form of representation. In fact, there is nothing new about Aristotle (or Cinema, or narrative, or screenwriting) here besides the fact that Mr. Tierno does an accurate reading of the great greek thinker and explains many of his key concepts. In a nutshell, this book is an excelent reminder of how important, necessary and universal, good drama can be. Also it is a great reminder that screenwriting is a natural heir of most of storytelling's past traditions. It is also a proof that screenwriting is an art form by itself.

It really helps to understand screenwritng concepts

This book has not only helped me to understand the somewhat complex art of dramatic stroy telling - but it has helped me to help others. Recently working on a documentaty project with a first time director, this book allowed him to internalize and distill his thoughts into a more cohesive vision, that was readily translatable to an audience. I would reccomend this book to any one who wants to gain insight and understanding to "the movies."

A real find! Inspiring and practical, too

Many screenwriting gurus say "Everything you need to know about how to write good drama is in Aristotle's Poetics," but then they never explain what's actually in that work! I've tried reading Aristotle's original text, but it is really tough going. Tierno's book is a real find - it boils down a rambling, classics text into concise concepts, tips and techniques that I could understand and use. Tierno provides examples of how all this stuff really works in a variety of films, too. This book is not only practical, but pretty inspiring, too. It gets to the "heart" and "roots" of good drama, something you can forget about when you get bogged down with a script. After reading this, I was excited and motivated to return to my own work.
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