If you can’t tell by the title, I’m kicking off my new book review blog series on a cheerful note.
Three cheers for a new blog series!
I spent four hours hanging out in LAX the other day because my flight was delayed (blizzards, you sly dogs, you). Considering they only give you an hour of complimentary internet there (blasphemy!) I had to stop blogging and tweeting and instead read some of the books I’d recently bought on my Kindle. I’m glad I did, because I read two great books that I want to share with you today.
These books are also fantastic writing fodder, and you may find inspiration for your next screenplay within these pages. Or you might just fall in love with a great book, and that’s a worthwhile goal, too!
The Sociopath Next Door
by Martha Stout Ph.D.
This book, man. I’ll say this: you will be intrigued. You will be paranoid. You will not be able to put it down. You will want to write a screenplay about sociopaths.
According to this book, sociopaths are nearly invisible to us because we cannot wrap our minds around the fact that there are humans out there who have no conscience. These conscience-less sociopaths are said to make up 4% of the population, which is a higher percentage than the number of people afflicted with anorexia, a highly-publicized eating disorder.
Why You Should Read It:
This book is great screenplay material because of several reasons:
- Sociopaths are scary as hell. Think about it: these are people who cannot be reasoned with on a moral level. They can kill or steal or ruin lives without blinking an eye.
- There are some great stories in here. Parts of this book read like a novel (which is the epitome of nonfiction, in my book!)
- This book seeks to arm you with the ability to know who is a sociopath and how to avoid them, based on the psychologist’s firsthand experience with those who have been harmed by sociopaths. I’d be lying if I said this stuff was anything less than wildly interesting, if not slightly twisted.
- There’s a great discussion in here about the moral purpose of conscience. Conscience, according to Martha Stout, is where religion and psychology intersect. Get rid of it, and are you still human?
Screenplay Takeaway: Sociopaths are interesting. Why? Because we secretly crave to know what it would be like not to be bound by the restrictions of conscience. When writing your screenplay, try and play upon characters we can live through vicariously as well as bringing up intriguing moral dilemmas.
by Jodi Picoult
A warning upfront: this book is dark. I’m usually one of those people who prefer stories of the happier variety, but this frighteningly compelling book has some incredibly complex characters that are explored in great detail and depth as the plot proceeds. The premise is this: two teenagers who have been friends their whole lives decide to commit suicide together– but one survives. This book details the fallout of what happened, and how a seemingly happy couple have problems that others can’t see.
Why You Should Read It: The pacing of this book is excellent. It opens with a literal bang: a strange conversation, followed by a gunshot. The book keeps its hooks in us while delving into the backstory of these teenagers’ families, and how these two sets of parents have been neighbors and friends for years before their children were born. The author gives away just the right amount of information to the reader at just the right time.
Screenplay Takeaway: Know when to keep the audience in the dark about certain details. When reading this book, note how nearly every scene with Chris in it is a tense one because we’re still trying to piece together what really happened, and we’re wondering whether or not he’s telling the truth. Secrets, lies, and tension are magical storytelling ingredients– don’t neglect them!
So there you have it: two mildly-depressing, anxiety-causing books to add to your bookshelf. Just so you know, The Pact is on sale for $2.99 on Amazon for the Kindle, and you can use those savings to buy The Sociopath Next Door, which is also on Amazon.
Conveniently, you can purchase this books by clicking on the links above. I do get a tiny sliver of the advertising earnings through Amazon Associates (probably like 1/4 of a penny for The Pact knowing Amazon), so it would be appreciated if you use my links if you decide to buy these books 🙂
Have a great New Year’s everyone!