I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday to buy Jenga (because I’m such a huge fan of games marketed to six year old children), and in a classic case of getting distracted I bought a book. That book was Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundation of Screenwriting, and in a beautiful display of not studying for my history test I immediately began to read it. Field is considered an authority on screenwriting, and his students include Anna Hamilton Phelan (Mask), Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire), and Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2, and Scream 3).
In his book, Field makes it shockingly easy to understand how screenplays work. It isn’t cluttered with jargon or vague notions. Instead, it breaks screenwriting into its time-proven form: Beginning, Middle, and End (not necessarily in that order) with the addition of two plot points that work as transitions.