Inga Karetnikova’ s method is that of the art teacher: she asks students to study great works in detail, to analyze them, and then to create their own. She stresses that her examination is "interested only in how the scripts are written and what makes them work, not in a cultural or scholarly examination of them." Karetnikova analyzes eight screenplays— The Godfather, Rashomon, La Strada, Bicycle Thief, Nosferatu, The Servant, Viridiana, Notorious— and a novel written in screenplay form, Kiss of the Spider Woman. Each serves as an example of a particular aspect of screenplay writing: composing scripts, developing characters, constructing suspense, adapting literature to cinematic space and time, and weaving details and motifs within a script.
Karetnikova urges film students to work on their own screenplays while studying her book, reading the suggested scripts and viewing the films based on them to get the most from her method. She provides a series of exercises for each chapter to help students master the skills of composing and writing film treatments, developing screen stories and their characters, organizing scenes, and writing dialogue. Each of the exercises has worked successfully in her own screenplay-writing classes.