Screenwriting Rules Kill

Screenwriting Rules are the quickest way to stifle creativity. You will be told they are:

  • A framework that writers can work within safely.  
  • They are guide rails stopping you from driving off the road.

No matter how they are described, it is just ways of saying they are controls put in place to steer you in the direction they want.

I was once told that they are proof you can write. If you can produce a great story while sticking within the rules you must be good.  Once you can prove that, you can do whatever you like. BULLSHIT.

Screenwriting rules are a security blanket.

Screenwriting Rules Kill.

Screenwriting rules are in direct opposition to creativity. They must be by their very definition. Rules are mechanisms meant to control behaviour. Controlled behaviour is a lack of freedom (Which can be good. No one should be free to murder).  However, freedom is exactly what is needed for creativity.

Exploration is the result of freedom. Being free to sail the world enabled Europe to find countries and take them over (you can’t discover something when people are already there – you just can’t).  If you want to see art produced in a non-free environment. Look at TV from North Korea.  Everything is about how great the leader is and his achievements. Go there with a political satire and see how long you last.

Screenwriting Rules that fail.

I don’t know the rules well. I am only quoting the common ones that people call out all the time. 

You must introduce your main character as soon as possible.  This may be in the opening shot. To that I answer Star Wars.  We don’t see Luke until well into the movie. There is about 30 minutes of world building before we see Luke.

  • The opening shot should be the direct opposite of the last shot. 
  • Perhaps my favourite film growing up Easy Rider, starts with a drug deal, ends with them getting murdered by random farmers. 
  • Momento (okay, a rare film), but it ends at the midpoint and begins at the start and end of the story at the same time.

Watch and read really outstanding films. These are what you should be aspiring to write. These are not produced by slavishly sticking to the rules. They are created by writers having freedom to explore themes and story.

The Rules sometimes fluke it.

Think how the rules were produced. Someone (or many people) wrote down what they saw in movies and said they had discovered something.  Writing down some commonalities does not make rules. Of course these observations will still exist in some modern films.  Mostly because they are obvious and not rules.

The reason I seem so ANTI-RULE is because I see questions on forums like “I have a good story, but I don’t know how to fit a twist into the ****** on page 75” (like I said I don’t know the rules well).  The most important part is “I have a good story”. Don’t ruin it by trying to make it fit some stupid rules.

Here is a truth not a rule. RULES KILL CREATIVITY. I hope this has either confirmed your self belief and disregard for rules, or made your question the rules and take a step towards creative freedom. Either way, thanks for reading this. 

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