Breaking the Rules in Screenwriting
Updated: Apr 27
With screenwriting comes with the natural “law” of what you “can” and “can’t” do. Meaning there’s a certain way every script should be outlined, written, and told.
The truth is a script can be told and done in any way you vision. However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore all of the “rules” of screenwriting. Meaning you can’t start writing a script without it being in proper screenplay format. Don’t be silly.
However, there are a lot of rules experts will tell you that you need to follow when in reality you don’t. Let’s go over breaking the rules in screenwriting.
If you talk to an expert in this field, they’ll tell that you need to have one central theme that is present throughout your entire script. This is nonsense.
As long as the story is good, flows properly, has a strong act structure, and great characters, who cares what the central theme is? Meaning you can have multiple themes relevant without having to dive too deeply on “what your script means”.
Don’t get me wrong, usually, your protagonist’s goals in the script will outline the general theme enough, but don’t focus too much on the theme. Everything else in the script matters a lot more.
Don't Make it Too Simple
A lot of people will tell you that your script needs to be simple and shouldn’t read like a book. A lot of these points are true, but you shouldn’t be scared to experiment and make your script a bit more advanced.
If you have a more advanced story, don’t be afraid to write it. Who cares if it’s not “deemed” as being simple. Do you think “Blade Runner” was deemed simple when it first came out? Some of the best movies start out slow and build. You don’t have to force your story right off the bat with simple storytelling. A lot of experts might disagree with this but look at the best Picture of 2019.
Similarly, “Parasite” was a fantastic film and nothing worth noting really happened until the midpoint of the movie.
Photo credit: nofilmschool.com
Everything Doesn’t Need to Make Sense
Don’t act like your audience is dumb. You’re allowed to leave certain aspects of your script up to interpretation. Meaning you don’t need to have a clear message in the entire story.
You simply just have to have a compelling enough story and characters that people will be interested in. That’s all there really is to it.
The reality is you shouldn’t let experts scare you from your vision. Even if your vision doesn’t pan out exactly how you want it to, at least you listened to yourself before anyone else.
Follow the basic rules of screenwriting, but don’t be scared to venture off and experiment.