Can You Break The Rules?

So you want to try something a little unconventional with your script. I get that. Good for you.


by The Single Screenwriter

But that little metal ball covered with three-inch razor-sharp spikes growing inside your intestines? That ball is telling you that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know you’re not supposed to do whatever it is you’re thinking of doing. Some vague memory of some rule written by some guru you read somewhere along your screenwriting journey is screaming that you’re nuts to try whatever it is you’re toying with.

Whatever it is, it’s WRONG.

So you do what every other nimrod hooked up to the net does when faced with uncertainty. You Google.

Bad move. Bad on an epic scale. Just like when Google convinced you that your vague aches and pains were actually a mutated cancerous flesh-eating sexually-transmitted bacteria that left you with only 72 hours to live, so too will Google mess with the direction your script wants to take.

Maybe what you’re toying with is a small thing like using WE SEE or CUT TO or (CON’T). Or perhaps it’s something like using cover art, or starting with a quote, or channeling Shane Black in your description. Can you kill the family dog on screen in a G-rated film? Can you have more than one inciting incident? Are FLASHBACKS a no-no? VOICE OVERS? SUPER-MEGA-EXTREME-SMASH-CUT-TO-CLOSE-UPS?

And just like you’ll get two million opinions claiming to answer what-the-hell that strange thing growing on your big toe is, you’ll also get two million friggin’ opinions on whatever the hell it is you’re considering doing with your script. You’ll lose days, weeks, maybe months combing through them looking for the definitive answer. Then you’ll go ahead and do whatever it is you’re thinking about doing anyway ’cause your gut says so. Or you won’t and you’ll always wonder if you could have pulled it off.

That ball is telling you that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t.

Don’t give up on your idea, and don’t waste your time sorting through the Google pile-o-crap answers. ‘Cause when it comes to screenwriting, everyone has an opinion and all of them are wrong.

A simple thing like the use of WE SEE has robbed thousands of hours of precious writing time, both from the those beginners and pros weighing in on the issue, and from the poor schmucks reading endless pages of drivel looking for absolute be-all-and-end-all answers. This is time that will never be reclaimed. Time that should have been used for writing. It’s not worth it people!

Screw Internet predators. When your mom warned you about the dangers of the Internet, THIS is what she was talking about.

Your gut is telling you to try something outside of the basic screenwriting conventions comfort zone. YOUR GUT. Not the gut of some newbie quoting gurus, or the gut of some pro intent on shaping the writers of tomorrow with a sledge hammer for their own good, or even the gut of some sicko troll stalking screenwriting forums. Your gut (or your intuition, or instinct, or muse, or whatever you wanna call that hard-as-nails bitch who drives you crazy and is responsible for getting you into this business in the first place). It is telling you to go somewhere. Loud.

THIS is the reason you write. THIS is your raison d’ĂȘtre.

Why the hell would you give the opinion of some stranger on the Internet more weight than this?! (Trust me, if you do, your muse will never let you live it down and will chain you up and beat you senseless… and not in the fun way.)

But the gurus all say…! But the pros warn against…!

Sure! Listen to the gurus and pros you trust and have chosen wisely. They probably know what the hell they’re talking about (unless they’re preaching anonymously on public forums – Then you’re an idiot and most likely screwed.)

THIS is the reason you write.

But when it comes to your gut? Who cares what the gurus and pros all have to say. Your gut is telling you to go down a new path so you bloody well go. End of story. Your gut could very easily be wrong, and your experiment may end up being a colossal pile of stinky epic failure, but your gut is telling you to go there, so you gotta go. Maybe your gut just wants you to learn a crap-load of good stuff while going down the wrong rabbit hole, but you’ll still learn a crap-load of good stuff.

Much more than you would reading twenty-four pages of endless contradictory opinions on whatever it is you’re contemplating. So what if you’re not supposed to. So what if it’s impossible, or wrong, or will make you look like an idiot. Maybe you’re the one made to pull off the impossible, turn the rules on their head, and set the standards for the next wave of new writers.

Asking Google for permission to follow your screenwriting bliss is akin to taping a KICK ME ‘TIL I BLEED sign on your ass for the whole screenwriting community to see. You have a wild and crazy idea that flies in the face of everything you know and/or suspect to be screenwriting law? Do it!

Worst-case scenario, you gotta rewrite and rework whatever disaster you created. But best case — mind blowing awesomeness.

I could quote rules ’til your eyes bleed. And most of them would be solid and right for most scripts.

But the thing about screenwriting is, there really is only one rule.

DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE YOUR SCRIPT AWESOME.

-The Single Screenwriter


I am a phenomenal screenwriter and self-appointed guru on all things.

I am here to spread wisdom to anyone stupid enough to listen to me.

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Paxton December 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    I love this article.
    One of my favorite but not so popular film-makers KEVIN SMITH, said this himself.
    I love that guy.

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  1. Friday Faves: Free Your Mind | Beyond The Margins - November 30, 2012

    [...] Can You Break the Rules? The Single Screenwriter defies us to break free of the Google herd: http://thestorydepartment.com/can-you-break-the-rules/. Are we really that close to being a Borg [...]

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