Screenwriting Rules & Why to Break Them

September 20, 2020

If you were to google "screenwriting rules" (that may be how you got here), you'd likely get a million or so results to wade through if you were so inclined. (but I really hope you're not!) 

I also hope there's not a rule about too many parentheses in a blog post. (but I digress)

Anyway, since there are so many articles and blog posts out there about the "rules" of screenwriting, I'm not going to give you my version and add to all that clutter. Instead, I'd like to offer my thoughts on breaking whatever rules you happen to find. 

I realize this may sound a bit confusing, but hear me out. 

After many years of writing, doctoring, and analyzing screenplays, my motto is this: 

There are no rules (and there are exceptions to all of them). 

Now it's really confusing, right?

What I mean by that is, whatever works, works. Because for any rule you find, you can also find someone who has successfully broken it. 

Granted, there are expectations of industry gatekeepers and insiders and such, but the bottom line is that if whatever you're doing is working, keep doing it. Good is good. Yes, art is subjective, but cream rises to the top. (there are other things that float, but I'll keep that particular phrase to myself) 

A good example of a great screenwriter who consistently breaks many of the so-called rules of screenwriting is Quentin Tarantino. Whether it's expository dialogue, voiceover, or flashbacks within flashbacks, he somehow usually manages to make things entertaining while flouting many of the rules aspiring screenwriters have been taught. 

Now, I realize you're probably not Quentin Tarantino. (if you are - call me; heck, call me if you're not - I'll still pick up)

I'm also presuming you're not William Goldman (now that would be a call!), or Greta Gerwig or Noah Baumbach (those two Oscar nominees are married, btw). But you still have stories, and those stories can be told in an entertaining way.

So read screenplays, write screenplays, and yes, read a lot of blog posts.

Then find your voice, and make your own rules.

Whatever works, works. 

And if you need a hand, email the Best Ghostwriters or call us at 323-539-7635. 

(we'll help you make it as good as it can be) 

I think I've just discovered another rule. (there should definitely be a limit on parentheses)