Screenwriting Rules – UGH!
I use this blog primarily as an extension of my business card. Sharing in a kinda snarky, somewhat entertaining, pseudo intellectual way, what’s going on with my writing. And my love of bewbs, because they are soft and awesome and I’m all about things that are awesome.
But today, it serves a therapeutic purpose. I need to vent.
And the topic of said venting is the ‘rules’ of screenwriting. The subject of endless debate among (primarily amateur) screenwriters.
I say primarily because I do see some gurus, consultants, mentors and of course, any dude who — took a writing class — went to a McKee seminar — skimmed a screenwriting book at Borders (that was a thing once, like rolling up your pants leg & dueling with pistols) — having some specific rule or another about what you can and cannot do in a screenplay.
What are some of the rules, you ask? Hmm, off the top of my head…
NEVER Bold. Underline. Italicize. Use ellipses… more than one hyphen – –
Only write what you can see.
Only use day/night for time.
Don’t put action in character parens.
(What are you doing using character parens anyway?)
IT DRIVES ME F*CKING NUTS!!!
Recently, I’ve seen the debate carried on in a private online screenwriting group I belong to, that I’ll just call Write Club, since I can’t talk about it. It started with a nice, simple question. “I’ve seen more and more scripts bolding their sluglines, is that something you do?”. Holy shit, you’d think someone had asked if it’s okay to put babies on spikes, or worse, opined on Obamacare. The rule mongers came out in force, swarming the thread like… stuff that swarms. Sorry, I can’t think straight, a rage stroke has affected my parietal lobe.
I had to unfollow the post, sip a nice saucer of warm milk, and put on Ru Paul’s Drag Race to calm my nerves… don’t judge me.
Let me tell you something. Go pick up any professional script and you’ll see every one one of these and other rules broken. Oh, but you say, that’s only for the pros. Once you break in, you can do what you want. Until then, follow the rules! Always. Without exception. Or die.
Name one successful artist who said, I got to where I am today by following the rules. Can you? What, Emily Post? Fine, you got me.
Listen, of course it’s important to understand the rules. But I only consider them using the wisdom of the great sage Morpheus.
“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
Do you understand that? You do, great. Can you explain it to me? I got totally confused by the third Matrix movie.
Anyway, back to rules. Okay, so you like rules. Or maybe you need boundaries, because your parents had the bowling alley put up those bumpers so your ball didn’t go in the gutter. Whatever. I’ve got you covered.
Here are the three rules I follow, and they’re pretty simple. Ready?
The first two, obvious. Make sure the reader understands the story you’re trying to tell. And do it in an interesting way.
The third one, that’s the only real ‘rule’. There are industry standard templates for screenwriting, with very specific margin settings and font/size. So that when anyone picks up a script, they know about one page equals one minute of footage. It’s like that Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Malfoy’s mom, or keeping quiet about what happens in the champagne room. You just don’t do it. Or you die.
So, I’m done. Vent spewed.
Now, back to bewbs!