What Screenwriters Will Never Tell You


Screenwriters LOVE to give advice, especially when an aspiring writer is asking for it. But there's one piece of advice that no one is ever going to give - and it could make or break your script.

I was looking at a back issue of Script Magazine and read an article about a famous indie director. He claimed, among other things, that when he starts making a movie, he doesn’t know EVERYTHING about his characters. In fact, he doesn’t know much about them at all. He knows as little about them as possible so that they can surprise him during the creative process. I, of course, have mentioned in the past that I disagree with this – I think you should know a lot about your characters, if not everything. Our differing opinions made me consider something bigger, something I wanted to mention in this blog. 

Aspiring screenwriters often take classes, read books and interviews, and otherwise seek advice from other screenwriters about their craft. And screenwriters like this, because they have a little bit of an inferiority complex (it’s a stereotype that’s based in truth), and they like to talk their expertise in screenwriting. But this is why they will never tell you this crucial piece of advice: there’s a point that you should stop listening to everyone else’s opinions and just follow your own voice.

Other screenwriters might judge you for this. They might balk at your attempting to write a script without outlining first. They might hate that you plan to use every stereotype in your romantic comedy. But it’s your prerogative to try these things out if they feel right to you, and who knows, maybe you’ll succeed where no one thought you would. Movies that break the rules sometimes break box office records.

I’m not saying aspiring screenwriters shouldn’t follow ANY advice.  Because commercial screenplays follow a far more rigid structure than plays or novels, it’s important for those who are just starting out to learn about the three act structure, about what makes a dynamic character, and about what endings will leave an audience frustrated but satisfied, not just frustrated. But there also comes a point where you have to stop listening to what everyone else is saying and just do what feels right for you. You know what that is better than anyone else.