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Screenwriting Myths You Can Ignore

There are many screenwriting myths that beginner writers are convinced to perceive as concrete laws.

In reality, these ‘rules’ are just principles that can be bent or broken to enhance creativity and narrative depth.

In this article, I’ll explore the freedom of challenging these screenwriting myths, allowing your storytelling to transcend conventional boundaries.

rules of screenwriting

Screenwriting Myths #1: Your Hero Needs a Single Specific Goal

One prevalent Hollywood myth dictates that a hero must have a single, specific goal to drive the narrative. However, this notion is not universal. European and independent cinema often delves into a character’s experience in their story world rather than a predetermined goal.

Conflict can arise organically from within the character or their base situation, providing an alternative approach to storytelling.

Screenwriting Myth #2: Your Hero Needs to Be Likeable

Contrary to popular belief, your protagonist doesn’t have to be likeable.

What’s crucial is the audience’s ability to empathize and understand the character. Successful films and TV series have featured protagonists who are not inherently likeable but are undeniably empathetic.

A prime example is the acclaimed series “Fleabag.” The protagonist is highly unlikeable, but we, as an audience, understand why she’s so toxic because of her unstable family background and traumatic past.

breaking fourth wall fleabag

Screenwriting Myth #3: Dialogue Needs to Be Short

While concise dialogue is often praised for efficiency, characters can deviate from this norm.

Some characters ramble, tell stories, or use metaphors, reflecting their unique personalities.

Before conforming to the rule of short dialogue, consider your character’s traits and the essence of the conversation.

Screenwriting Myth #4: The Stakes Need to Be High

The misconception that stakes must be life or death can lead to melodramatic and implausible storylines.

Instead, focus on making the stakes high for the character, conveying the emotional impact of failure.

Understand what it means for the character if they fail, and let that emotional response drive the stakes.

Screenwriting Myth #5: The Ending Needs to Be Clear and Complete

Contrary to the expectation of a neatly tied-up ending, leaving some elements open to interpretation can be more intriguing for the audience.

An ending that invites discussion and contemplation can linger in the minds of viewers long after the story concludes.

Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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