More of a rant than a question - Re writing structure

Discussion in 'Screenwriting' started by jinsterbeady, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. jinsterbeady

    jinsterbeady Bronze Member

    Having just started my first screenplay (How many times do I have to mention this? Ha) I think I got a little confused as to what 'structure' actually meant. Well, more so what we are limited to when it comes to our writing.
    So I started getting a little annoyed because I thought we had to keep things short, sweet and only write what we see slash hear. Less like a novel, more like a description of what is happening.
    This makes sense, but what's annoying me is upon reading script after script after script, everybody writes differently.
    I've read scripts with barely any description through to scripts with excessive amounts of description. I've read we're not supposed to say things like 'We hear a gun shot' or 'We see a someone moving behind the bushes', yet I've read scripts that have done this.
    (All scripts I'm mentioning have been made into films.)
    We're told not to describe a scene TOO much because it'll piss off the director, but we have to ensure we describe it enough to allow the reader to seamlessly experience the story we're trying to tell.

    I feel like there is so much contradictory information given to us and so many 'rules' and 'restrictions' that I'm spending too much time worrying about whether I'm writing it properly rather than getting a good story onto paper.
    I want to write the way I want to write.
    And maybe that's the best thing to do at this point.

    /End rant.

  2. spinningdoc

    spinningdoc Bronze Member

    Yes. You're absolutely right. Get the story down then worry about the rules and restrictions, and then only as much as you want to.

    I mean I'm assuming you're being reasonably sane here and not writing in pink crayon or trying to communicate yoru story by means of mime, but you can see from the scripts you've read how much stuff varies. Just tell a good story compellingly - that's the bit that matters.


    I read a 'pre-pro' spec the other day which had a clear, commercial high concept, 'perfect' structure in that plot points hit page numbers embarrassingly exactly, it had recognisable Hero's Journey stuff, action scenes built and resolved, formatting was perfect, writing style was very readable and clear, and the story developed logically. And it was utter, utter pointless drivel. It was a retread of 60 year old two dimensional characters, cliched dialogue and had been done better a thousand times before. The writer had followed every 'rule' to the letter and come up with a schlocky hilariously bad B movie at best. The story just wasn't worth telling.

    Most of the stuff that gets laid down as 'rules' (especially by amateurs on a site like this) are nothing of the sort. They're just stuff that's more often a good idea to do than not. In reality, no producer gives a flying toss about 'We see', and the like.

    The first set of writing rules I ever read were George Orwell's - mostly about prose style. And he finished them with 'break any of these rules rather than say something downright barbaric'. That's the most important rule of them all ;)
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  3. youdothatvoodoo

    youdothatvoodoo Bronze Member

    Your understandable rant isn't actually about structure, it's about style.

    Structure is the way the story is built, and how it fits together. There are different ways to approach this. McKee and Truby and Vogler between them offer three interesting and valuable perspectives, not to be mistaken for Truth.

  4. spinningdoc

    spinningdoc Bronze Member


    You're right, and none of those three would claim that they're the One Way, or even that everything they talk about has to happen at all in a given story, let alone in a particular way. Trouble is, their views get recycled in as though they are gospel.
  5. HollywoodScribe

    HollywoodScribe Bronze Member

    You're right.

    Nothing you mentioned in your rant is a "rule" - as in cannot be broken. If you want to use "we see" or "we hear" you can. Many people don't like that and will tell you. If you want to describe everything in great detail you can. Many people don't like that and will tell you.

    There are very few "rules" - as in cannot be broken - and none of them are about style. The format "rules" are in place because many people will be involved in the production of the movie. So a standard has been established so everyone from the reader to the prop person can easily understand what they need to do. Everything else - everything you mention here - is the writers style.

    People are going to not like and comment on your style. Let them. And write in the style you like best.
  6. Lon

    Lon Bronze Member

    Chances are, the scripts you've been reading have been shooting scripts or were written by experienced, established screenwriters. When you're at that level, the "rules" don't really apply. You've already proven yourself and aren't required to adhere to them.

    But at your level -- indeed, the level most here are at -- what you're writing is called a spec script; a script written on the speculation that it will be purchased, will land you an agent or will lead to you being hired for a project. And the purpose of a spec script is to display your writing and storytelling ability. This is why such things as "we see" and camera directions and superfluous detail are frowned upon. Your spec screenplay needs to show that you have a grasp on story, character and dialogue, not that you can block a scene (the director's job) or design a set (the set decorator's job).

    So, give just enough detail to the get the point across, don't worry about angles or close ups or zooms or tracking shots, don't worry about numbering scenes and don't worry about directing actors with parentheticals. GET THE BASICS DOWN AND LEARN THE RULES FIRST. Later, after you've sold a couple scripts, have landed an agent or have been hired to work on project, then you can break 'em.

    My two cents.
  7. Jack

    Jack Bronze Member

    You need all that AND a good story.

    Go with him and the hero's journey guys.

    Yes they do.
  8. Lon

    Lon Bronze Member

    Not the ones this particular thread is asking about ("we," camera directions) -- the proof being that when you read a script by an established/produced screenwriter you see plenty of both. ;)
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012

Share This Page