We’re not in a good place, screenwriting and I. It’s not because I don’t love it anymore. It’s not even the bad odds or the impossibly slow pace with which my current project progresses.
It’s the idiots on the internet.
I don’t know why, but screenwriting is beset by an obsession with rules. There’s a huge cottage industry around screenwriting that doesn’t exist to the same degree around other types of writing. Sure, you can buy a book about how to write a novel, or you can take a class or go to a seminar, but it never has the kind of YOU’LL SELL A SPEC FOR A MILLION DOLLARS IF YOU LISTEN TO ME!!! thing that screenwriting books and gurus do. I suppose films are more glamorous than novels. They are certainly more popular and marketable. But that doesn’t quite explain why so many liars capitalize on the naivety of aspiring screenwriters.
To be fair, I don’t oppose instructional books. Writing a book on three act structure is fine. Selling it for $15 is fine too. What’s unethical is billing yourself as some kind of guru with connections who can turn a hobbyist into a professional.
And screenwriters online are more than happy to jump on the rules bandwagon. You must do X or you must do Y or you can never ever do Z. It’s all they talk about. It leaves no room for compelling characters or exciting storytelling. It is writing for the sake of only rules and structure and what the hell is the point of that? No one has ever walked out of a movie saying “I loved the structure” or “Man, the way they nailed that turning point was sick” or “thank God they gave the protag that save the cat moment or I never would have sympathized with her.”
Now, people watch movies for a lot of different reasons. Some for stars, some for spectacle, some for laughs, some for story, some for romance, some for emotional hits. No one watches movies to see well executed structure.
Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if these people weren’t also stupid assholes. Yeah, I know name calling is bad, but fuck it, I’ll call names.
I don’t know anyone IRL who is so slavishly devoted to rules. We don’t even call them rules. We call them genre expectations. We’re aware of them and we chose to follow them or ignore them, but we spend a lot more time asking if the plot is interesting and easy to follow and if the characters are compelling.
Really, the only two rules are: be interesting and be clear.
I’m sure the novel writing word is beset with the same idiots, but, thankfully, I don’t go to any of those boards. At least, in the novel writing world, people are more aware that the telling of the story is more important than the rules. Novels are not as restrictive as a format. Novels become edited novels, not movies (usually), so they can’t hide behind directing, acting, and cinematography.
And, in the novel writing world, as far as I can tell, people are more aware of genre differences. They won’t approach a thriller and a romance in the same way. Or try to apply the same rules to them.
I’m confident in my abilities, so idiots saying idiotic things don’t offend my self esteem. They do offend my judgement though. Cause they are sucking all the joy out of storytelling. They are missing the fucking point. They are the kind of literal asshole who don’t understand that a story needs to make you FEEL SOMETHING. If it doesn’t, it’s fucking pointless.
And anger at a writer’s suckiness doesn’t count as feeling something.
So, in short, I’m really looking forward to working only on my novel this week. I just might make my July publishing goal.