3 Rules Beginning Screenwriters Need To Know by Dr. Ken Atchity

Film Courage: What are three rules someone needs to know about screenwriting?

Dr. Ken Atchity, Producer/Author: Well three rules, that’s just an arbitrary number but let’s go with it. I think the first thing that a screenwriter needs to know is that everything has to be connected to everything else. That’s the biggest difference between a screenplay and a novel in my mind.

In a novel you can get away with saying something on page 1 that doesn’t connect directly to something on page 158 and so on.

Anything you say in a screenplay has to connect to anything else you say in a screenplay. If it doesn’t, the audience is going to go “You know what I don’t get is why that guy is wearing a red baseball cap in the first scene and then in the fourth scene he was wearing a blue baseball cap. And then after that he wasn’t wearing a baseball cap?”

Honestly, that’s the kind of thing people say when they are having a drink or coffee after a movie right? So every single thing has to connect with everything else. It’s much more challenging because it’s almost like building a building where if one thing isn’t connected properly, the whole building can collapse. So I think that’s the first thing a screenwriter has to know.

And I think the second thing a screenwriter should know is chronological order and logical order and psychological order have absolutely nothing to do with it. The only thing that matters is dramatic order. That’s all the audience cares about. If you hook us properly, it doesn’t matter where we go in the story after that hook because we will figure it out. We will be so hooked that we’ll figure it out.

You don’t have to even say 10 years later or 5 years earlier or whatever. You can help to say that maybe but you don’t have to because we’re not stupid…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

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