"Can I ___ in my writing?" the answer is "YES...as long as you do it well."
Updated: Mar 29
So I made a post on Reddit recently (I just joined Reddit late last year for the /screenwriting subreddit, which is going strong with over 1.6 million members) and it generated a lot of interesting conversation. So I'm making it into a blog post.
If your question about writing is "Can I _____ in my script?" the answer is "YES...as long as you do it well." Whether it's screenwriting, playwriting, or fiction, the answer is yes.
I've seen a lot of posts recently asking "Can I do THIS in my screenplay?" or "Can I do THAT in my play?" I've been feeling the urge to comment on a lot of these, so I'm going to put what I strongly believe is the answer to all these questions here:
You can do practically anything in your scripts if you do it really well.
What do I mean by this? The "rules" of writing, and especially formatting rules, are just an agreed upon set of standards of things that have worked in the past. If you do something wildly new and different and it works, you will be celebrated for it!
And by "and it works," I mean it doesn't trip up the reader, it creates clarity rather than confusion, it moves the story along, develops characters, etc. This doesn't mean throw out all the rules. It means understand the rules, why they're there, then do whatever you want.
Now, people seeking advice asking "HOW can I do X or Y" is very different. To pull off something new, different, or out of the ordinary is hard. How do you do it? I'll be the first to admit I don't know. You'll have to find that out, and probably through a lot of trial and error.
My recommendation on the best way to learn is to read a lot. If you're writing a movie, read screenplays. If you're writing for TV, read pilots. Read novels. Read short stories. See how the pros do it. See how the words look on the page. Analyze your favourite works. Then write.
Remember that failure and experimentation is the way to grow. You don't need someone's permission, especially someone on social media (or Reddit), to do something cool in your writing. But I'm here to say go for it.
Take big swings. Try something new.
I'll be here cheering for you when you pull off something awesome.