The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Karen McCullah’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

We’re excited to have a new list of screenwriting principles this week from Karen McCullah (@KarenMcCullah1). Karen and her writing partner Kirsten Smith (who shared her own list of rules here) are the team responsible for such hits as Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Ugly Truth. (See their full list of credits here.)

With her list, Karen decided to keep things short and sweet. These are the three screenwriting rules that she found most important to share with budding writers:

  1. When you need a character to get out exposition, it’s always more palatable if done with humor, anger or indignation.

  2. Always set your script aside for 2-3 weeks, (longer if possible) then come back and read it one more time before showing it to people. You will be amazed at the number of things you’ll want to change.

  3. Start with a premise, not just a character.

Follow up with Karen on Twitter if you have questions or would like to hear more of her insights. You can also check out other successful writers’ “un-rules” here.

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