Creative Limitation

“The principle of Creative Limitation calls for freedom within a circle of obstacles.” – Robert McKee

Let’s say you want to write a screenplay. You have a great idea for a film, but don’t know where to begin. According to one of the world’s premier screenwriting teachers, Robert McKee, you want to identify the genre, or genres, that you are going to work within (comedy, action-adventure, love story, social drama, etc.), and study the films that have succeeded, or haven’t succeeded, in the past. You might think this will make your idea unoriginal and cliché, but in fact, learning about your genre first will force your idea to be deeper and different.

In his book, “Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting,” McKee writes “Genre convention is a creative limitation that forces the writer’s imagination to rise to the occasion. Rather than deny convention and flatten the story, the fine writer calls on the conventions like old friends, knowing that in the struggle to fulfill them in a unique way, he may find inspiration for the scene that will lift his story above the ordinary.”


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