One of the more valuable things you learn as a script reader is that as soon as you read a good number of scripts, you begin to realize that everything the books and gurus say are pretty much true, despite their often maligned reputation and alleged follow-the-rule formulas. You begin to understand that all the talk about three-act structures, protagonists and antagonists, raising the stakes, character arcs and theme (etc) are all valid techniques to keep in mind when assessing a script’s merits and failings.
Techniques. Not rules or formulas or join-the-dot storytelling. It’s natural to get defensive, sensitive or weary when a reader or editor starts to talk to you in prescriptive storytelling terms but if you don’t have good answers for their seemingly annoying points or questions, then they probably have something useful to say. What’s important is to try to understand all the terms and so-called rules, and use them to your own advantage when crafting your story. That way, when your exec starts using phrases like ‘the negation of the negation’ and ‘mid-point reversal’, you’ll understand where they’re coming from and be able to turn the conversation into what you intended for the story rather than fighting to urge to punch the execs lights in.
So, absorbing the essential techniques into your visual vocabulary (by reading scripts, books, and watching films) will enable you to write well-crafted stories that tick all the boxes of what readers, editors and execs require to see. No matter what your opinion on rules and prescriptive terms, there’s no escaping that certain techniques and phrases really exist, and generally do apply to a story, whether you like it or not. Inciting incident, dramatic moments/reversals (widely known as act breaks), character arc, escalating conflict, mid-points, antagonist, tone, and so on. How you deal with these terms or techniques is down to you but why waste the energy to be defensive or over-sensitive when someone else points them out when reading your script?
The late, great Anthony Minghella said that there were no act breaks in a screenplay, just natural developments involving your characters and their emotions. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, or how you perceive certain rules & regulations (Minghella knew a thing or two about structure, that’s for sure), you just simply have to trust your storytelling instinct to write the best script possible. But don’t dismiss basic techniques and familiar approaches. It’s always useful to try and understand and embrace all of the techniques available, that way you continue to improve and develop your craft.