Thursday, January 3, 2019

10 Years of Bitter Posts - Cliches I'm tired of seeing and Quick Tips

Another early feature on the blog was "Clichés I'm Tired of Seeing." When you're reading 15 scripts a week for five years, you start becoming nauseous at the signs that always accompany the least satisfying scripts to read. Most of these could be easily evaded, but too many writers fell into the most unimaginative ways of using them.

The first cliché I targeted was a resolution I'd seen in many rom-coms and dramas - where the "surprise" visual reveal of a woman's new baby bump at the climax was used as shorthand for "and they lived happily ever after." I started with that because it's not a BAD way to communicate the strength of the relationship, it's just a technique that's been done so many times that the impact it carries is usually outweighed by the audience feeling it coming.

I also took writers to task who ended their scripts with "To Be Continued." This was less common then and hopefully is non-existent now. I detested this the most when I could feel writers holding back from giving a story proper resolution solely so they could justify a sequel.

Later posts addressed:
- a struggle between two people for a gun that ends with a BANG while the gun itself is off-screen. After a moment of "suspense," one of the two combatants falls, revealing the other to be the winner.

- the old "start with the climax to get the audience hooked and then flashback to reveal how they got there" trick.

- racing to the airport to stop the love of your life from leaving.

- "It was all a dream!"

- The newscaster as an exposition delivery system.

- The use of "Get me a beer" as a universal indicator that a male character is an asshole.

- Using a bet as the catalyst for a premise that would never happen otherwise.

Looking at this list, I can see why I moved away from this series. The clichés it called out were becoming so cliché that even pointing them out was tired. It was a little like a stand-up comedian with a Jack Nicholson impression or a tight five on how white people and black people dance differently.

Somewhat concurrently, I started a series of posts I called "Quick Tips." In all candor, this was so I could get away with putting up shorter posts just to build up content. The practice ended mostly because I'm so goddamn wordy that my attempts to be "quick" soon dragged out too long.

1. First Impressions
2. Brainstorming by imagining your movie's trailer
3. Knowing your title should be catchy
4. Character names
5. Don't try to solve a note about "this character seems thin" with a one-scene dumb of emotion and backstory.

Reading these early posts, I'm very aware that I was still clearly trying to find my voice. While all of these tips come from experience, they seem somewhat generic to me. They don't even come from the affected voice of a weary, bitter reader. I figured out early on that writing every post from the point of view of someone bitching would be exhausting. I mean, I love Lewis Black, but there's a reason The Daily Show didn't need him on every night.

It's all basic, 101 level blogging. Today, I wouldn't write some of these because I don't think I'd have any new way to say them. Part of why my presence has been less and less over the years is that I realized it shouldn't feel like an obligation to have an opinion about a particular facet of writing. I can just blog when I have something to say.

But I know people found these early posts useful, and so I try to remember that I have a lot of readers who might still be contemplating writing their very first script. For them, these early posts will always be there.

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