As the saying goes, good writers should avoid clichés like the plague. But one of the easiest traps to fall into while writing a script is to go into a kind of auto-pilot mode where you just start writing things down that sound familiar. Any time you write down something that sounds familiar, that necessarily means that what you’ve written isn’t original. Since you want every part of your screenplay to sound unique, you will need to fight off the temptation to describe things in ways that you have heard before, which tend to come in the form of clichés.
Here are some examples of clichés that you never want to include in your screenplay:
1. Long, dramatic monologues delivered while staring out of a window.
2. A single tear rolling down someone’s cheek.
3. Scripts that begin by slowly panning around the protagonist’s bedroom.
4. The hero detonates a bomb, then walks away without looking back.
5. Montages of people trying on clothes.
6. Montages of a new couple going on fun dates together. Hell, just all montages.
7. A villain who confesses his criminal plans to the hero before killing him.
8. In a room full of people, one person starts clapping slowly.
9. A cop who is about to retire takes on one last case that should be no problem.
10. Your hero goes to a new country and is helped by a street-wise young boy.
I’m working on a script right now in which the protagonist defeats his antagonist by secretly using his cell phone to record the antagonist admitting his involvement in a criminal plot. I thought that was the perfect solution because this particular cell phone plays an integral role leading up to that point. Then I watched last week’s episode of “Lie To Me” where they did the exact same thing and I wanted to stab myself in the eye for succumbing to such an overdone plot device. Now I have to come up with an original way to defeat my antagonist, but that effort will definitely be worthwhile when the people who read my script see that I took the time to give them something that they haven’t seen before. I promise it will be worth your effort as well.
If you have a favorite movie cliché, I’d love to hear about it so please write it in the comment box below. Thanks!