(Warning: There’ll be spoilers about Fight Club, Identity, The Sixth Sense, The Others, Passengers and Dawson’s Creek.)
Bang2Write’s Lucy V Hay posts a lot of helpful tips on what will kill your screenplay dead so I thought I’d share my pet peeves when it comes to twists and clichés that either kill or at least severely damage your screenplay.
While I’m not a professional script reader, I’m a screenwriter who watches a lot of movies and reads many scripts. And I’m tired of seeing these in what feels like every 4-5 movies in that genre. Also, TV writers can’t seem to get enough of these twists and clichés either so I’ll include examples from series as well.
Mind you, these weren’t necessarily bad when we first saw them or saw them for the second or even third time. But when we kept seeing them for season after season (in the same show), or TV show after TV show, or movie after movie…Well, it got old.
But hey, new angles are appreciated, so if you have found a way to differentiate, go ahead. Just don’t do the same old, same old – especially if you’re not already a huge writer who can get away with this.
So enjoy, and beware!
– Bipolars and other mental condition sufferers going off meds/never wanting meds.
I’m speaking as someone who has tried and benefited from therapy. Not only claiming all meds are harmful and/or useless is irrational, showing all characters with this attitude is just boring and unimaginative.
Who do I remember from film that goes off meds and off the rails?
This is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, but it could have been less cheesy, had Barrymore’s character not decided to go on a road trip without her meds or access to therapy.
Love saves Jones one way or the other, but he ends up in therapy too.
Because love can’t conquer all if you don’t put in the effort to feel better.
I love Richard Gere and Lena Olin. I ‘m also invested in watching stories with mentally disturbed characters. But mental disorders don’t and shouldn’t equal constant irrationality.
When it’s bipolar you’re talking about, yes, the manias can be enjoyable, especially if you don’t go overboard (like breaking the law to savor the moment to the fullest). But a 40+ something dude who’s been suffering from the disorder half of his life KNOWS how dangerous and life-threatening (his own) the depression part of the equation is. So….
Yes, it has its romantic moments, but really? A 17-year-old bipolar having doubts about meds and therapists, I can get around. A 47-year-old? Not so much.
– Intelligent people skeptical of psychiatrists, even though they are psychiatrists themselves : Perception, Daniel Pierce
What are the words I’m looking for? Oh yes: ironic and hypocritical. Now, Perception is actually one of my favorite shows. I like almost everything about it, except how Daniel Pierce handles his own condition, schizophrenia.
I’m not an expert when it comes to schizophrenia, but I do have personal experience with bipolar, depression and OCD. These are all serious conditions with a lot of medicinal alternatives. And since these are chemical imbalances in the brain and life in general are never fully under your control, routine alone won’t guarantee a healthy, happy life. And the writer knows this because the character is a freaking, world-renowned psychiatrist who doesn’t like medicating himself.
What the actual hell?
– OCD sufferers that have cleaning/counting/ordering compulsions and hardly any obsessions
Let me in on a little secret about OCD. Not all sufferers have compulsions (that can be detected by the outsider). Some even have pure obsessions, meaning it’s all their heads. They’re not necessarily organized and/or obsessively clean. Some couldn’t care less about counting stuff or stepping on the sides.
– MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) or DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) as the big reveal.
Kudos to Fight Club (yes, I know it was a book first) for the twist. But Identity’s ending just pissed me off.
– He was/she was/they were dead all along!
I’m not the biggest fan of The Sixth Sense because I’m more into stories about people who are alive. But I enjoyed the twist so much, anything I didn’t necessarily love about the movie was forgotten.
It was still an okay twist for The Others, because I found it more engaging on many levels. It also has to do with the fact that I watched it in a eerier atmosphere, so the experience felt more chilly and genuine.
But when the mostly enjoyable Passengers, whose plot appealed a lot more to me than the movies above just broke my heart with that ending.
Either make it known they are dead or alive from the beginning, or I’m disappointed from now on.
– My best friend has been the love of my life, and I haven’t seen it until he/she met somebody else, somebody told me, I hooked up with others and realized….
Friends: Rachel and Joey were okay. Monica and Chandler’s hiding was so funny we were fine with them. Rachel and Joey? Just no. What two more seaons, and Phoebe would divorce Mike to marry Joey?
The worst offender: Dawson’s Creek. Boy, did I love that first season. And Andy and Pacey were fun too. But Joey and Pacey? Joey’s constant dilemma between Pacey and Dawson? Pacey’s hooking up with Jennifer? Dawson’s re-hooking with Jennifer? Oh. My. God.
There are many others, and you can read my fun take here.
* Coupling gets a pass because there was never a strong male-female friendship in the first place. Sure, Sally and Patrick did eventually become best friends, but they did consider sex/dating beforehand, so they don’t count.
Did I never write about friends hooking up? Sure, I did. But they either didn’t make friends first or they were aware about the cliché of their situation. Also, they weren’t the main story.