Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

Clichés to Avoid in Your Screenplay

There are tons of clichés in films and television. Whether it's overused phrases of dialogue, shallow character stereotypes, or a storyline we've seen time and time again, you can find clichés in many popular movies and TV shows. Clichés are popular because they provide easy solutions when you are stuck while writing. What are some of the worst clichés to avoid in your screenplay? Keep reading to find out!

Clichés to Avoid in Your Screenplay

It was just a dream

This is my personal most disliked cliché. There's nothing worse than the twist revealing that the whole story was just a dream. What a way to make viewers feel like they've wasted their time! What was the point in telling the story if it wasn't real? This twist often reads as lazy and rarely provides a satisfying ending.

Waking up with a character

It's common for new screenwriters to begin scripts with the protagonist waking up. It's understandable to want to think practically about how the protagonist goes about their day. Of course, they start it by waking up! Unfortunately, as realistic as this detail is, it doesn't set up a script to be intriguing. Starting with a character waking up often feels mundane and even boring. You want to start your screenplay off with a bang! Make the first scene as interesting as possible! Don't sell yourself short by using this dull cliché.

Bad guys being terrible shots

When writing action sequences, we often want to suggest that the characters are in danger without them actually being in danger. This leads to villains who are terribly inaccurate shots. A good example of this is the Stormtroopers from "Star Wars," some of the worst shots in the galaxy! Next time you're writing a scene like this, consider other options. Maybe something physically prevents the bad guys from hitting the protagonists, or there's an interruption to the shootout. Whatever you decide, be aware that audiences will notice if your expertly trained shooters can't seem to hit any of the main characters.

Geniuses who know everything

We often see characters who are meant to be brilliant at one thing yet seem to be genius in everything! How does that surgeon seem to know how to diffuse a bomb? Or why does the person who knows all about classic literature know about rocket science? It can be easy to fix a plot issue by simply suggesting that the smart character can solve the presented problem, but it's not always believable. It can often be more interesting to show genius characters as fallible rather than characters with infinite knowledge!

Antagonists who monologue

"And now I shall tell you all the ins and outs of my evil master plan!" Why do villains want to share their plans so badly? It's such a waste of time! Of course, I know it's not the villains' fault that they're so chatty; it's the writers'! Villains who explain their whole plan are often either doing so to reveal what's going on to the audience or to buy time for the hero to slip out of whatever predicament they're in.

A great example of this is in "Stranger Things" season 4 when villain Vecna tells Eleven his whole plan! It buys Eleven enough time to gather herself and fight back. Big mistake Vecna! This trope feels obvious and lacking when you come across it. Writers should try thinking of other ways to reveal a villain's motives or stall for time.

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Final Thoughts

Now you know some of the worst clichés to avoid using in your screenplay! I'm not saying all clichés are bad. Clichés are clichés because they're overly used, not because they're all examples of poor storytelling. Some clichés can be used to your advantage in screenwriting. Writing a cliché from a perspective never seen before can breathe new life into it. Using a well-known cliché and turning it on its ear can create an exciting twist. Don't feel you must rule out all clichés from your writing; just consider how you use them. Happy writing!

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