Out, damned trope! Out, I say!*

Do whatever you can to avoid falling into this perilous situation
Do whatever you can to avoid falling into a similar perilous situation

(*A slight variation on the actual line from MACBETH – Act V, Scene I. We’re all about accuracy around here.)

The more I work on the story of the monster spec, the more I realize how flimsy the villain’s plan is. I know what their objective is, but the biggest roadblock is figuring out HOW they’re going to accomplish it.

Part of the original story included a monster with shape-changing abilities taking the place of a high-ranking figure in world politics. At the time, it seemed good.

But now it just seems tired and stale. It really is something we’ve all seen before, which totally goes against what I’m trying to do. Coming up with a fresh, original story is one thing; telling it in a fresh, original way is another.

How often have you read a script or seen a movie or TV show and thought “Seen this before” or “Saw that coming a mile away”?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using something that’s been used or done many times before. Cliches. Tropes. Clams. Call ’em what you will.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s lazy writing.

Why would you go through the trouble of working so hard to create something new and exciting, but fill it with material that isn’t?

Read through what you have. Does anything come across as too familiar, or at least expected?

Look at that tired old chestnut as purely temporary, then go back and brainstorm a few alternatives which are totally opposite (or at least really different) but also accomplish the same thing.

Take a look at scripts and movies similar to yours. Can you see how they did it? Maybe it’ll inspire an approach you hadn’t thought of.

Feeling stuck? Ask for help. Twitter’s usually pretty good. You’ll soon discover that writers have the amazing ability to easily come up with ideas when it’s for somebody else’s project.

You’re a creative type, so get creative. You know there has to be a better way out of this. It may take a couple of tries, but you’ll get there.

In the meantime, I’ll be busy figuring out a new way for monsters to take over the world.

7 thoughts on “Out, damned trope! Out, I say!*

  1. Re: villain’s plan, I think I may be having the same problem with that other script I sent you, Paul. Having trouble figuring out who he is still, oh well, lots to sort out. Sometimes these characters turn out a certain way, but it takes longer to actually put that properly into words. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Ugh, such a difficult topic! Tropes and cliches usually offer you a good opportunity to subvert expectations, but then sometimes you get into this whole thing where you’re always trying to surprise and be different and you’re not just focusing on telling a great story that makes sense.

    Maybe a few beats that we’ve seen before can help set up a bold and different choice later on in the story? If every single thing is unique and off the wall, we might become numb to it. Just a thought.

    Great post!

    • Aw, thanks!

      I think this is one of those times where ‘familiar but different’ would definitely come into play.

  3. I was about to comment, then noticed how old this post is, but I’ll comment anyway, with a monster plan:

    The monster shape shifts into a kitten and kills some people, throwing focus off the monster and onto lovable, cute kittens, so humans become distracted by killing off all the kittens.

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