I just finished reading a friend’s comedy script. It was okay. It needs work, but the one thing I couldn’t shake was how the story played out pretty close to how I expected it to. There weren’t any real surprises.
However, one of the things that really stood out about this story was that deep within it was the idea for the same kind of story, but from a totally different angle. Not only would this open up new and original ideas, but it also made me think that this new story would be one I don’t think I’d ever seen/heard of before.
How many times have you read a script and known what was coming? Don’t you love that feeling when you read something and get what you were totally not expecting? A story that keeps you eagerly wondering “what comes next?” is one to be thoroughly enjoyed. The more surprised we are, the better.
Cliches. Tropes. Clams. Old reliables. Whatever you want to call them, writers with less experience use them because they’ve worked before. It takes a lot of effort to NOT use them.
The challenge is to come up with a new way to present these old ideas. “Familiar yet different,” as the saying goes.
It can be a little intimidating to take those first steps into unfamiliar territory, but you want the journey the reader takes through the story to be memorable, right? So why not take that chance and head in a new direction?
Go through your latest draft. Are there elements to it that feel tired or overused? You’ll know them when you see them. Is there a different way to do or say the same thing?
You can even go so far as to imagine “What’s the least likely thing that could happen/be said here, but still takes the story in the right direction?”
Try it. You might be surprised. And if you’re surprised, chances are the reader will be too.