As stated repeatedly in Save the Cat!, the screenwriter’s job is to constantly scour our writing looking for the cliche — and stomp it out. Whether it’s the hackneyed idea, the dull turn of phrase, or the been-there-bored-by-that character, it’s our duty to make everything about our screenplays — and our writing — POP!
And that means never settling for what is less than fresh and new.
I’ve just finished reviewing my usual 1000 words a day and found them laced with phrases like “when push comes to shove,” “the be all and end all,” and “don’t go there.” Ugh! But instead of beating myself up — for too long, anyway — I see these “place holders” for what they are: an opportunity to liven up my writing with a fresh way to say the same thing — by saying it my way.
Toward that end, here is a link to the “banished words for 2006” — those tired, and let’s face it, lazy phrases that are now officially “out.” It’s an incomplete list, but a funny one. And worth a look.
What is your most common screenwriting cliche? Is it the FADE IN: that begins with a car chase, murder, or young girl running through a forest being pursued by some loudly breathing — but unseen — monster?
Is it the staid character that uses tired phrases in the attempt for the screenwriter to sound “hip” for “the kids” in the audience?
Odds are if it feels like you’ve seen it or heard it somewhere before, it’s time to re-think and re-write. That comforting feeling that “It’s like a movie, therefore it’s safe for me to use it” is in fact misleading you into the world of Cliche Alert! And as they say in the now tired words from my writing today: Go there not!
P.S. Big thanks to Gil Whiteley of KNUS 710 AM radio in Denver, Colorado, for the great hour long interview this past Saturday night! It went so well, Gil has asked me to be a regular on his show to talk about movies and screenwriting.
Thanks also to everyone in Denver for all the email and questions about Save The Cat! seminars. Rest assured I will be coming your way soon. For further info contact [email protected]
- Blake Snyder
Great one, Sarah! This is exactly what I’m talking about, those used phrases and ideas that creep into our writing unconsciously — and can be so much better! Thanks!
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I’m really tired of having characters respond to things with “You have no idea.”
Come on, we’re all human here. Of course we can imagine something very difficult, puzzling, frightening, or amazing. The idea that someone else cannot possibly comprehend my thoughts, feelings, or experiences is absurd and insulting.