In response to Chip’s post about three million years ago on what he calls the “ubiquity of ideas” (alright, it was beginning of Oct, but told you I was busy) here is a list of the stories, scenes and elements I see most often as a script reader…
Unlucky in love. Our hero/ine has the worst day at work ever, gets fired and comes home to find their girlfriend or boyfriend in bed with someone else. Sliding Doors was a decade ago people!
Pardon me. Scenes where someone splutters “You what?” at the start. Slides through easily most of the time, but sometimes writers overdo or – shock, horror – have them drink something and spit it out at the same. Argh! If I had a quid every time I saw this… You can see this on some car advert showing at the moment (don’t ask me what car, I wouldn’t know even what car my own husband drives).
Mad axemen in the rearview mirror may be closer than they appear. Our protagonist goes to the country/desert/arctic where they *should* be safe from hazards, sharp objects and general psychos but of course the only other person in the middle of nowhere wants to kill them. And why not? Despite seeing this one a lot, I find writers come up with some ingenius ways of pepping it up. Much fun.
Romeo Must Die. Poor rom-coms, they get chopped to bits. Will writers stop killing off people in them for no reason (especially the protag)?? I can only imagine it’s another hangover from the 90s: Four Weddings and A Funeral this time.
Drama is…Drinking tea. Apparently. Something terrible has happened. Characters are horribly affected. So they sit in a living room and people offer condolences for pages and pages whilst drinking tea and sometimes offering slices of cake to each other. Is this because we’re British?
The Now-Gay Ex-Boyfriend. I have an ex who is now gay, but only if you define “boyfriend and girlfriend” as “we kissed on the lips age 11”. Was it WILL AND GRACE that makes this character turn up again and again I wonder?
Women are the weaker sex. Female leads are often self-obsessed and must learn some kind of life lesson in specs, usually that friends and family are more important than moisturiser. In addition, female characters are still being tortured, raped, passed-over, rescued by men or even forgotten about altogether (in that there actually aren’t any) in specs.
Working in an office is bad for your health. I’ve never worked in an office for longer than a couple of weeks at a time, but I am reliably informed by the specs I read that if you do for any length of time your sanity snaps and you do terrible and disgusting things to your colleagues.
Breaking the law impresses girls. Really, it’s true guys. If you want to get your girlfriend back, all you have to do is rob a bank, defraud the government, break out of jail, beat someone up or take someone hostage or preferably, all of the above.
Misery loves company. People cry a lot in the specs I read, yet I’m struggling to think of a film I’ve seen where people cry more than once in response to a specific revelation or event (like a funeral). But characters will spontaneously burst into tears in specs, usually during arguments and often repeatedly, nearly always female characters too.
Meet your destiny…Bee-atch.If a character can see into the future in a spec, they can do nothing to change it usually. Which must mean the majority of writers don’t believe in The Chaos Theory or they’re unsure of how to actually make it play out in the script. Which is interesting.
Accessories are everything. Small stones, necklaces, old books, diaries, amulets, mirrors and brooches can transport you to magical lands – or at least give clues as to what is going to happen next or where someone is going.
Beauty before age. Very few characters I read are beyond their twenties, most are dark/handsome or dark/beautiful. Sometimes colour is mentioned, creed less often. Very few are described as ugly. Often more attention is given to clothes than attributes.
Mothers’ ruin. If you have a baby you’ll probably die. Or your husband will have an affair. Or he’ll be having an affair whilst you go into labour and die. You have been warned girls.
Scare-Fi.Horror in space might be an oldy but it’s still a goody and I’ve seen some corkers, especially in the last few years, though I’m thinking the “space trucker” motif is getting a little worn now 28 years after Alien.
Work sucks. If you work for the government in any way, even just as tea lady, you will be killed. Same goes for news reporters or anyone who goes to someone in authority and says, “I haven’t told anyone else so handily there are no other witnesses apart from me…” Trust me on this. I know.
The one line sex scene. Come on. You gotta give us readers more than that! It’s a perk of the job, surely?
Crashing cars mean you go back in time or to another dimension. I think we can probably blame Back To The Future for this one, though I wouldn’t know ‘cos I haven’t seen it remember.
Any others I’ve missed?