Eliminate Clichés

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Eliminate Clichés

Clichés are ideas, thoughts, phrases, and metaphors that were once original and insightful but have now lost both insight and originality and have become empty and formulaic. Earlier I mentioned an example of a once-original twist that is now a plot cliché: the corrupt cop as criminal. But clichés can appear just about anywhere—in your concept, your plot, your characters, your dialogue, even in the screenwriting devices you use. Examples of clichés in everyday speech are phrases such as, "at the end of the day," "I gave him the best years of my life," and even "all's well that ends well," which wasn't a cliché when Shakespeare penned it.

Go through your script one more time and sniff out clichés, formulas, gimmicks, and anything that is overused and misused. For example, if you want to show the passage of time, think of a more interesting way than cutting to a clock. Examine your scene transitions, your character responses, and the devices you use to create anticipation. Make sure they're varied and fresh. "Devices should help you create unpredictable characters and situations," says screenwriter/editor Jackie Pike. "But used too frequently, they turn into clichés. Amateurs use one device four hundred times. Great writers use four hundred different devices."

Eliminating clichés means never being satisfied with the first idea that comes to mind. No matter how much work it takes, if you become relentless in stamping out clichés, your script will improve dramatically.



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