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Analyzing Common Screenwriting Stereotypes: The Top 5

No one wants to write a script that appears predictable, stale, or even worse, stereotypical. While screenwriting stereotypes are broad and can mean anything from the characters to the plot points, most writers understand the necessity to separate their script from others in some aspect.

Nevertheless, analyzing screenwriting types is best to benefit your writing as you get deeper into the writing world. Though there’s much to cover in this sense, let’s discuss a few key points related to screenwriting stereotypes and how to avoid them as a writer.

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Obvious Twists

With scripts, while the plot is the sequence of events that propels the narrative and keeps readers engaged, plot twists are those unforeseen, unpredicted, and astonishing events or revelations that disrupt the established order and leave audiences surprised and intrigued.

Although plot twists are often linked to story endings, they can occur at any point once you've set up your readers' expectations. One common pitfall with plot twists is their overt predictability. Steer clear of well-worn tropes and scenarios excessively utilized that’ll make your story formulaic.

Likewise, refrain from dropping many clues that make the twist too discernible. Remember, if audiences aren't taken by surprise, their engagement wanes. Lastly, don’t overdo it. Many films don’t have a twist, so don’t worry about getting one to fruition for the sake of doing it.

One Dimensional Characters

A one-dimensional character is characterized by its lack of depth and absence of transformation throughout the story. These characters are designed to fulfill a specific role in your story; they enter the plot, serve their purpose, and then exit the fictional stage.

However, the most compelling characters are complex and have more than what meets the eye. Consequently, crafting one-dimensional characters can risk creating dull, unrelatable characters who may disengage and frustrate your readers. Hence, it’s best to fall into the trap of creating recognizable, stereotypical, uninteresting characters.

Some general rules to enhance your characters include the backstory, your character’s goals, flaws, conflicts, and potential growth. Whatever you can add that isn’t predictable or what we’d expect that isn’t totally out of leftfield will enhance your story to the best of its ability.

Predictable Genre Plot Points

Many stereotypes fall under the predictable genre plot point. It’s as simple as a hero achieving their goal in a typical fashion, the antagonist being someone we’ve seen a million times, or being overtly similar to another sense. Hence, it’s best to avoid predictable genre plot points, no matter how much you think something needs to happen because of the genre your script is set in.

A good rule is to begin by writing your scene or story, regardless of its predictability. Identify sentences you believe are predictable and consider whether your readers might also find them so. If not, there's no need for concern. If yes, proceed to the next step.

Examine the marked sentences closely to pinpoint what makes them predictable. Is it the setting, the character's actions, or the sentence structure itself? Take note of the specific elements contributing to the predictability.

After identifying the elements in question, challenge predictability by altering them. For instance, if you believe it's predictable for a character to discover a good book in a library, change the scenario to one where the character finds the book in a discotheque!

Remember, while writing is undoubtedly a creative pursuit, breaking it down into its constituent elements and analyzing it part by part can be a highly effective method to infuse freshness and uniqueness into your work.

Stereotypical Characters

The most obvious point to highlight with stereotypes in writing is related to your characters. Think of any stereotypes we have in the real world—a culture, character type (bully, jock, nerd, etc), or descriptions that haven’t aged well—and understand why these points will hinder your writing.

Although archetypes and stereotypes are often used interchangeably, it's important to distinguish between the two. An archetype serves as a character prototype, essentially a template. Examples of archetypes include the sidekick, the reluctant hero, and the villain.

On the other hand, a stereotype is a character type that is overly simplified and excessively employed, often conforming to cultural stereotypes and preconceptions. In your storytelling, depending on your genre, it is acceptable but advisable to incorporate archetypes, as readers may anticipate certain character types in your narrative.

However, stereotypes should be avoided at all costs, as they reflect immature or lazy writing. Archetypes can be a foundation for more intricate character development, whereas stereotypes remain perpetually generic.

Following The Rules of Screenwriting

The last point relates to the notion that every writer should follow the rules of screenwriting to perfection. While these rules will enhance your writing and benefit you in the long run, you don’t need to do everything by the book. Sometimes, it’s best to let the writing and story come and worry about the other stuff after.


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