tropes RSS

backstories, Character's inner life, off-the-shelf choices, personalities, tropes -

One way to develop characters in writing is to ask questions, to mentally interview the characters. It is by asking these questions that we get a sense of the character’s inner life, their personalities, their backstories. And it’s also how we develop characters out of the trap of stereotypes, tropes, and off-the-shelf choices. For example, there are one hundred million (or so) scripts about detectives solving a mystery and/or chasing a serial killer. Many of the protagonists of these scripts are variations on a single detective character; if you have seen one, you have seen 99% of the others. Even...

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protagonists, tropes -

More common tropes to be understood, avoided, and/or subverted per your desire. I see dead people. The protagonist is grieving a dead spouse, a dead child, or both. Screenwriters have murdered more fictitious children on the page than the Bubonic Plague. So many tearful scenes over gravesites. The traumatic past. The protagonist is haunted by a traumatic XYZ that happened in the past. If this is an action or thriller project, very often we’ll get a flashback to the protagonist dealing with a harrowing situation in a military setting. So many dead soldiers in so many locations in Iraq/Afghanistan. This...

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opening scenes, tropes -

 In past articles we’ve touched on the use of tropes. These are a few common tropes we see in the opening scenes of screenplays.   Waking up. In the opening scene, we watch the protagonist wake up. We get a sense of their daily life, etc. Bonus points if waking up is preceded by a dream. Extra bonus points if the alarm goes off and the protagonist is in a hurry because a) they’re late; b) it’s a big day for them. Waking up in space. This is the sci-fi variation thereof. Ever since the original ALIEN came out, we’ve...

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Tropes are a key component in cinematic storytelling because they function much like the moving image in the sense that they relay a lot of idea in a relatively small package. Tropes become tropes for a reason: because they work. Let’s take for instance the trope of characters doing a lot of drugs. This choice is very often used to relay two ideas. The first is to establish “these are the wild party days.” The second is to shorthand the idea of a “beginning of the end.” For example, look at BOOGIE NIGHTS. We have scenes in which the characters...

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"Telling of the Legend", "The Campfire Story", CANDYMAN, DARK SKIES, INSIDIOUS, Professor Exposition, SINISTER, THE CONJURING, THE EXORCIST, tropes -

There is a trope character I like to call “Professor Exposition.” We often see Professor Exposition appear in horror movies. This is the character who explains to the leads (and by extension the audience) what is doing the haunting, perhaps a bit of backstory, and how to potentially stop it. He’s called Professor Exposition because this is a character whose primary story function is to deliver a pure blast of exposition, straight no chaser. Typically, exposition is a necessary evil, with an emphasis on evil, because exposition is boring, and it’s very hard to write and act this stuff in...

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