Clichés that must disappear from stories 2

I have fully returned to writing stories, and because of that I have been paying more attention while watching series, movies or when I read books, to analyze the plot and see which parts I like and which parts I dislike.

With this I have noticed other clichés that are used way too much even nowadays. I already went over some of them in the first part, but these are other clichés that people should stop using, unless, as I said in the previous article, the objective was to make a satire or a joke about them.

1. Hold… hold… hold… fire!

This phrase, or words, were used a lot to increase the tension before a battle, especially in scenes with archers, catapults or long-distance weapons. It became popular and suddenly it appears that a battle cannot happen unless the leader says these words, while the camera changes to the enemies running towards them. What I do not understand is why the leader does not just say: “don’t shoot until I give the order”.

2. Forgive the villain because “too many people have already died.”

Heroes and villains differentiate themselves in many things that depend on the story. One of them is that heroes want to capture the villain, while the villain wants to kill the hero and his friends. What becomes an extremely overused cliché, is that the villain has already killed many people and it is a risk for everyone in the fictional world, and despite this he/she is forgiven, they let them live because “there has been already too many dead” or some variation of the phrase, but then the villain escapes, continues the plan and kills some more. It is a cheap way to complicate the plot.

3. “We are not so different, you and I.”

Speaking of heroes and villains, the villains’ monologues when he/she thinks has won are classic in comics, novels, movies and series. To be honest, I do like those speeches, I think it reveals much of the villain and gives more details of their master plans. The thing that has been overused is the classic “we’re not so different, you and I”. I was surprised the first time I heard it, because the villain, the opposite to the heroic character, is saying that they have something in common. However, it has been used so many times that it lost the effect and it ruins the speech.

4. Sinister plans that make no sense.

Continuing with good versus bad plots. The plans of the villain can go from trying to eliminate the good guys, conquer the world, make money at the expense of others, and a variety of plans that that the good guys want to stop. Sometimes the bad guys have plans that make no sense, for example: wanting to destroy the world when they also live in it; or releasing demons or monsters that would never obey a mortal. The cherry on top of bad clichés comes when the villain succeeds to execute the plan and dies because of it.

5. “Reviving” a character that the entire time was said to be dead.

There is nothing wrong for new characters to appear in the story to complicate the plot and increase the tension. What they must stop doing, is for someone, that was said to be dead the entire time (mother, father, grandparents, scientist, retired hero), to appear suddenly as if nothing happened. I personally hate when this occurs, because much of the character development, related to the “deceased” one, goes to waste. Many times, the dead of that character caused a change, and when removing that from a character, part of their motivations make no sense. This also includes “killing” a character off-camera, and miraculously returning just in time to save his/her friends.

6. A character argues with another for a decision in which there was no other choice.

When putting the characters in a tight spot, it is common that they must face a difficult decision in which both results are bad and they have to choose the best of worst. What drives me mad, is that when a character makes a hard decision, when no other choice was possible, and the other characters get mad at him/her for making it, when the situation could have been way worse otherwise. For example: when a character must choose to sacrifice someone, with no other choice available, to save ten people, it is normal for the characters to feel sad, but there is always someone that gets angry with the one that saved the rest of them. Sometimes I wish to enter the story and yell: what do you want? That all of you are dead? Go and die if you are that mad about the decision that saved your life.

7. Bullets running out at a critical time.

Imagine an action scene, what appear to be hundreds of bullets being shot, the heroin and the villain avoiding them miraculously. Just when the heroin catches the villain off guard, surprise! The weapon makes a “click” sound because the bullets ran out. This may have thrilled the audience the first times, but after many years of using this it became a very predictable tool.

8. Having firearms, and to kill a fugitive they get close and are defeated.

There is always a risk when writers give firearms to pursuers, because unless the pursued is bulletproof, it is difficult to get out of a precarious situation. This leads the pursuers to committing the stupid act of getting close to the pursued, giving them the opportunity to defend themselves with punches and kicks and remove their weapons. If I were a fictional character with a firearm and needed to take care of someone, I would shoot from afar to avoid being hurt. Or we could all attack at the same time, instead of one by one. That is why they say common sense is the least common of the senses.

I hope this list does not increase to the point of needing a third part. Just as in the previous article, it is likely that some of these may not seem as overused as I make them look, but I assure that you have seen them at least three times. I still want, as a reader and a movie and series lover, that writers find new ways to hook the audience without using extremely predictable tools. }

Feel free to contact me for questions or additional comments in: jessav@mail.com.

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