Screenplay: Bad Guy & Doomsday Fatigue

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A very common mistake when setting out to write a new script is the unintentional use of the cliche. Today our films are odyssey’s of computer generated bad guys and doomsday endings. The audience was initially willing to trade story for spectacle, but as we move into the 21st Century, this sensibility is dwindling.

Bad Guys

Story is intended to be metaphorical and not on point. Yet, we still see script after script trying to out perform the last “hit man” or “evil” antagonist. For a child these arcs are understandable. A child has yet to experience the rotating door of repeating low-hanging fruit which is bad script writing. Today, new writers will glorify and focus on villains like Darth Vader without truly understanding the mythos behind why he was truly feared by the other characters in the script.

An antagonist can indeed be another Iago Shakespeare’s Othello, or it can be an illness that the protagonist is struggling with. A true “bad guy” never perceives themselves as bad. An antagonist is simply a person coming from a different perspective, and it is this slight change in overall life charter than can make a character in your script seem the most threatening person to either your character or humanity itself. It is however important to track how many times a a particular mechanism or character design has been used on modern audiences before writing yet another cliche bad guy.

Doomsday Scenario

Computer generated artwork is alluring when it comes to portraying never before seen scenarios of world calamities or global threats. It can be safely suggested that Hollywood has done an excellent job dreaming up every possible combination on the Rubik’s cube of life that could be created visually. So where do you go from here?

Creating A Great Story

A key to all good storytelling is to ensure that you imbue the audience with something that they didn’t possess when entering the theater. A great story that transfers wisdom of story to the viewer are typically the films that are deemed “cult classics” in the following years after a great film is released. It should also be noted that these great stories are seldom entirely appreciated at their time of release. Films that often celebrated in the time of their release are not always a part of a personal collection decades later.

In this 21st Century, humans are more aware of their personal lives than ever. The struggle of employment, economy, political and social issues are what drives narratives around the world. This heightened awareness is a boon for those trying to find a competitive force to battle a protagonist’s journey. As society attempts to recognize and solve global issues that lack any individual bad guy to single minded doomsday scenario, the options for negation are plenty.

Cliche VS Boring

As a writer you should be aware of cliches of all kinds. From cliches of basic story arcs that have been recently exhausted to specific scenarios such as “man from outer space coming to kill humanity.” However, there are real-life factors that can be used in a story to create great drama thus gapping for your characters. However, it is important to be aware of what real-life situations that might be either boring or too controversial to draw a profitable viewing of your final product.

A great story should be generic enough to be told in multiple styles or periods. It should have a universal value to audiences all around the world and all throughout time. Specifically, lecturing an audience about “global warming” or “climate change” can rob the audience of their ability to truly escape for their money. It is so profound an effect that some films are entirely panned due to a single mention of such issues. As your film ages, so too does the story. As an example, there is a single episode of Star Trek: Next Generation where the character Data brings up a controversial issue of the early 1990s regarding the strength of the Ozone layer. This one line will permanently date the episode and remind the audience that this show was created in the 1990s and by folks that were trying to lecture their audience about issues long since resolved.

Be Creative and Impress Hollywood

It’s one thing to say that you dislike remakes or reboots. It’s another to write something wholly original that will avoid cannibalizing these exact scripts. One of the reasons why getting scripts into Hollywood is so difficult is that they are inundated with bad scripts written by junior writers who think that copying previous blockbusters will guarantee their success. As each studio deals with a barrage of these useless efforts, they tighten the submission process thus making it near impossible to get the great scripts to the proper individuals that would pay anything for something original and creative.

In closing, ask yourself:

  • Am I writing something original?
  • Am I reusing arcs that have been used in the last 20 years?
  • How much does your story rely on special effects to fill in where great story telling would be more impactful?
  • Could your story survive being moved 2,000 years in the past?