If you are alive long enough (say 5 minutes or so), you begin to notice certain patterns in stories. Scenes that pop up in nearly every novel, movie or TV show.
You want to avoid these scenes “like the plague” because they are:
- Predictable – readers see them coming a mile away
- Boring – we have seen them before therefore they generate less thrills and suspense
- Lazy – Or at least they *appear* lazy
That last reason deserves extra commentary. Writers default to common (trope?) scenes because they are easy. They leap to mind. They come first.
Therefore, they indicate lazy thinking.
And lazy thinking will kill your story “faster than a speeding bullet”.
The 5 Scenes You Should Never Put In Your Novel
1. Chasing Through The Airport
I’m pretty sure this scene is mandatory for the end of every romance story. I’m not even sure if you can legitimately call a story “romance” unless it has this scene.
2. Win the Game At The Last Moment
Same is true for every sports movie ever made. The end of the movie comes down to one point or goal or comeback punch.
3. The Bad Guy Explains Everything
Of course every bad guy (and girl) waxes eloquent for lengthy paragraph after paragraph, coincidently long enough to both info dump and give the protagonist enough time to cut thier conveniently thin ropes.
4. Footchase Through Chinese Restaurant
Pots and pans everywhere. Throw in some parkour because -why not- it looks awesome.
5. Protagonist Searches Through an Old Building And Hears A Noise But It Is Just A Cat
Cue cheesy horror movie music. Fake screams. Bad timing.
BONUS 6: Bad Guy Dies…But No He’s Back
What do you have to do to kill a bad guy? It’s like every wannabe terrorist is half-Rasputin, half-Lazarus.
Again, the fact that you can instantly recognize these scenes is evidence that they are overdone.
They are the tropes of specific genres, scenes that get reused over and over so they lose all punch and power.
Why The Number 5 Reveals The Hidden Truth About Celebrity Illuminati
In retrospect, this should’ve been the title of this whole post because it’s freaking amazing.
Honestly, this section of the post is really to say that there’s no significance in the number five. Quite the opposite actually.
The point of the post is to encourage you to avoid repeating scenes that you’ve seen in other stories.
A good way to remember this is:
Repitition = rejection
How Bestselling Authors Use These Scenes Anyway
Now to completely contradict myself.
You may have noticed that many best-selling novels and blockbuster movies use similar scenes.
Emphasis on the word “similar“.
Great storytellers are aware of these common scenes and the expectations they create for readers.
Therefore, they write scenes that are similar enough to generate those same expectations and then twist them in some way to make them unique and personal and specific to the story.
Maybe instead of the airport chase scene, you have the male lead chasing a train on horseback.
Maybe instead of the cat jumping out in the old house, it’s another monster or bad guy. Or maybe it’s another good guy and the first good guy shoots the second good guy, and now you have a second good guy bleeding out – and there’s still a bad guy somewhere.
How To Twist Trope Scenes Into Something New and Fresh
- Choose a common scene
- Outline how it usually plays out
- Figure out audience expectations – what do readers think will happen?
- Consider doing the opposite
- Ask, “What would make things worse?”
- Brainstorm as many different options as possible and keep the coolest one
- Consider how the twist relates to the story and characters
After going through this process, you can create dynamic scenes that are both familar and unique.
This is one of the secrets of great storytelling – playing up expectations and manipulating them to create new and fresh surprises, and therefore experiences, for the reader.
Christopher is out chasing love interests through airports run by the Illuminati. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Kokoski