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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Q&A: Common Genre Flaws

John Donald Carlucci wrote me to ask the following question:

Is it possible to get a few copies of coverage you've done on romcoms or action pieces that illustrate the things that really turn you off as a reader?
Is it possible? Sure! But to be honest, an individual coverage on one of those won't be that illustrative, plus it would take me a long time to go through them all to find an appropriate one.

Instead, since I mentioned some of this in my morning Expo seminar this past Sunday, I figured I'd instead turn to my notes from that, and cull the most common flaws for each of these genres. Just the things to avoid. The things that I see most frequently in bad scripts from these too-frequently-bad genres.

RomCom: Way too often, Romantic Comedies are completely unoriginal and utterly formulaic. I'd say this describes the bulk of RomCom scripts out there. Furthermore, make sure it has equally strong Romance and Comedy elements. This is a good idea for any genre blends you write. I'm aiming for this with Hell on Wheels, and I think that The Watch didn't do a particularly good job of this, in the draft I read.

Also, be aware that many romances should remain straight romances, and not aim to be the RomComs they're not. There is nothing wrong with a Romantic Drama, or even a Romantic Tragedy.

Make sure you have as many and as complex complications as possible. Too many poor RomCom scripts rely on a single major complication, drawn out for as long as possible. This is simply bad writing.

Action: Less variety here in terms of what most commonly makes for a bad one. A lot have some good style but a weak plot. Like RomComs, they may also be well-written but formulaic. Too frequently I also see an overly inactive protagonist or a protagonist about whom we don't really care. This is a kiss of death for Action movies.

These things are all categories of problems in the semi-decent examples of these genres, by the way. I'm of course not even talking about those examples of the genres that suck. Not much to be learned from those, other than "don't suck."

Lastly, don't think you can cover up story weaknesses with cheap gimmicks. I see that too often, and we (readers) can see through it!

And by "you," I didn't really mean you, specifically, John. I just meant the writer in general. ;-)

Hope that helps!

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Blogger Melanie said...

Great post, Joel. In my writing, I'm a big fan of genre conventions. They can be paid off, tweaked, subverted, but no matter what they remain our lingua franca with the audience. That common language comes with a price, though: unexamined use of genre can indeed seem formulaic and trite.

So highlighting lazy uses of genre is a great service to those of us trying to guard against it. Sometimes it's hard to police yourself when dealing with something so familiar that it's almost shorthand.

9:09 PM  

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