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Mixed Genres Can Lead to a Confusing Script

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:59 pm on October 7, 2011

Writers get ideas for movies in various ways.  Sometimes it’s overhearing a conversation on the bus, other times it may be a dream that inspires you to write a great opening scene.  Wherever the inspiration comes from, it’s always a good idea to follow it through, even if you don’t end up visualizing the exact idea you originally conceived.  But the problem is, sometimes we are so focused on the creative writing process that we forget to double-check we are making the best creative choices.

This can frequently occur when we are inspired by particular movies and want to write our own script in our favorite genre.  An example would be that you just saw a great heist movie and embark on the first draft of your screenplay.  During the course of writing it, you see a teen comedy and without realizing it that film influences the writing of your heist movie.  Now, it could turn out to be a really entertaining original screenplay, but it may also lose focus due to the fact that you are trying to follow two sets of rules: the first set of rules that apply to heist movies and their structure and the second set that apply to teen comedies.

You then finally reach the end of your first draft, read it through and think, damn.. it’s not working.  But why?  You developed all of the character arcs, ensured that the scene to scene plot progression, revelation and twists makes sense and ensured that the event to event causality also strengthens your story.  You clarified the theme in your head and made sure that it was expressed cleverly through dialogue, subtext and visuals but still, something isn’t right.

If this sounds familiar then take a step back and look at the genre you are writing.  Have you made a mistake by trying to inadvertently mix two into one?  Chances are that if you have to describe the script you’re writing in more than one genre then you may need to go back to the drawing board because a story that includes too many genres sets up conflicting expectations in an audience and will work against you.

There are no hard and fast rules, and as such, there are always exceptions but if you pitch your movie as When Harry Met Sally meets Jaws then trying to satisfy an audience on both the romantic comedy level of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins back girl and at the same time on the horror thriller level of boy and girl trying to save the community of a small town holiday resort from a great white shark, well, you can see how the water muddies.

What do you want your audience to be feeling, romance or fear? The highs and lows of a complicated relationship or the shock of a blood-thirsty predator ripping a human being in two?  Who are we meant to be identifying with?  The boy?  The girl?  The tourists or the shark?  What about the climax?  Is it when the boy and girl finally get together or when they finally kill the shark?  Maybe you tried to combine the two into an amazing romantic scene where they pull the trigger together and then kiss as the shark explodes!  Okay, so I’m being facetious but you get the point!


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