Yes, it’s time to award the Charles Harris Screen Imitation Gold Wellington Boot for the top screenwriting clichés of the year. Put on your long slinky dress or tux, walk up the red carpet and join the stars of large and small screen, as we learn what made us grimace in the last twelve months.

In, of course, reverse order…

The imitation gold wellington boot award for the top screenwriting cliché

The imitation gold Wellington boot award for the top screenwriting cliché

Screenwriting cliché #6 – Wakey, wakey!

What do you do when you wake up? Yawn? Stretch? Pretend you’re still asleep? Hide your head under the pillow?

What I bet you don’t ever do is leap up into a sitting position, eyes wide open. I’ve never done it, and nobody I’ve slept with has ever done it (to my knowledge) but it happens every day on screen.

It even happened in the, otherwise excellent, indie movie Mud. But I still didn’t believe it. If you have a character waking up, please do it the way human beings (and all other animals) do it. Lying down.

Screenwriting cliché #5 – You looking at me?

Down from last year’s #4 is the macho, sub-Tarantino hero who talks to camera about how he loves his fists, his mother, his record collection, his cock… before walking towards us in slow motion and then beating some poor guy’s head to a pulp.

Yes, stand up Dom Hemingway and Filth – among many, many others. Usually British, you just know that the writers were brought up in Pinner or Basingstoke and have never been closer to mass violence than buying chicken nuggets at KFC.

At least Tarantino and Scorsese understood that you have to make the audience care about their anti-heroes. Hand me the knuckledusters.

Screenwriting cliché #4 – PASS THE BUCKET

All all-time favourite, it’s the obligatory vomit scene. Once stars couldn’t wait to get their kit off on screen, now they can’t wait to introduce you to their lunch.

Doesn’t matter what the script, if the hero or heroine is deeply shocked, horrified, unhappy with their PR agent, it’s over to the nearest corner and cough up whatever the props department (or catering) can supply that looks nasty and wet.

It’s gritty, realistic and edgy isn’t it? No. It’s just boring.

Screenwriting cliché #3 – Er, um, forget it.

Another hardy perennial, it goes:

“I, er…”


“Oh, nothing.”

Or to put it another way, the writer was too lazy to think of another way to show there was something the hero isn’t going to say.

This one’s easily solved. You just…


Oh, forget it.

Screenwriting cliché #2 – wAKEY, WAKEY! 2

Down from the number one spot this year, but rarely out of the charts, it’s the alarm-clock opening.

FADE UP. Alarm clock shows…. the time!! There’s a shock. Who would have thought it?

Recently proudly featured in the TV mini-series 7:39 and many other opening shots over the past ten thousand years. Come on, folks! Can you really not think of a new idea for the very first line that you type?

Which brings us to the winner of the Imitation Gold Wellington Boot. And the winner is… (pause for a very long time, while we intercut shots of the eager finalists)…

Screenwriting cliché #1 – how low can you go?

It’s a shock new entry, straight to the number one spot. Who would have thought there’d be anything in common between the rather dull 7:39 and the gripping Robert Redford single-hander All Is Lost? It’s the Impossible Sinking Body.

Yes, look out for the man (or woman) who sinks like a stone, deep below the surface, looking up at the surface high above. Beautiful to watch, profoundly stupid.

Because people aren’t stones. Anyone who’s tried to swim more than 12 inches down will know that it’s just not possible. The body is too light. Divers need heavy weights to do it. Don’t take my word for it. Take a friend to your nearest swimming pool. Tell them if you can stay more than two feet down for more than a few seconds, they should to dive in and save you. They won’t get wet.

So next time you see a person sink like  stone, annoy the people around you by saying loudly, “It can’t be done!”

Unlike script clichés.

Send in your nominations for 2014. A prize for the best suggestion.