Six Story Telling Techniques Used by Writers and Directors That Should Be Scrapped

There are some things about TV shows and movies that I just do not like. These are personal. You might feel completely differently than I do. A lot of people must feel completely differently than I do because the people who write and produce TV shows and movies continue to include these annoying story telling methods or devices in their productions. Nevertheless, I am listing the methods and devices that annoy me the most in this article, in the hopes that some bored writer, director or producer will come across my article and change his or her ways. These are not listed in order of important or in the degree to which I find each method annoying. The are simply listed in the order in which I wrote them down.

Flashbacks – I am not saying never use flashbacks. Sometimes a flashback can be a useful tool in storytelling, particularly where the characters in the present are reminiscing for some reason or another about what happened in the past. So, the scene is a courtroom, and someone is on the witness stand telling his or her story of events. In this scene, a flashback makes perfect sense. However, it seems that flashbacks are now used as suspense builders. We are given a taste of something that happened in the past, but we don’t know the whole story. Throughout the show we keep getting snippets of the flashback, each time a little more of what occurred. This technique is really annoying because we see the same footage repeatedly, but never enough to really understand what actually happened in the past until the end. Flashbacks are also annoying used when a dramatic even occurs. Someone gets shot or is in a car accident and just as the accident happens a flashback of faces from the past goes across the screen. It doesn’t add anything to the story and is just annoying. Please scrap the flashbacks.

Nightmares – I think most of us have nightmares. I do. On the rarest of occasions. For those that I can remember, the nightmare typically has nothing to do with reality. The nightmare is not something that relates to my real life. In the movies, nightmares are really annoying. The audience often does not know that what is showing on screen is a nightmare. So, we think it is part of the story (person dies, person is attacked, person falls off a cliff, etc.). Then we realize that the scene we just saw is a nightmare, and not reality and therefore not part of the story, so why waste our time? Sometimes the nightmare is about something that really happened in the past (an alternative to the flashback) but I’ve never had nightmares about something that actually happened, and I doubt most people do. Maybe just show us what happened in the past as opposed to making it a nightmare. Let’s scrap the nightmares.

Car chases – In 1968 Peter Yates directed the classic movie Bullitt staring Steve McQueen. Given the technology at the time, that movie included one of the best car chases ever. In the last 50 years movies have tried to one-up each other on car chases. They are now wilder, crazier, and more unbelievable than ever, and we have seen so many of them, that they are now nothing more than very annoying. If I am watching a movie at home, I always fast forward through the car chase. Why take up valuable story telling time to show us something we have seen literally hundreds of times before? Car chases have become boring, and even worse, annoying. A car chase in a movie tells me the writer is struggling for content. Let’s scrap the car chases.

Brats – I raised two daughters. I can recall maybe two or three times between the time they were born and the time they left for colleague that their behavior was so bad it had me pulling hair out. Now it seems the norm in shows is for the kids to be rude, insolent, poorly behaved and just nasty little brats. And this behavior is not a momentary reaction to a situation, it lasts the entire length of the movie, or even worse, the entire length of the series. Further the parents are made to look like dupes and fools for putting up with it. I stopped watching Ozarks and Big Little Lies because of this technique. These kids are so annoying they ruin the show. Let’s scrap the bratty kids.

Narrative – When I watch a show, I want to see action. You know people doing things, moving around the screen, engaging in activities. Sometimes in a show you need a few words from a narrator to set the scene, but it is really annoying me when a show has lengthy narrations. Narrations are for books or documentaries. Shows should “show” what is happening. I have turned off shows that begin with lengthy narratives before the action even starts. It’s just not that difficult to set the stage with pictures or conversation between two or more characters. We don’t need an omniscient narrator or one of the characters giving us a lengthy diatribe on the past. Let’s scrap the narrative.

Illusions or hallucinations – I can’t recall ever having a hallucination in my life, other than when driving through the desert and thinking I could see water in the distance, but that is a mirage, and we all understand that. Today a common technique is for the character on screen to see illusions or hallucinations. One minute the character looks at the field and sees his grandpa walking through the corn stocks. A second later he looks again, and grandpa is gone (also commonly used with the dead wife). Illusions are not reality, and I don’t think people actually experience them (unless they are on drugs in which case maybe an illusion is allowed). But for everyone else, those on-screen illusions are just annoying fillers. There are better ways for a character to show he or she is thinking about someone or something. Let’s scrap the illusions and hallucinations.

I know this might pose some writers and directors a problem. If they don’t include car chases, nightmares, flashbacks, bratty kids, narrative, illusions, and hallucinations, what can they possible put in their movies? Maybe they should consider a well written script with snappy dialog, a logical plot, well-crafted characters, logical premises, and an ending that moves our passions and gives us pause for thought. Who knows? Maybe all of that is too much work. Better just down another cocktail at the Polo Lounge and start plotting out the next car chase.