When you are writing a screenplay, how do you manage to focus on originality and avoid a multitude of clichés just slipping into the story some how?
In the writer’s ongoing battle against clichés, he finds two basic enemies: verbal clichés ("as easy as taking candy from a baby"), and story clichés (the explosive with a count-down LED timer).
Eliminating the first kind is simply a matter of recognizing them and finding something better to replace them. I work incredibly hard on the narrative description in my scripts, tweaking it at least as much as the dialogue. With vigilance, the night never has to be "as black as coal" or "as cold as a witch’s tit."
The story clichés are harder to deal with, because certain genres carry them along like parasites. Action movies sometimes have the ticking time bomb, or mismatched partners, or heroes who somehow avoid being hit when a hundred bullets are flying their direction.
The key — and this starts in the conception phase of the script — is recognizing the inherent clichés in a genre, and figuring out how you’re going to handle them. SCREAM did a masterful job pointing out, subverting, and ultimately fulfilling teen-slasher clichés.
Sometimes, the best way to avoid story clichés is to look at the reality behind every character, every setting, every decision made in your story. Is Carla Ann really "a hooker with a heart of gold?" On closer inspection, she might be a nervous, self-deprecating dreamer.
Does the police station need a squad room full of desks and detectives milling about? Maybe your scene could take place in a courtyard, or by the photocopier, or in the cafeteria.
Clichés are shortcuts. The more you avoid taking them, the more interesting the places you’ll end up.