Writing Toward and Against Expectations

by Jason Hellerman on September 7, 2014

In a post this week by John August he discusses genre and how characters play to or against audience expectations. When writing or trying to break a story it's always useful to view films similar in tone and genre to the one you're working on. It's important to learn as much as you can about your predecessors because as audiences become accustomed to certain character traits one way you can stand out is to write against them.

John August uses Runaway Bride as an example but you can also use a movie like 500 Days Of Summer. What that movie does so well is take the classic moments from Romantic Comedies and switch it all around to be a movie about tearing two people apart. 500 Days takes what audiences came to expect from Rom Coms (the meet cute, the do-si-do, and the eventual breakup) and spun a yarn starting with the breakup and detailing how it happened.

This works across genres as well. One of the reasons Guardians of The Galaxy was such a huge hit this summer is that it took what we've come to expect from Marvel hero films and exploited their motley crew to be a much less polished super team of screw-ups. Every time we expected them to get their act together or finally bond they tore themselves apart or made mistakes.

All this is fun but sometimes you want to embrace genres with a little flair. The genre mashup is one great way to take what works in two different areas and cram them together for a fresh twist on what was tired. Movies like Shaun Of The Dead, Blade Runner, and From Dusk Till Dawn capitalize on what we think will happen and keep us engaged by subverting expectations by switching genres.

List of Genre Mashup Films

Television Experiments with Tropes

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