Screenwriting : What does "script is generic" mean? by Shahriar Bourbour

What does "script is generic" mean?

Hi, when a reviewer says my characters are, or the script is, "generic" what does that mean? Sorry about the pun, but that's not specific enough for me. Is it as opposed to "specific", "complex"? Why makes Merida in the animation "Brave" specific?? My character has a name, a location, a family, a world, a purpose, friends, and an antagonist. Why is that "generic"? Would appreciate all feedback. Thanks!

Mark A McKee

It means that there isn’t something compelling to the reader that makes them want to invest time in the product. This could mean that you are pulling too much from your inspirations and not putting enough of your own unique flair behind it to make it different enough to consider purchasing etc.

Shahriar Bourbour

Thank you Mark! I appreciate the feedback. I will certainly go back to the drawing board and re-think the characters and the plot.

Michael Wenig

Thanks, Mark. Very insightful.

Jason Mirch

Hey Shahriar Bourbour - Robert McKee taught 2 really incredible webinars with Stage 32 on creating characters. Here is Part 1:

And here is Part 2:

If you get a chance, you should definitely check those out. I hope that helps!

Shahriar Bourbour

Thanks Jason!

Ricki Linksman

I highly recommend Robert McKee's webinars that Jason mentioned. They're excellent.

Craig D Griffiths

All Mexicans are called Juan and eat tacos.

All Australians are Call Mick and live in the outback.

All french men have a moustache and smoke thin cigars.

If you wanted to write the most standard, seen million times before and frankly boring characters, that are referred as generic.

Stories are generic when they do the same as the million other films that came before them. A bank robbery that goes wrong, a shoot out, a car chase, one of the car smashes (oh no they had the cash). Just like every other bank robbery film.

If you have seen it before, it is probably generic.

Shahriar Bourbour

Thank you Craig! That's very well explained. Makes me wonder then how do these scripts keep getting produced with the same car chases, SUVs that flip over and their 15 gas tanks explode, buildings that collapses under the MC's feet as someone on a chopper grabs him by the wrist, "we got company", "what just happened", "working on it", "took you long enough". Anyway ... I think having connections is important too. It's like looking for a job. Resumés are good, but a reference is better! :-) Thanks for the discussion everyone.

Vic Burns

Trite. Predictable. Stereotypical. Tropey (tropy?).

People are still lapping up the same old 22 ep procedurals (for now) on the networks and I’m sure that will migrate to streaming at some point.

Erick Freitas

Generic means cliche/stereotypical

Christopher Poet

I do believe that is should be noted that feedback from any individual calling anything "generic" is also a matter of opinion, not fact. Anyone can ready even a well-written script and still think it is "generic" from their perspective. So, something to keep in mind is who is reading your work and where their interests lie.

A personal rule of thumb I go by is not to judge or take too much of a concern on something unless is becomes a popular note in the feedback I get. If only one person is disregarding something, but 3 others are not bothered by it, it does not sit high on my priority concerns. But if say, 3 people were to note the same thing and one person did not, then that one thing is something I should probably keep an eye on.

This becomes highly relevant to me if the people I am getting feedback from also have an interest in my chosen genre and theme. While I would assume it goes without saying that the people you seek feedback from should always be interested in the themes and genres of your writings, it is worth noting this will not always be the case. But I pay extra attention to those who are because they are more familiar with the genre and are more likely to understand what has and has not worked in the past.

Just a thought. Keep in mind who is reading it and their interests. Such feedback is always biased and until it becomes repetitive, I would not say it deserves too much attention.

I digress

Craig D Griffiths

Shahriar Bourbour I would say that people feel lost during production and fall back on the tropes and generic things. It is like comfort food, you see if and feel safe. So when things go bad, throw one in. Having said that, they are also just part of a story. If the overall story is lacking. It might just be easy to point that these generic items and blame these. A James Bond film is packed full of these.

But how good is it when a film doesn’t have this happen. I love it when I am surprised.

More often than not I laugh my head off with exploding cars.

Think of all the great film moments. They are unique.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In