Screenwriting Mistakes to Avoid via M. Night’s LADY IN THE WATER

Over at Scriptshadow we find a great list of things that make a story terrible, focusing on the by-now-notorious failures of M. Night Shyamalan (specifically, The Lady in the Water).

I think the real reason there are so many M. Night haters is that he’s so defiant about his script’s problems. While he never comes out and says it, his m.o. after a flop is to insinuate that critics and audiences don’t “get it.” Maybe if M. Night had some humility and took himself a little less seriously, he’d endear a lot of those fans to come back to his side (or at least not spend half their day pounding him on message boards). I picked “Lady In The Water” to analyze because I believe it’s the moment audiences first began to realize that M. Night may be a one-trick pony.

Although the article is about screenwriting, it applies to narratives in general. It covers:

  • Never place symbolism or theme above story
  • Listen to criticism
  • Don’t drown your story in mythology –
  • Quirky for quirk’s sake is a recipe for disaster
  • Beware coincidences when writing screenplays
  • The “fate” excuse isn’t good enough
  • Beware the close cousin of coincidence: convenience
  • Use gas on your emotional beats, not nuclear power
  • Silly/goofy choices

Read the explanations for each of those points right here:


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