We see the same plot devices used over and over again on television, in movies, and in the books we read, but a lot of them work—which is why we use them all the time. However, there are some common and/or over-the-top plot that should be cut from some stories, unless you’ve found a clever way to reinvent them. Here are a few of them we should all recognize—
Dogs or other animals always seem to sense evil in a way that human beings don’t. Although it’s true that a lot of pets don’t like people who mistreat them or their owners, there’s always some clueless owner (in books, TV, or movies) who can’t figure out why their pet is so pissed off.
Villains who explain everything right before they try to kill the protagonist. While I love well constructed moments like this, it gets obnoxious when the villain gives a step-by-step breakdown of what they plan to do. I think Austin Powers made fun of this plot device at one point or another.
Priests are usually villainous characters, while nurses are usually always good. I’m not sure why nearly every priest or religious character in a novel or movie turns out to be evil, but it gets a little tiresome. Sure, religious people in real life can be self-motivated, but so can non-religious people. Switch this up a little bit.
Heroic characters are unaffected by explosions. For some reason, it’s really cool to walk away from explosions unfazed. I mean…I guess I know why.
Cops never know how to fire a gun. Somehow, 30 cops can’t hit your hero. There will be the occasional gunshot wound to the arm, that barely disables your character, but nothing ever really hits them. I know we don’t want to see your protagonist shot to death, but try evening the odds. Make it two cops, instead of the whole force. Give your protagonist a buddy to help out OR a reason why they’re so good at avoiding bullets.
The hero always guesses a computer password after a moment of revelation. I think we’re all familiar with the scene where someone’s trying to guess a password and after several failed attempts they look up and spot something in the room. A look of awe comes over their face because they’ve got it! It was so obvious the whole time!
Screaming at someone usually brings them back to life. “Don’t leave me here!!” works.
No one ever believes your main character about something horrible that will happen. Ever. Obviously this is a great way to create tension, but it can get so frustrating if it goes on too long. If the world is literally falling apart and no one believes that the world is ending, that’s enough.
When I make these lists, I’m clear that many of these things can work if they’re done right. Experiment with what you want and find out what works for your story. Also, add to this list if you want!