I'm going to admit something here, I know that I can be difficult sometimes. Some people would call me temperamental. My wife likes "grumpy". I prefer principled. For the sake of this article, let's just say that I have a few pet peeves that tend to get under my skin. Let me list them, or at least an abridged version:
- Being sung at: Christmas Carolers and Happy Birthday Restaurant Servers, I'm looking at you.
- Slow Mergers: The people who go five under in the fast lane and then, once they get the hint, take so long to merge it's like they are straddling the middle line for two minutes.
- Not waving when someone lets you merge: It's common courtesy, people.
- Not keeping Score in Kid's Sports: It really defeats the purpose of having them play sports... and teaching them math for that matter. Do you really think they don't know it's 15-2?
- The Oklahoma City Thunder: I am from Seattle. Never mention this team in my presence... ever.
- Speakerphone cellphone talkers: I assume that there is someone on the other end of the line, you don't have to prove it to me. If you can hold the phone up to your face when you talk, you can take the extra effort to get it to your ear.
- Corporate Buzzwords: "Leverage", "Buy-In", "Stakeholders", "Out of Pocket", etc... Just run your fingers across a chalkboard and scream "I am overcompensating for my lack of business experience and really have no confidence in what I am doing"
- Saying Clip instead of Magazine: I admit that this is small, but it is a word you have to get right in your movies. The bottom line is that if a gun is not a revolver it does not have a clip! It has a magazine!
- Movies about Customs (Now CBP): Still haven't seen one get it right. Helpful hint, it hasn't been called Customs for nearly ten years now.
- Talking in a movie theater: Seriously?
Pet peeves are also an excellent source of subtext for your scenes. Awhile back we were writing a spec script in which the main character, Mike, was a police officer relieved of his duties for what we'll call "anger management issues". In one particular scene he is talking to his friend, Jason, trying to convince him of his progress and ability to work again. The conversation ends with Jason asking "How's it going for you?" and Mike responding "I'm working on it". It's an okay scene, not too on the nose for the dialogue and not too much of a question and answer, but it also lacked sizzle and seemed sterile. So we decided to bring one of Mike's pet peeves to the forefront. In this case it is a Frat Boy talking on his cell phone in the booth behind him. The scene has the same dialogue and tone between Mike and Jason but every time the Frat Boy speaks Mike becomes more visually agitated as he tries not to lash out. Mike finally cannot hold back and turns to tell the Frat Boy that he can either hang up and eat his lunch or eat his phone, Mike doesn't care which. It is at this point that Jason asks Mike how it is all going and Mike says he is working on it. Now the scene had sizzle and it was all because Mike doesn't like people who talk on their cell phone in restaurants. So embrace your pet peeves, or at least make a list, your characters may need them.