That old chestnut

I was watching an old sitcom the other day, and I spotted a tried and true plot device that made sense to me as a kid, but not anymore. It’s the main character’s birthday and everyone he knows pretends to forget and then throws a surprise party late in the day. He sees the party feels touched and forgets his hard feelings.

In reality, I think the mc would be initially surprised and then yell, “You assholes! You put me through an entire day of thinking no one cared about me! I thought of offing myself twice!” There has to be a better way of hiding a surprise party than snubbing the person and then saying just kidding. That’s supposed to make the entire party better? Ha, ha, you thought no one loved you, but we do? Couldn’t they tell him happy birthday quietly and then still have the party later? That way, he could think it’s a good birthday and then think it’s the best birthday.

Please, don’t let a hack surprise party happen to your manuscript. Now I sound like a public service announcement. Writers Against Cliches.


10 thoughts on “That old chestnut

  1. Old sitcoms are notorious for bad cliches! Actually, so are current ones.

    The forgotten bday reminds me of the movie Sixteen Candles.

  2. Barbara, very true.

    This is rather cliched. I did a surprise party for my DH once upon a time. I actually took him out for a nice dinner. He, of course, knew this was my gift to him. The surprise came in when we entered the restaurant and all his friends were there. We topped it off with an evening at a comedy club and a hotel stay.

    Another surprise ended up being an out of state trip to visit his bestest buddy for a weekend of golfing. He had no clue until I pulled his bags out of the trunk at the airport. It took a lot of effort (tickets, work, ride, child care, packing, etc…), but it can be done in a way that the surprise isn’t “oh, you do love me after all”, but rather in a “wow, this is a super awesome bonus to my already great day!”

    Nice tip on avoiding the over-used.

  3. I think the mc must have been pretty obtuse. If everyone pointedly forgets (oxymoron, I guess, huh?) your birthday, that atypical and insensitive behavior from your friends would be a tipoff, don’t you think?

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