Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ricochet Post: Subconscious plot elements that surface in multiple scripts

Okay. Lucy just did a post on her utterly fabulous blog where she talks about the Freudian-esque thing of having the same plot elements show up in her scripts again and again on what seems to be a subconscious level.

And so, I now confess that I too have subconscious repetitions:


I have two scripts where two characters are specifically described as having red hair. Both are tall good looking guys, BTW. Other than that, I almost never describe hair color (supposed to be a no-no in scriptwriting).

I have a wife in one script who gets beat-up badly by a super-natural beastie (she and her hubbie just bought a house and didn't know it was haunted). After he checks her out of the emergency room and the they both check into a hotel room (refusing to go back to the house), they have a huge argument about selling the house, and he finally demands of her: "WHAT PROOF DO YOU HAVE THAT DEMONS EXIST?" And she, in tears, wordlessly (wordlessly, mind you, very important) opens her shirt and shows him the bruises she suffered at the hands of a demon. It's a moment of both shock and reconciliation.

I have another script where a guy and a girl have just begun dating and haven't gotten to the hot'n'heavy stuff in their relationship yet (so he hasn't seen her naked body yet). She asks him "If I told you I had a really bad scar on my body, would that turn you off?" He says no and asks what happened (surgery maybe?) She explains it was her ex-husband, a violent and controlling man she had to flee from via an underground network of women's shelters. After she tells him about this terrible secret of her past, she doesn't show the scar to him, but he's pretty cool about it. A few weeks later (they still haven't gotten sexual with each other yet, btw) he gives her a gift: a satellite cell phone and he has a matching one. And both phones have GPS screens and he's the blue dot and she's the pink dot and now they can always find each other. She totally flips out at him and accuses him of wanting to keep track of her and control her. She storms away. Later on she calls him and has him come over. And in shameful tears she opens her shirt for him and (wordlessly--very important that it's wordless) finally shows him the scar. Again, this is a moment of reconciliation.

In two scripts, I have a hunk of ripped clothing. One hunk is deliberately torn off his own shirt sleeve by an injured guy who lies near death on the floor of a small barn (okay, he's really an injured ANGEL lying on the floor of a barn). He hands the ripped shirt sleeve to a little boy (who is there with his sister) and tells him to take it to his parents (the ripped shirt is proof that he's in the barn and will prompt the parents to come out--actually it will prompt the other angels in the house to come out because he needs their help and can't hail them in his injured state). The injured man stays in the barn with the little girl awaiting the return of the little boy and the parents (and hopefully the other angels --a little bit of Whistle Down the Wind here).

The other script I have a little girl who is riding her bike in the back yard and (little does she know) an old well covered by with rotting boards lies in her path. She rides over the boards, they crack, and she and the bike fall through. Her shirt sleeve gets snagged as she slides down the hole and a hunk of her ripped shirt sleeve remains dangling on the jagged boards, fluttering in the breeze. But, before she hits the bottom of the well shaft, an angel catches her and flies her back up out of the hole again. He tells her to go show her arm to her mom, and then he disappears. The girl's mortified mother takes the girl to the medical clinic to treat the arm. And at the clinic the little girl explains about the hole in the ground and a mysterious man who saved her, but no one believes her. A team of firefighters later goes out to the house and in the back yard they find the cracked open well and also find the ripped shirtsleeve on the edges of the boards. They look down and see the bike way the heck down at the bottom. The piece of cloth on the boards indicates she really did fall through. But they have no explanation as to how she got out on her own.

These are the only repetitions that I am aware of. I'm sure there are others. But Freudian questions will naturally arise now:

1) What's with the red hair thing?

Well, first off, I think Eric Stoltz is kinda sexy. And also, it has been my experience that in a large crowd of people, the easiest person to spot is the guy with red hair. So both scripts have characters who each, at some point, must be easily spotted, so both of those someone's have been assigned red hair.

2) Do I have a scar on my body?

Yes. It's about 3/4 of an inch long and practically invisible. I had a cyst removed as a kid. Not one boyfriend has ever had a problem with it, and only one ever even noticed it.

3) What's with the ripped clothing thing? Have I ever ripped my shirt sleeves? And why children both times?

I really don't know where I got that from. Ripped shirt sleeve? I don't know. Children? I don't know. I did mention above my Whistle Down the Wind thing. And I think the relationship between humans and angels is akin to that of adults to children, so showing children with angels is, to me, representative of the larger picture. But whatever the reason, I still think it's kinda cool imagery.

I also have another situation--actually it's an entire sub-plot -- where an unripped and thoroughly intact piece of clothing (a jacket) becomes a quasi-MacGuffin. The jacket is likewise proof of something very profound and earth-shattering, and by the end of the script, the jacket is finally revealed for its true nature. The jacket was a total accident. It sprang up outa nowhere from one small anecdotal story that a nameless character was giving at one point during the script (a montage of man-on-the-street interviews by a reporter asking random people if they had ever seen an angel, and one nameless person gave the story of having gotten lost in a huge city as a child). But then, after the montage was written, I rethought that one anecdotal story and realized it was kind of a super cool story. So I reassigned that anecdote to a MAJOR character. And then I suddenly realized that the major character should probably still be in possession of that jacket to this day, so I casually had the character add: "My wife and I have it hanging up in our attic in a garment storage bag." And then I realized maybe a scientist should analyze the jacket. So I kept rewriting the importance and stature of the jacket in the script, and the jacket just kept growing in importance with each subsequent draft until it mushroomed into its very own sub-plot.

These are the repeat plot elements that I’m aware of. Lucy’s blog post is about those frequently seen elements that others had to point out to her. I haven’t had enough people read my scripts for that sort of feedback. Maybe some day.


Lucy said...

Get yourself some Power of Three Action!!!

Sheila West said...

How does one do that anyway????

I do't have as much traffic on my site as you do--not as cool a writer as you.

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