For me, part of writing is figuring out what my damned subconscious is up to. I am a planner by nature. Part of my outline process is trying to find the parts that go together and why they go together so that I can make sure to highlight that in the screenplay. Our minds are mysterious places. They connect things that may not seem to be connected on the surface. When I'm thinking about my story before writing it, all kinds of strange elements may pop into my noggin that don't seem to be part of the story... but my subconscious is way ahead of me. Often in outline stage, I discover the connections... sometimes I can't see the connections and either leave the weird stuff out or leave it in for the first draft hoping that I will figure out where the heck that idea came from as I am writing, and make it work in the next draft.
That's kind of what happened on the spec I'm working on now. There were 3 subplots, and though all were connected to the story on the surface, I had no idea how they were connected to the story on a deeper level. One subplot had to do with the character's problems in school. One subplot had to do with the character's father's problems at work. One of the subplots had to do with a specific type of sidekick and that sidekick's background – also specific. Now, there was some reason why my subconscious selected that sidekick with that background... but I didn't know why when I began writing the screenplay. I've read many screenplays where it seemed like characters and incidents were picked blindly from a hat and just jammed into the script arbitrarily. That's what I try to avoid at the thinking-about-it stage and the outline stage – I try to find the connections. But on this script? Not a clue.
But why did my brain pick these specific elements? There is always some reason, and the trick to a good screenplay is to know the reason so that it can be communicated to the audience in the film and not just some weird thing that only makes sense to you. Screenwriting is communication – and if for some reason you just know that the character is left handed, part of the job is to figure out why they are left handed and why that is critical to the story and make sure the audience understands these things so it's not just some whim that the character is left handed.
So, a few days ago I was writing a scene... and had this flash. Suddenly, I could see what my subconscious was getting at! I knew the why for these subplots. I knew why there was only one choice for type of sidekick and background of sidekick – no other version would have worked as well. No other version would have illustrated the theme. No other version would have shown the protagonist's emotional issues as well. And that sidekick was connected to the two other subplots in ways I'd never seen before. Connections that were always there, that my subconscious could see, but I had not been able to see before. This allowed me to write a scene that was about one of the subplots but also addressed the two other subplots on the sly... so that all three subplots could make sense as part of the story to the audience. Now, those subplots made sense to me so I could write a scene so that they'd make sense to the audience. My subconscious knew these were the best subplots for this script before I did.
The trick is to listen to your subconscious, but also to find the way through that wall between right brain and left brain so that you understand what the heck your subconscious is up to and get that stuff on the page in a way that the reader and viewer can understand as well.
TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Protagonist's Job - How your protag's job is part of the story and important to the story... using the new movie WIN WIN as an example.
Dinner: Subway sandwich.
Pages: Dang - fell off the horse! But I did get a couple of pages written.
Bicycle: Mostly short rides.
Movies: WIN WIN - great little movie by the writer-director of THE VISITOR and THE STATION AGENT.