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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Feedback and Repetition Compulsion

My Mate Freud - you might have heard of him, the famous psychoanalyst who apparently claimed all women were bisexual because they were breastfed by their mothers and that child abuse "just didn't happen", riiight! - did have one idea I do subscribe to and that's repetition-compulsion.

Of course Freud meant it from a psychoanalytical, rather than screenwriting sense, but I've taken the gist and bastardised it Bang2write style to fit my own sensibilities, so all the scientists, psychologists and philosophers out there: don't get your knickers in a twist! We're all friends here. (As long as you agree with me).

So what is repetition-compulsion when one is screenwriting? Well, I believe it's those things that crop up again and again, whether a writer wants them to or not. Take a writer friend of mine. He always calls his girl characters Tracey. He just can't help himself. Nine times out of ten they're deranged or disabled in some way. No kidding. Another girl writer friend of mine writes Lesbian sex scenes. Why is unconfirmed: she is not, nor ever has been, a Lesbian. Yet her characters all turn gay. She's not sure why, she doesn't set out for them to be gay, they just...evolve.

Those are two extreme cases, but we ALL have small foibles that we can begin to pick up as we build our portfolio of specs. I have five highly polished scripts now and looking through the feedback I've received on all of them from a variety of sources, I can see many odd things have been picked out in them by Readers male and female, young and old, British, American and European:

1. Phones always herald bad news. No one ever uses the phone in my specs except to tell someone that something bad has happened, or threaten them in some way. The only phone call that ended with "I love you", the character then got plastered all over the road by a passing lorry. Ouch!

2. My female characters are nearly always pregnant. But never very pregnant, just newly-pregnant. All of them want to have abortions yet can't go through with it, either for moral or financial reasons. All of them threaten their babies in some other way too: one says she's going to put hers up for adoption because she doesn't want to even see it, another holds a knife to her stomach. Contrary to popular belief, I never wanted to get rid of my son when I was pregnant, it didn't even enter my head - even though I was frightened about the future and only 18. So this is not autobiographical. But people always nod and say, "Of course, of course" and think secretly it is. Argh.

3. Men who are good-looking are always, always wolves in sheep's clothing. Either because they are psychos or actual wolves. The only good men in my specs are either complete saps or die hideous deaths.

4. All the men in my specs are dark. And hairy. Just the way I like them.

5. Children are always brats in my scripts and run away. I'm not sure where I got this from because my children are not brats and have never run away. Not even once. Honest.

6. The relationship between mother-daughter and father-daughter in my scripts is always fucked up, but never between father-son or mother-son. Sisters always like each other but Brothers never do. If there is a Brother and a Sister in a family, one is always dead. Again, bizarre as I have a good relationship with my family and none of them are dead.

7. I never dictate the colour of any of my characters, nor have the need to for the story. I don't see what relevance a character's colour is, that's all - not because I expect them all to be white. I sometimes list hair colour: I seem to have this strange idea that blonde, thin women are more vulnerable than more voluptuous brunettes, which actually is daft now I think about it and will change. I very rarely go into detail about the men (except detail listed, see number 3).

8. All my characters start their lives called Rob or Melissa when I write bios. I've never met anyone in real life called Melissa, so I don't really know how this has happened. Usually before the draft, though not always.

9.I write women being drunk quite a lot, but hardly ever men! Which MAY be autobiographical. >BURP<

10. Nearly all the female characters in my scripts are nurses. Conversely, my brother is a nurse, so I don't know if this has had any influence. Other occupations include teacher (naturally), but these are always fellas, as are the students in my specs. Women in my scripts often don't have jobs - one's a single Mum and another is on the run. Ooo er.

11. I love axes. They're always in there somewhere, whether someone kills someone with one, has to smash out a window or smack a werewolf in the head. No one ever chops wood with one though.

12. I'm obsessed with breasts! My favourite and picked up by a recent reader in a Power of Three. I had a BUSTY NURSE, a BOSOMY SHOPKEEPER and even a GIRL WITH NON-EXISTENT CLEAVAGE: this was in just one script! I then had a look at some other scripts and sure enough, there they were: BUSTY HARLOT, a WOMAN with "sizeable breasts" and a FULLY-BREASTED MAID. No wonder you boys like reading my scripts...!

What do you keep writing and can't stop??

13 comments:

Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

What's wrong with number 12?

I appreciate a woman who is fascinated with breasts :)

Lucy said...

No one is saying it's WRONG Chris, just bizarre! ; )

And HOW do you appreciate a woman who is fascinated with breasts, dare I ask???

Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

I was going to respond by saying something like I would ...

Actually I'd beter not even hint at what I was going to say. Some would say I'm a typical bloke, but I'm not *that* typical :)

Lucy said...

LIES! All men are *typical* ; )

Lianne said...

Oh, this post is right up my street!

A few of my repitions:

Broken families - I don't come from one, yet in almost all my scripts at least one parent is absent in some way, be it death, divorce, madness (yes, really!) or something else. On the rare occasion when the 'family unit' remains intact, this is usually a bad thing and one or both parents will be deeply unhappy in the marriage.

Men - I'm told they are all weak and pathetic! I would say they are often and more reliant on women than they know how to admit, usually incapable of coping with change. Lots of repressed anger but they are rarely physically violent.

Women - often on the surface appear to be victims or passive, but reveal themselves to be a manipulator or schemer, or are just more resilient and strong than they seem. Women are usually dark haired and men usually fair-haired.

Both male and female characters are often smokers with unhealthy diets and poor sleeping patterns.
I don't repeat names but have recurring locations or images - water, forests and deserted. Hotels and nightclubs almost always forecast doom!

Hmmm, interesting little exercise that! There are a few more that actually DO correlate to my life but I'm not telling what those are ;-)

Sheila West said...

Lucy,

I almost write a long long response to your post just now with my own examples of exactly that. But my reply just got so darned long I decided to make it a post in my own blog.

Not knowing which was less rude, I opted to not clutter up your response page with my long long long long response, and instead will post a link back to my own blog.

Sorry for pimping. But here's the link.

http://sandwichboardroom.blogspot.com/2007/04/ricochet-post-subconscious-plot.html

Far away said...

..with me - the father figure always becomes the emotional conduit..

hmm

potdoll said...

I used to know someone called Melissa. She had herpes.

Lucy said...

Lianne - NOTHING about that suprises me ; )

Sheila - don't worry about it! I go on and on meself. Will check out your post.

Far away - *nodding in earnest but no idea really what you mean* ; )

Potdoll - are you sure you're not falling into my dream in the chinese market?!?

Robin Kelly said...

The name I use in most of my scripts is also that of a recently revealed false name to real name UK blogger. I absolutely love the name but I suppose I have to abandon it now.

I share the broken families thing with Lianne as well but rather than one parent absent it's always the father. Anyone who mentions Oedipus will be getting a slap.

Piers said...

Zombies.

It's probably just a phase I'm going through.

Sal said...

Ooh good post! My heroines always start off being called Kate. I have no idea why, I've never had a best friend called Kate and am not related to any Kates. Mothers in my stories are usually dead, or if not dead, absent. Mine's neither of these things in real life. Food usually plays a role - and the heroine is almost always a good cook.

I'm going to be thinking about this all day now!

Lucy said...

Robin: Oedipus...>THWACK<

Piers: You sure you're not writing a bio-pic...of YOURSELF?! Snarf, snarf... ; )

Sal: You should ALWAYS be thinking of this blog, not just the one post! It should take over your every waking hour... Got that!