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??