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Having a little experience with the American and British film industry, it strikes me that perhaps an area that could greatly benefit from subconscious writing might be film and television script writing.

Because such large sums of money are spent on completing a film, Hollywood decision-makers often feel they can’t afford to rely on someone’s erratic (and possibly highly original) subconscious for a story. Instead, they put great faith into story structure and will outline the heck out of any story before it even gets written. Why? Because they have carefully codified the┬árules of structure (when things should happen in a story) based on past box office receipts and so think┬áthere is a better chance of a movie being successful if it follows these rules.

I believe there are three main elements in generating a story, and depending on which element dominates, you can have three very different outcomes:

Structure First

1. Structure

2. Story

3. Character

Often, non-creative people (movie executives) will start with structure, and then shove into it the story (what happens), and then finally shove in characters (why things happen). This can often result in very predictable, familiar films and gives writers the least amount of space to generate a subconscious story.

Story First

1. Story

2. Structure

3. Character

This is an approach in which a writer determines what he or she would like to have happen in a story first–a very common form of writing. If the writer is working in the film industry, he or she will then make sure that what happens happens at the right time in the movie to gain maximum impact and interest on the part of the audience (structure). Finally, characters are shoved into the holes like pawns so that the story doesn’t seem as if it happened on its own. This can often yield interesting movies, but they will just as often still feel forced and familiar.

Character First

1. Character

2. Story

3. Structure

This is my favorite, because it most clearly supports subconscious writing. In this model, characters are developed first, and then, they are thrown together in a time and place. The writer allows each one to do whatever his or her characters would do, and by the end, there is a story. At this point, the writer takes an analytical pass at the story and decides what needs to be moved around to make the story more interesting.

Letting your fully fleshed-out characters do whatever they want to do is at the heart of subconscious writing. When it works, it’s fun, surprising, and real in a way that no other approach to story-telling can be. In the next post, I’ll talk about an approach to developing characters that can even make this process subconscious. If you’d like to see an example of a character-driven story I just completed, please feel free to check out my most recent novel, Welcome Home, which is a literary fiction/horror story that will hopefully surprise you as much as its characters surprised me.