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Old 01-02-2018, 10:15 AM   #1
stevencwood
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Introducing a Sub Plot, or B story

Sometimes, especially during the second act, movies can drag. A good way to remedy this is to introduce a "B" story, or a "sub-plot." I know they're essentially the same thing.

Question is, does it HAVE to be connected to the main plot? My thinking is that what if this sub-plot serves as a way to show character, rather than advance the plot? Maybe by revealing specifics on a certain character, you ARE advancing the plot, but that's debatable.

For example - I'm almost done with a western, where the twist is that the sheriff in this small town is actually a lifelong criminal. While the main story is about his "finding out," I thought it would be good to introduce a sub-plot where I can show that he's actually a good man.

To put it more simply - a lifelong criminal winds up sheriff of a town (I explain this), marshals find out (main plot stuff), sheriff thinks he's redeemed himself through heroic, yet violent acts around town.
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:03 AM   #2
sfoster
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Nothing HAS to be anything.
But audiences will complain if a dramatic scene is long and has literally nothing to do with anything.

It sounds like your subplot is directly connected to the main character and his decision making abilities. Sounds great.
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:09 AM   #3
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Nothing HAS to be anything.
But audiences will complain if a dramatic scene is long and has literally nothing to do with anything.

It sounds like your subplot is directly connected to the main character and his decision making abilities. Sounds great.
Yea, I know what you mean. I guess yea it is directly related. For some context, I should tell you this is a story of redemption, and how no matter how you think you've redeemed yourself, you're still responsible for your prior actions. The two main characters are this sheriff, and the older of the two US marshals who pass through his town.

This is how the sub-plot will play into the main story:

Opens with the sheriff chasing some unnamed bandits out of town, with his deputy helping. The main plot picks up just after this scene as the marshals get ready for their trip to the sheriff's town. This is all detailed in the script. I'll pick the B story up again later when the marshals are there, so they can see the sheriff in action, and start to respect him. The twist I want to include with this B story is that these seemingly random bandits are actually part of the sheriff's old crew, maybe he owes them a lot of money, etc. Either way he's protecting his town by protecting himself. It comes off as "heroic" to the townspeople and marshals, but the real reason is explained when the sheriff is found out.
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:58 AM   #4
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Be careful with your hero's crimes. A Robinhood is loved, but one that commits despicable crimes is despised and won't rise to hero no matter his/her cause.
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Old 01-02-2018, 12:27 PM   #5
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Be careful with your hero's crimes. A Robinhood is loved, but one that commits despicable crimes is despised and won't rise to hero no matter his/her cause.
I guess that's kind of the point here. The Sheriff isn't the main character, but a very, very close second. He comes off harsh, but smart/witty. Think of Little Bill from Unforgiven. He's a "understandable cunt" given the world he lives in and the people he deals with.

The accusation of the Sheriff being someone other than he says he is happens on page 39 as of right now. That might change. Up until that point, I show the setup and travel of the marshals to the town where the Sheriff resides. I also show the Sheriff doing his thing.

When the story of the Sheriff comes out, he won't be liked, and that isn't the point. The point is to show that regardless how he's "redeemed" himself, he still has to answer to crimes he's committed under a different name about a decade prior to present.

So, this Sheriff that's earned a reputation for being a swift hand of justice, will be served that same justice.
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Old 01-02-2018, 01:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevencwood View Post
Question is, does it HAVE to be connected to the main plot? My thinking is that what if this sub-plot serves as a way to show character, rather than advance the plot?
I'm with sfoster; your script doesn't HAVE to follow any rules. That
said I think everything in the story should advance the plot.

If the sub-plot expands a secondary and thus advances the main
plot then your sub-plot is connected. If it doesn't advance the main
plot you may find it makes your second act drag.

Do you feel you can make this sub-plot work?
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Old 01-02-2018, 01:56 PM   #7
stevencwood
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I'm with sfoster; your script doesn't HAVE to follow any rules. That
said I think everything in the story should advance the plot.

If the sub-plot expands a secondary and thus advances the main
plot then your sub-plot is connected. If it doesn't advance the main
plot you may find it makes your second act drag.

Do you feel you can make this sub-plot work?
I've already done a basic outline of the sub-plot so yes, I think I can make it work.

I'll cold-open with some sort of altercation in the town between the Sheriff and some (then) unnamed bandits. Then cut to the main plot and the two US Marshals. In the second act, these bandits will show up again and reveal their motive, which has to do with the Sheriff himself. They're old partners of his who he owes money too (or something along those lines). Prior to their arrival, there will be talks of these bandits and how they've recently come to town, killed livestock and destroyed vegetation.

Since I've made this thread, I guess I realized these two plots are connected, or at least will become connected. I have no indication that the sheriff isn't who he says he is until page 39 when he's identified as someone else.
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Old 01-02-2018, 02:17 PM   #8
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it sounds like a great story. I hope you follow through and complete the script!
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Old 01-02-2018, 02:48 PM   #9
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it sounds like a great story. I hope you follow through and complete the script!
Thanks and yes, it's just about done. 79 pages before I put in the sub-plot. I have a start and finish, but I'm like 2/3 of the way through a polish. There was a 12 month period where I didn't touch this, so my writing has progressed since then. During the polish, I'm whittling down action lines or condensing things/cutting altogether.

I'm happy with the story. It's sad, especially when you find out what exactly the sheriff did prior to going into hiding and eventually becoming sheriff of this town - Winterhaven, California. He was injured in a gun fight between he and his crew, killed them all and wound up hopping on a horse that drifted into Winterhaven. The madame of the local whore-house found him and fixed him up. There, he found not love, but compassion from this woman. She is the only person in town that knows who he is, and is still present in the...present.

I'll shoot you a link to what I've done if you're inclined.
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Old 01-02-2018, 05:42 PM   #10
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Correct the plot so it does not drag. For me personally, there is no such thing as finding a sub plot to make my main plot not to drag! If the plot drags at any point, then that is a problem which needs solution. Sometimes the solution comes by adding a subplot, but it has to fit to the main plot so much that you don't want to name it "sub plot" any more, but a part of the main plot. If it doesn’t fit a lot and it is noticeable a sub plot, then I guess you have not solved the problem just because you have added a second story. The whole script must be one plot. Otherwise we have to talk about one script with two plots and that's creepy, unless it is a movie with multiple interrelated plots.

In your example, your subplot fits so much to the main plot that it doesn't seem a sub plot but a part of the plot! I think it's essential to show the sheriff's character.
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Old 01-02-2018, 05:44 PM   #11
stevencwood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Panos View Post
Correct the plot so it does not drag. For me personally, there is no such thing as finding a sub plot to make my main plot not to drag! If the plot drags at any point, then that is a problem which needs solution. Sometimes the solution comes by adding a subplot, but it has to fit to the main plot so much that you don't want to name it "sub plot" any more, but a part of the main plot. If it doesn’t fit a lot and it is noticeable a sub plot, then I guess you have not solved the problem just because you have added a second story. The whole script must be one plot. Otherwise we have to talk about one script with two plots and that's creepy, unless it is a movie with multiple interrelated plots.

In your example, your subplot fits so much to the main plot that it doesn't seem a sub plot but a part of the plot! I think it's essential to show the sheriff's character.
Thanks for the advice. This is my first feature (usually do shorts), so "dragging" hasn't been an issue for me.
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Old 01-02-2018, 10:18 PM   #12
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Generally speaking, yes, EVERYTHING should move the central story forward. Then again, you've got people like Tarantino who somehow get away with a fifteen-minute scene in which the first members of the KKK complain about not being able to see through the holes in their poorly-constructed masks.

If I can relate a personal story, there was one particular scene in my first feature that a lot of friends recommended that I cut from the script. I was stubborn, and I left it in. There many recommendations that I took from my friends and did exactly as they advised me, but for this one scene I felt like they just didn't "get it", so I stuck to my guns. I'll be darned if I didn't make the correct decision; it ended up being one of the most popular scenes in the movie.

I'm not trying to brag -- I'm trying to say that maybe nobody on this planet is able to "see" the scene that you have written the same way that you see it. Sometimes, you just gotta go against popular opinion and make the movie you see in your head. So feel free to throw all rules out the door any time you feel like it.
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:38 AM   #13
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Generally speaking, yes, EVERYTHING should move the central story forward. Then again, you've got people like Tarantino who somehow get away with a fifteen-minute scene in which the first members of the KKK complain about not being able to see through the holes in their poorly-constructed masks.

If I can relate a personal story, there was one particular scene in my first feature that a lot of friends recommended that I cut from the script. I was stubborn, and I left it in. There many recommendations that I took from my friends and did exactly as they advised me, but for this one scene I felt like they just didn't "get it", so I stuck to my guns. I'll be darned if I didn't make the correct decision; it ended up being one of the most popular scenes in the movie.

I'm not trying to brag -- I'm trying to say that maybe nobody on this planet is able to "see" the scene that you have written the same way that you see it. Sometimes, you just gotta go against popular opinion and make the movie you see in your head. So feel free to throw all rules out the door any time you feel like it.
Would you mind sharing the script you're talking about? I'm curious.

What I'm trying to include isn't something out of left field, or something completely random. It might seem like a random bandit attack in the beginning, but toward the end the audience will realize these attackers were trying to get at the sheriff, not so much hurt the people of the town.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:14 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by stevencwood View Post
Would you mind sharing the script you're talking about? I'm curious.

What I'm trying to include isn't something out of left field, or something completely random. It might seem like a random bandit attack in the beginning, but toward the end the audience will realize these attackers were trying to get at the sheriff, not so much hurt the people of the town.
No, I don't mind at all. I also would be happy to send you, if you're interested, a kinda-sorta-secret online link to the full movie. Officially, it's not available to the public. But unofficially, yeah, there's totally a private vimeo link that I'm happy to share, especially with fellow filmmakers.

As for the screenplay, I think I currently only have it in paper form. I suppose I could post pics or scans of it, but that would take me a few weeks to do (the only remaining copy is in storage). Or, you could just watch the scene in question (I can PM you the "secret" link, if you're interested).

A basic description of the scene in question -- the hero of the story (or *antihero, if you will) realizes that they're psychic, by experimenting with trying to find a hidden wad of bubblegum from underneath the bottle-cap of bottled water. Placing an increasingly high number of empty bottled waters in front of him, he keeps successfully predicting which one has the gum underneath it. That's all that happens. He looks under bottle-caps, but I swear, it's kinda exciting.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:16 AM   #15
stevencwood
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No, I don't mind at all. I also would be happy to send you, if you're interested, a kinda-sorta-secret online link to the full movie. Officially, it's not available to the public. But unofficially, yeah, there's totally a private vimeo link that I'm happy to share, especially with fellow filmmakers.

As for the screenplay, I think I currently only have it in paper form. I suppose I could post pics or scans of it, but that would take me a few weeks to do (the only remaining copy is in storage). Or, you could just watch the scene in question (I can PM you the "secret" link, if you're interested).

A basic description of the scene in question -- the hero of the story (or *antihero, if you will) realizes that they're psychic, by experimenting with trying to find a hidden wad of bubblegum from underneath the bottle-cap of bottled water. Placing an increasingly high number of empty bottled waters in front of him, he keeps successfully predicting which one has the gum underneath it. That's all that happens. He looks under bottle-caps, but I swear, it's kinda exciting.
Great! Send it my way. Thanks.
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