Here’s an article from Scriptmag about writing with subtext in mind. For example to get across a character’s emotional state, instead of saying “He is stunned,” try “The air rushes out of his lungs.” Describe specific actions, then let the reader (and actor) interpret the state of mind.
I especially enjoyed hearing Gilroy talk about the “horse” scene from his script for Michael Clayton.
EXT. THE FIELD — DAWN
MICHAEL getting out of the car. Standing there.
THREE HORSES poised at the crest of the pasture. Hanging there in the fog like ghosts.
MICHAEL jumping the fence. Walking slowly into the field. Behind him, the MERCEDES with the engine running.
THE HORSES aware of him now. Watching him come.
MICHAEL’S FACE as he walks. And later on we’ll understand all the forces roiling inside him, but for the moment, the simplest thing to say is that this is a man who needs more than anything to see one pure, natural thing, and by some miracle has found his way to this place. The wet grass and cold air and no coat — none of it makes any difference to him right now — he’s a pilgrim stumbling into the cathedral.
And he stops. Just standing there. Empty. Open. Lost.
Nothing but the field and the fog and the woods beyond.
THE HORSES staring at him.
MICHAEL staring back. And just like that…
THE MERCEDES EXPLODES!
It’s not traditional, but slowing down the flow of the screenplay to focus on Michael’s internal state helped to indicate to the production crew just how important this moment should be when filmed and edited. And it’s a standout scene in the final film.
Did you miss our live Scriptitude event on May 11? Don’t fret, it’s still available to watch on Youtube (for a limited time). Hear a cast of Rochester actors perform the three winning short screenplays from New York State writers!