It’s said that every writer has a universal theme. We write about what we’re working on emotionally in our lives. It is our own personal fatal flaw, that one issue that we’re unable to move past. Likely the thing from our developmental years that torments us. Real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. It’s that thing that we don’t understand about ourselves, and if we did, it wouldn’t be an issue. But it is an issue, and so we explore it again and again through story in order to learn more about that wounding.
Our screenplays are intensely personal because, best case scenario, we write the journey for a protagonist of what we’re working on emotionally at that time and as we write the hero’s journey of healing (character arc), we are healing ourself.
Whatever emotional problem we are looking to overcome is the issue that emerges in the pieces we’re writing. I think, in part, this is why the journey of writing is so difficult. Because it is specifically this thing that we have a hard time with – if it were easy and not compelling for us to investigate, we wouldn’t need to write about it.
Sometimes I have to laugh at myself, because I write something not even knowing consciously that it’s something I’m working on emotionally, or I think it’s just hinting at my real life, but then when I put the script or manuscript down for a little while, once I pick it up again, it’s crystal clear that it’s just my life – sometimes not even all that thinly veiled. The people I love, the people who bug me, these are all characters in my stories. We draw from our lives.
Once you’ve written two or more scripts, you can start to hone this personal theme and play with it. I’d guess your projects work with shades of the same theme, perhaps approaching that theme from two different angles, however once you start to get clear what your universal theme is, then it’s easier to brainstorm stories that use this theme and craft your stories around it. Use your theme to your advantage. It will make your scripts feel more personal and emotionally relevant.