It was the year 2009, and I had just barely managed to regain my confidence to write again. ‘Regained’, considering an incredibly long eight-year hiatus from film school – a hiatus mostly spent, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, now that I was free as a bird (any intelligent person reading this is probably thinking ‘Duh! Something in film obviously!’) To put things more in perspective, unlike all the Stephen Kings and David Koepps out there (you know who you are), I had always considered myself a ‘one great idea’ kind of schmuck. There were several interchangeable reasons I felt this at the time, good reasons:
A. I had no talent and no other good ideas whatsoever.
B. I had so many brilliant ideas that it was simply impossible to be decisive and weed anything decent out of the bunch.
C. I had better things to do…like bawl my eyes out and watch ‘The Bachelor’ romantically propose to the girl of his dreams on TV.
Case in point: writing, I have come to discover, is both an organic and technical process. And ultimately, the thing that ended up working best for me was perseverence – talent or no talent..and cheesy as it might sound to some, sometimes we just have to sit in the driving seat and try different things until the ignition of our brains roar to life. Here are some things that helps me brainstorm ideas and loglines (in no particular order):
• Writing down a list of things that interest, titillate, excite you the most (for example, if it’s movies, books…you can go deeper into specifically what sort – fantasy? Anime? romance novels?)
• longform.org – a great site featuring stories each day.
• Stories from your grandmother and loved ones. Ask around – everyone has a story, you will be surprised what you will find. One of the great things about discovering character, good dialogue is observing, daily people interactions.
• Everyday activities – things you see when you take a walk or drive, people, places, paying attention to them.
• Reading books, comics, magazines and screenplays. It has really helped me in my understanding of how to build my characters, also different ways to craft dialogue and story pace and rhythm.
• Movies/TV – all the emotional highs and lows, a good movie or tv show can put your imagination on overdrive. Read somewhere that ‘Hunger Games’ was inspired partially by reality shows, for example.
• Using Word Clouds. Here’s one I discovered recently, but basically you can use preexisting wordclouds or create your own and use some of the words to form your ideas/loglines. Wordle.net is a great one.
And one last thing…whether you are a screenwriter or any other writer, I encourage you to also write down an idea a day – just one! And see how far that takes you. The more ideas you generate, the better you get. Let me know how you do – and if anyone has any other tips they want to add, post it in comments!