Originally posted: July 6, 2008
A story always starts with an idea, and the following exercise was designed to get the brain working on an idea for the purpose of writing a screenplay, but all things start with an idea so I think the following list is applicable in all forms: one idea can be the same theme for a poem, song, painting, a story, film, and so on, it’s nearly endless.
In class we were meant to write a 10 page simple story- I say, try the magic ten minutes of writing out an idea, but if you have a problem coming up with an idea, here is a list of things to try to get your mind flying.
- your life- some real experience- for example the book I’m working on is taken from events in my life that took place while I lived in Prague.
- News stories events- In the movie Bad Education the character who was a writer would search through news articles to find ideas for stories- in it he found and article about a priest who had died the priest happened to be someone who had a profound affect on the writers life. If you can make it relate to you great if not let your imagination tell the story.
- Historical events- I once had the idea to write a short story about a young man who was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, I had gotten the idea from reading real life accounts of these men during the war.
- Fantasy- we’ve all been kids- remember sitting with your legs straddling a low hanging branch pretending it was your pirate ship and the twig in your hand was your sword? You had it raised as winged monsters flew towards your great vessel. Or was I the only one who did that?
- memories-I say this also falls under your life although it could be someone else’s memory. It can be a brief fleeting memory- the story doesn’t have to be truth.
- a single image- in Write Around Portland we would often take pictures from magazine like an image of a single tree in a desert and then have a prompt like-“by this time next year” then have people write about the image- you don’t have to use a worded prompt.
- a philosophical idea- this could get one going on a really wild story- I love science and philospophy- since both have a belief that our world, our universe is finite then our stories can be too.
- A situation- two men walk into a coffee shop together one is holding a child. The man with the child recognizes the woman behind the counter for some reason there is an uncomfortable tension.
- adaption of another story- this of course applies best to a play or screenplay, anything other than a story since the story has already been written I’ve always wanted to do a film adaptation of Under a Cruel Star and also I want to write a story about the love affair between Nikolai and Alexandra before he became the Czar of Russia.
- adaptation of other media- honestly I’v never put too much thought into this one. I guess you could get an idea from a commercial or a song even and turn that into a story- why not?
- Dialogue- I once overheard a two women on a greyhound bus talking about how it shouldn’t be against the law to pick up road kill, after all it’s just a waste of good meat. Now imagine the story line. Huh? huh?