“Where do you get these ideas from?” I’m often asked by people who are curious about my inspiration to write stories. The answer is ‘life.’
I remember one of my first editors telling me “stories are everywhere, it’s up to the writer to see which ones are worth exploring” – she couldn’t be more right.
Stories can be found in every aspect of the day. As we read newspapers, web/social media posts, watch TV shows, movies, etc., along with each thought that we have…all of these can, and often are conducive to a remarkable story. It is up to us as writers, as storytellers to develop them into something compelling.
I’ve always have an insanely imaginative mind. Thinking 100miles a minute about situations, thinking about the different scenarios and how something can play out – this has helped me to objectively tell a story from all points of views. It helped me a great deal during my early journalistic years and it continues to help me now during my screenwriting and story development years. During the times I’m not sending pitch emails to potential investors and/or producers I am thinking of scenarios my career could take me if I had more means than what I actually have.
These crazy imaginative settings come with the hopes of one day being awarded an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – a very ambitious hope, but one that is not impossible. You have to shoot for the stars people.
Once I’ve thought about the scene that eventually helps me build a story around it, I write down in my notebook of “story ideas for future development” – if you’re wondering why not just type it on the computer, am I that old fashioned the answer is both yes and no. I like writing in long hand, and also, writing ideas down in a notebook makes me feel safer than doing so on a computer than anyone can (hopefully won’t) hack. I keep my notebook in a safe place in my home office.
It is there, in that Cambridge Limited notebook, where I write the ideas that spring into over drive at 4:00a.m. – Yes, that early (or late) in the morning I usually get my ideas. Be it by way of a vivid dream or just by me being silly and imagining something happening to me or someone I care about and my reaction to the situation.
After that early epiphany I wake up and further develop the story before I write it down – most of the time I’m smiling at the originality of it and how crazy my mind is. Why? Because without my imagination I don’t think I’d be much of a story teller.
Feeding your imagination is very important as well. Constantly keep learning, exploring ideas in your mind. All great filmmakers have one thing in common, they devour films during their down time – which is something I’ve done for most of my life. I remember one summer my Dad and I walked into our local video rental store (the times when Blockbuster was king, and Netflix wasn’t even an idea) and we perused all the movies in the store. Wall to wall we searched for films we hadn’t seen – it was after a few hours of standing in the store that we both realized we’d seen all of their movies. Including the B-films and their crazy cult-classics and some I didn’t even know where to classify. We got in the car, drove to the next town and filled out a membership to Blockbuster.
My point is, feed your voracious film worm and make sure that your story idea is original. You don’t want someone to tell you “that sounds a lot like this other film…” or worse, be sued for unknowingly copying a story idea. One thing you can be sure of, is that you will have a brilliant story idea at around 4am.