Not sure what your next screenplay or book should be about? The five ideas can help your figure it out.
Variations on a Theme
One of the easiest ways to come up with an idea for your next piece is to borrow the core of another one and make it your own. This could be a classic tale like Jack and the Beanstalk or Snow White or something a little more modern like The Hunger Games or The Notebook. Choose a film or book that you like and break it down into its central components. What would its premise be? What would its slim, basic, or detailed outline look like?
Once you have all the pieces dissected, start swapping things out. For example, instead of a galaxy far, far away from Earth, make the setting an island far, far away from the United States. Instead of a human man reliving the same day over and over again, make the setup a country reliving the same atrocity over and over again. This method of switching out key components of the story or content and then writing it in your own style can help you create your next new piece. This is the process described in comparative statements made when people are pitching manuscripts and screenplays to acquisitions editors and film producers: “It’s like [insert bestseller / or blockbuster] meets [insert bestseller / blockbuster]”.
You are taking the same theme (the damsel in distress saved by a prince, the underdog overthrowing a tyrant, the financial glutton falling into poverty, etc.) and creating a variation of it that’s all your own.
No Longer Unsolved Mysteries
Watching a news report about an unsolved crime is another great place to find a new source of ideas. Take it upon yourself to speculate on what happened to the little girl whose body was found ten miles from her home in the middle of a school day. Give us the play-by-play for how a man who appears to have been caught red-handed is actually innocent of extortion. Sniff out all those cases that just don’t seem to make sense and have confounded local detectives and federal agents alike.
The Problem (and The Solution)
Especially useful for self-help and documentaries, consider some of the biggest problems in the world right now and what some solutions are. Do you have a stellar method for organizing the mountain of syllabuses that students are emailed at the beginning of each semester? Do you know the perfect way to explain to people why we see the sky as blue during the day instead of green, yellow, or some other color? Do you know that one secret that people need to understand about personal finance that will increase their net worth by 40% within the next three years? Even if you don’t have answers to these questions, if you know there is an answer (and that answer is one that people are desperately searching for) turn your research skills into your next literary venture. Put all the research together and give the people what they want!
Tell your own story, with a dash of creative license thrown in! Many people don’t write their autobiography or memoir because they have been fortunate enough not to experience any major, life-changing challenges. They haven’t had most of their limbs amputated, they haven’t survived civil war, they haven’t been to prison, they haven’t battled severe mental illness. In their minds, there is nothing about their lives worth reading, let alone writing about. If this is how you feel, that’s okay! First of all, it’s awesome that you don’t have some major drama or trauma going on for someone to be interested in reading. That just means you got lucky to have a life less stressful and painful than most people’s.
But you can always jazz it up (figuratively, of course) by exploring something that’s never happened to you and what your reaction would be to it. Never punched your supervisor in the face while he was man-splaining something? Write that scene! What happens next? How do you handle the consequences? Most important of all—was it worth it? Why? What did that moment teach you about your alter-ego?
Answering questions like this means you’ll start building a plot in no time, all by using all the experiences you already have available to you.
We’ve all got fancy ideas about a paradise, the perfect spouse, or the best job in the world. In order to turn that vision of wonder into a book or screenplay that someone wants to read or make, we just need to add some conflict and resolve it. What’s the catch to living in this paradise? What one flaw does this near-perfect spouse have or how does their perfection harm you or those around you? The best job in the world really would be so if it weren’t for the fact that…what? And is that downside worth quitting or not?
If you’re like many people who love to write but don’t always have a steady stream of new ideas, these can at the very least help get your creative synapses firing so you can start dreaming up your next big project. Have some other ideas for new ideas? Share with your fellow members in the comments!