Screenwriters are talented people with many excellent ideas for screenplays. Notwithstanding, the constant and high demand for original, good-quality scripts, combined with the occasional bout of writer’s block, can put a strain on creativity at times. This can leave many wondering how screenwriters come up with all their ideas.
Screenwriters come up with ideas from daily writing exercises, often taking inspiration from various sources, such as current events, headlines, and writing prompts. It also helps to reflect on emotions or draw from personal experiences to create relatable material that audiences easily understand.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block or just looking for new ways to brainstorm ideas, keep reading. In this post, we’ll explore ways screenwriters come up with their ideas to help inspire you and kick your creative process into gear!
Tips for Brainstorming Screenplay Ideas
Here are some tips for when you’re sitting at the computer, ready to brainstorm screenplay ideas:
- Think psychologically. If you hope to make any type of emotional connection with your viewers, it’s crucial to have a decent comprehension of the human psyche. Being able to write stories that audiences can relate to is the difference between something people watch and something people experience.
- Consider the audience’s perspective. The Screenwriter’s Bible (the latest edition available on Amazon.com) says that screenwriters should look at their story through the audience’s side of the camera lens, as they’re who you’re ultimately writing for. Keep in mind that this may include first-time moviegoers.
- Think about the subject. With the audience again in mind, consider the topics and themes in your screenplay and how you present them. If something is too complicated for audiences to understand, or if the presentation lacks direction or follows a bias, then your screenplay won’t ever see production.
5 Easy Ways To Come Up With Original Screenplay Ideas
Let’s now take a look at five easy ways screenwriters come up with ideas for you to try.
Use Headlines as Jumping-Off Points
The daily media headlines are a great place to find inspiration, particularly when you need out-of-the-box yet still realistic ideas. A simple internet search for “local headlines today” can yield thought-provoking results from random media outlets.
For instance, consider the many details in the following headlines from the NBC News West Palm division that could spark a story idea:
- “Ellie’s 50’s Diner in Delray Beach closing after more than 3 decades” – Who is “Ellie?” You could research the real Ellie or create a fictional version to recreate your fantasy of what it might’ve been like to own and operate a 1950s diner at the turn of the millennium. Or, consider writing a screenplay about the team of now unemployed wait staff who need to find a way to replace the voids created by this loss.
- “Sebastian woman hid mother’s body in freezer to continue collecting disability benefits, police say” – Perhaps you’re interested in writing a drama, thriller, or even murder mystery. (We’ll leave this heading without an example.) Still, it demonstrates the variety of topics you can be inspired by simply reading news headlines.
Identify Any Trends Currently Captivating Audiences
Trends can be found in all aspects of society, specifically in terms of the consumer. From the clothes we wear and the places we shop to the music we listen to and the politics we discuss, trends provide a general layout of our lives. Notably, identifying a topic with a built-in audience can provide you with better chances of having your screenplay produced.
For example, as ACED Magazine points out, we’ve seen big business, cybercrime, and artificial intelligence trending more in movies over the last two decades.
Consider Alternate Points of View for Existing Stories
When you’re devoid of ideas for original characters or enticing settings, why not be inspired by existing characters and storylines someone else has created? Markedly, this has been a trend in entertainment for quite some time. (Think superhero origin movies.)
For instance, what might the Lion King look like if told from Scar’s point of view? How would our perspective of Fight Club change if Angel Face was the narrator? Or what about Biff Tannen’s account of his time-travel adventures in Back to the Future? (By the way, these are fan-suggested perspectives people want to see that, at the time of publishing this post, have yet to be produced.)
Buy a Book of Writing Prompts
It’s seemingly lazy and generic sounding as a suggestion, yet buying a book of writing prompts is an easy and effective way to fight writer’s block and find inspiration. Thankfully, many writers familiar with the struggles of the industry have chosen to write material supporting their fellow writers, and the resulting literature is often incredibly helpful.
For instance, consider Titlepalooza Vol. 1 (available on Amazon.com). It has over 200 fake movie titles to inspire script ideas. You’re challenged to brainstorm as many stories as you can for each title, which also helps to build your logline skills.
Allow Your Emotions To Inspire You
Part of your job as a screenwriter is to create material that audiences can relate to and connect with. Screenplays that lack emotion and fail to empathize with the common person have little chance of being picked up for production.
An easy way to brainstorm realistic material with real emotion is to reflect on your own feelings. For this exercise, identify a specific emotion you experienced that day and lay out the events that resulted in you feeling that way.
Be sure to include details about who or what was involved.
It can also be helpful to reflect on a previous time you felt that emotion and practice writing scenes about each experience. Or, consider what might’ve happened differently in your day to result in you feeling the opposite emotion instead.
Use the diversity as a challenge to write something that transitions the reader from one emotion to another.
If you’re struggling to think of good ideas for screenplays, try one or more of the exercises shared in this post to get inspired. You might even consider using them daily as part of your writing routine, as they can help keep your brain in the creative state needed to produce screenplay ideas.