Where do good story ideas for a screenplay come from? It could be anywhere! As a screenwriter, it’s a good idea to always be tuned in to listening for story ideas that inspire you. These good ideas for screenplays sometimes pop into your head and you run with it. Other times, the idea spout dries up, and you need to actively search for new ideas to write on.
Here are 5 sources for finding idea gems for your next screenplay when that idea spout dries up:
1. Old Newspapers
This has been a favorite for screenwriters since the birth of cinema. Newspaper articles tell all kinds of stories in various stages. They announce the beginning of life, they make known weddings and obituaries, too.
There are millions of stories to tell based on these milestones in people’s lives. And in-between these events, too. All you need to do is find any newspaper (old or new) and you have a valuable resource for ideas in your hands.
2. Public Places
A favorite technique for early serials which used to be shown in town every week was to start with a dramatic scene like somebody falling over a cliff and then have the story answer all the questions in a flashback.
Use the same technique and go to a crowded place like a café, an airport, or a beach and observe the folks all around. Pick an interesting face, create a dramatic situation around them (perhaps somebody walks in and shoots them) and then create your flashback around that single scene.
3. The Internet.
Most screenwriters use the web. It is a wonderful tool for research. But it can also be used to help you come up with great screenplay ideas. You just need to be careful and very disciplined so that you do not get distracted because there is plenty online competing for your attention which will just waste your time.
To make the most of it, focus on a particular website or theme and allocate some specific time to find your inspiration.
4. Your Life.
Your own life can be an ideal resource for screenplay ideas if you know what to look for. Whom do you dislike? A certain family member? They might be the perfect villain in your script.
All you need to do is create the hero who will undergo numerous setbacks before they defeat your villain.
5. Pictures from old magazines.
This is a very powerful technique for developing screenplay ideas using pictures from old magazines as visual images for inspiration. Pick up a pair of scissors and cut out photographs, advertisements and basically anything visual that piques your interest. Let your mind wander as you do this.
When you have identified a few of these images, stop and go through each of them looking for the hidden story behind the picture. Do this by imagining that the person in the picture is your main character or the main focus of your screenplay. Try and fill in the details that would make them an interesting character, and at the same time, create enough drama to carry your story so that it’s interesting.
If you follow these ideas and end up with a plethora of ideas (a big bunch, that is), choose the most commercial idea. For help with this, you may want to consider our Report on Making Your Script Commercial, or you might get a Career Consulting session with Dr. Melody Jackson to discuss what might be the next best idea for you to write.
Remember that although you will be using words in your screenplay, this is a visual medium. Write so that the reader can “see” your characters and what they are doing.
When you use these 5 great sources of ideas to help you “see” your next screenplay, it may virtually write itself.