Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 159 - Trying to Come Up with New Script Ideas

Let's face it, coming up with ideas for new scripts can be hard. Especially if you're like me, you don't often just sit down at the computer or with a notebook and spend an hour trying to come up with ideas. The best ideas generally hit you when you least expect it - when you're walking to the store, on the train to work, or in the shower - and the source of their inspiration can be impossible to find. Maybe you saw something that triggered the idea. Maybe you remembered something. Maybe there's no logical explanation for it at all, but whatever electrical synapse that just fired through your brain left you with the germ of a script that you cannot wait to start writing.

For me, those experiences that come out of nowhere are how I generally come up with new ideas. I rely on those eureka moments to keep me in pages for the next three to six months. But what happens when you don't have the time to wait for those moments to hit?

As it happens now, I'm in that less desirable place. I need to get my agent new ideas, because we haven't found one that quite clicked for him yet. Sure, I have dozens of ideas logged in my "Logline Master List" document, but I track the market and know that a lot of them aren't right yet. Also, since the project that I have producers, a manager, a lawyer, and an agent for is a tentpole action piece, that's the kind of script I'm working on developing more of. Problem is, a lot of my ideas in that master list are much smaller, more appropriate for an indie production company than a major studio's summer flagship.

On Friday, I made myself sit down for an hour and come up with other loglines. I think I got about five. Of those, there were maybe only two I'd really want to invest a lot of time in now, and many of them were quite similar in nature, only set in different worlds. I had a bit of an ah-ha moment yesterday while taking a walk (which I did in part to get the creative juices flowing), and as much as I like the idea, I think it still might be too small. In the end, though, I need more ideas and as much as just staring at a blank drawing board can be frustratingly unproductive, an hour spent with a notebook in hand is better than a night spent without even trying. The routine you find yourself in can be essential to your writing process, and I know that by forcing myself to sit with a pen and paper for an hour, no matter how much my mind might want to wander, but focusing and concentrating I will eventually come up with something (even if it's just the fuel that sparks an idea while I'm on the train to work the next day).


Anonymous said...

"but I track the market and know that a lot of them aren't right yet"

How can one track the market? Is there a database where one can check which stories/ideas are in development process by studios/different production companies or kind of spec scripts which are being sold?

Coming to your ideas discussion, I have in fact a peculiar problem of coming up with many ideas actually, and lot of times, it comes with a whole structure in my mind. And that's sort of annoying because it comes too often and I mostly rule them out because I think it cannot be good if it came that easily to me. But I agree with you completely that ideas come when you least expect them rather than when you want them. There was actually a study done on this which said that during the forced sessions, our mind can only do simple tasks not creative tasks. Creativity needs broad unforced latitude.

Amazing blog and please keep it up!

Cake Man said...

Thanks for your comment. There are a few sources that track sales, pitches, and options. Deadline Hollywood - deadline.com/hollywood - is a good one, basically an online trade. I use Done Deal Pro, at donedealpro.com, which is a paid subscription but also links sales to the talent, companies, and representatives involved. Of course, Variety and other trades also follow some of that info.

I hadn't heard about that study before, but it makes a lot of sense. It's hard to focus on creating something new; being creative while a product is already in place - i.e. writing a script you've outlined - is a bit of a different beast. To me, that's more like putting a puzzle together.

And next time you get one of those complete ideas, write it down. It might appear less cohesive on paper, or it might make you decide to stop everything else you're doing and get that draft out. Some writers won't put a single word down on the page until they've visualized the entire movie first. Perhaps we should all be so lucky.

Anonymous said...

@Cake Man Thanks a lot for your reply! I'm aware of the done deal website and it seems that the paid subscription is worth the money.

"And next time you get one of those complete ideas, write it down. It might appear less cohesive on paper, or it might make you decide to stop everything else you're doing and get that draft out."
I think that's an excellent advice as I have a tendency to keep thinking the whole structure in my head before putting anything down.

Anyways, glad to have found your blog and hope to visit it frequently. Good luck with all your current projects!