This week's Answer:
Excellent idea, Nancy.
For a question about screenwriting, that is. Look at that: You’ve
already come up with a good idea.
I know I might be getting a little “Zenish”
here, dear lady... but the last thing I advise you to do
is to try to come up with a “good” idea for a
take out the idea of “try,” and, while you’re at it,
I’d eighty-six the “good,” also.
So, if you do that, what do you have left?
You have “idea” and “screenplay.”
An idea for a screenplay.
And that’s all you need.
Who knows what is good?
And who is the “they” who get to say exactly
what is good? Are
you starting to get my point?
Here’s another way of looking at
moves you, whatever keeps you expressing yourself through
story... now that is good.
Your good. And, if it’s good for you, it has to be good for everybody
else. I think
(and this is just an intuitive conjecture) that you may be
putting too much unnecessary pressure on yourself to
“come up” with a story all at once. What has worked for me many a time is to initially tell
myself, inform my subconscious (or Muse.
Your Muse loves to be called on and will be your
trusted confidant if you ask.) that I’m ready to start
again, to write another screenplay.
Then, instead of pulling my hair out over
struggling to think of a good idea (and I can’t afford
to do that unless I want to become a Hair Club For Men
poster boy), I simply observe what comes up, what appears
in my dreams – both during the night and day (the day
ones can be a little tricky – especially if you’re
driving or operating heavy machinery) – what I find
myself thinking about, feeling about (that’s a
great one). If
you choose, you can explore images, tastes, sounds,
scents, textures; just douse your senses if you sense the
well is a bit dry. But,
for me, your idea, your story is already within you. And only you can tell it.
In your own, unique way.
Forget about it having to be good.
You’re way past “good” now.
Your story has to be YOU.
Just to fill up some remaining space
so it looks like I’m writing something substantial,
I’ll give you an example of a possible course to take if
you’re feeling stuck.
Say you’ve decided you want to write a romantic
comedy. (I’m waiting for you to say that. As you can tell, I loved that humor-groundbreaker,
may ask, “Where do I start?”
(I won’t wait for you to say that.)
Try something like this:
Just start associating words, images, feelings,
memories (for it is your memory that your stories are all
ultimately based on), etc.
Even recall romantic comedies that you have a
special fondness (or strong dislike) for.
(I know I just dangled a preposition.
But, hey: I
like to live dangerously and break rules. Something that some of the most notable screenwriters have
been known to do.) Not
to steal anything, or even pay “homage” to.
(Always loved that saying.
A French way—I guess that makes it okay because
it’s far away in another country-- to steal and act that
you’re not. Everybody
steals ((or “homages.”))
I think the saying goes that there’s really only
seven stories told over and over again.
I just stole that.
So, if there are only seven stories, then,
actually, nobody is really stealing. We’re all just dipping into the same well.)
Let your imagination soar with absolutely no
“What if” beginning is an effective one to give
yourself permission to explore whatever may come through
(e.g., “What if a germophobic woman struggles to realize
her dream and become a high-profile lawyer, but
reluctantly finds herself falling in love with a pig
first, this might seem to be a ridiculous premise.
But here’s the point:
You (or let’s pretend you) thought of it.
And there’s a reason why you did.
Even though this may not be your final idea, if you
explore it, you may come up with another one that is associated
with it. You
might, instead, find yourself working with “What if a
young corporate lawyer quits her job to finally live her
dream and become a pig farmer and is reluctantly attracted
to a germophobic?”
Now that’s a blockbuster!
Or maybe not.
But at least that imagination of yours is working.
And that’s the key:
to get your creative engine going and let it run.
You’ll be amazed by what you discover.
And don’t edit; don’t let the critical editor
take charge. He/she’s
not supposed to show up while you’re still “throwing
the paint on the canvass.”
You must let your Inner Artist Child play! (I like
that phrase. Maybe
I’ll write a book about it.
But how do I start it?
How do I come up with a good idea for my book?
If you noticed, without trying... I already did.
And so can you.)