This week's Answer:
I’m certain, Mike, that many
screenwriters have wondered the same question.
How does one come up with that winning idea
that will have producers and agents breaking down your
door or ringing your cell-phone off your belt clip or out
of your purse? (I’m
not saying that you personally, Mike, have a purse.
But, if you do, that’s okay, too.
Where was I? Oh,
yes.) I know that this may seem an odd way of putting it, but
please bear with me when I state that, instead of trying
to think of a good concept for a screenplay, let the
concept think of you. (I told you that it was odd.)
Another way of putting it is:
Rather than attempting to pen (probably type –
unless you’re Neal Simon or another writer who uses
longhand) the next blockbuster and cater to the whimsical
public and film industry (Only a year ago, thrillers were
the rage and nobody wanted romantic comedies, and now as I
write this, well-written romantic comedies are what
agents/ managers/ producers are willing to give their
eyeteeth for.), write about what “calls to you.”
Whatever excites you, arouses you (careful here!),
intrigues you, challenges you, quickens you.
(This is a wonderful word and measuring stick /
touchstone / litmus test to use to help you decide if a
story concept will engage you and hold your attention.
For attention it must hold because, although it is
true that the journey of a thousand miles starts with one
step, it is also true that screenwriters better wear good
hiking shoes because they are going to be walking for
quite a while – and the path will usually be sometimes
smooth and even, and, other times, rough, hilly, slippery,
and a difficult (yet exhilarating) climb.
Enough with the Sierra Club report.
Back to the word “quicken.”
Just look at the definition of quicken:
make more rapid; accelerate; hasten.
make quick or alive: restore life to.
give or restore vigor or activity to: stir up, rouse
(There’s that arousal thing again!), or stimulate:
to quicken the imagination.
become alive; receive life.
the mother) to enter that stage of pregnancy in which the
child gives indications of life.
(Look at that one! In a sense, you are the “mother” of your screenplay, your
“child,” and, when a concept starts to stir in you, it
can be likened to a child notifying you that it wants to
be born.) Okay, class, everyone put away your dictionaries for
now. But you
get the idea. Let
your story “notify” you.
It will; it will talk to you, send you images,
dialogue, characters, plots, premises, themes, moods,
structure, etc. Everything
your little screenplay heart desires.
Why, if you learn to let it, it can show you your entire
movie. (Well, I mean you will have to do some of the work;
you can’t just sit back and eat popcorn like you want
your audience to do after they’ve paid their nine or ten
or more dollars, some of which will end up back with you
so you can once again leisurely invite your imagination
and lovely Muse to visit on a regular basis.)