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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

Sometimes I just don't know where to begin, DCH, when it comes to coming up with a screenplay idea.  Do you have any advice how to do that?

Marcus from Ohio

This week's answer: 

A Little Screenplay Knowledge Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Don't fret, Marcus.  Some of the best minds have a hard time coming up with fresh screenplay ideas.  Some say there really are only seven types of stories that are told over and over again.  (Or was that the number of dwarves?  I certainly wouldn't want to be one of those seven having to hear the same seven stories over and over again.)  Just so you, Marcus, or anybody else reading this, won't despair, I'm providing a conversation between two wannabe screenwriters who are attempting to come up with an idea for a screenplay below that might give you heart:


Writer#1:  So we're gonna need a heroine.

Writer#2:  That's cool, Man.  Drugs are good for demographics.

Writer#1:  Not "heroin."  Heroine.  With a silent "e."

Writer#2:  That's cool.  Silent "e"'s rule.

Writer#1:  And she will need to be up against something.

Writer#2:  She could be up against a wall.

Writer#1:  I mean she's trying to win against something or somebody.  We have to be able to cheer for her.

Writer#2:  So she's a cheerleader.  Cheerleader movies are cool.  We could write a cheerleader flick called, "Bring It Over."

Writer#1:  Let's try something else.  We need to pick a genre.

Writer#2:  Whoa, Man.  I don't pick my genre!

Writer#1:  No!  Genre.  Type.  We need to pick the type of movie we want to write.  You know:  comedy, drama, thriller, horror.  Like that.

Writer#2:  Ohhhh, right.  Okay.  Let's make it a horrifying, thrilling, funny drama. 

Writer#1:  (sighs) Let's try something else.  Okay, we need a good villain.

Writer#2:  Captain Hook.  He's always giving Peter Pan a hard time.

Writer#1:  I mean we need an original villain.  One that will thwart our heroine every step of the way.

Writer#2:  Captain Hook does that.

Writer#1:  She needs to run into progressively difficult hurtles.

Writer#2:  I've got it!

Writer#1:  What?!

Writer#2:  She's a track star.  You know... Hurtles.

Writer#1:  (bigger sigh) Maybe we could write "Peter Pan II."

Writer#2:  Yes!  "The Return of Captain Hook."  And Wendy's a cheerleader.

Writer#1:  (flatly) Yeah.

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