Ideas, Themes, etc. Where do you get them from?



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  • Ideas, Themes, etc. Where do you get them from?

    I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with ideas for something to write recently. (I have a feeling I'm going to take a lot of heat for this thread, but oh well). I sit with an open Final Draft screen, but nothing to put on the screen.

    I've got 3x5 index cards waiting for a pen. I've got MS Word open, waiting for a treatment. But nothing comes. For weeks it's been like this. I've had writer's block before, but this is ridiculous. I just need SOMETHING to write. I need an idea. Where do I find one?

    Once again, I will most likely take a lot of heat for this thread, but I don't much care ... better to have asked than to not have found an answer.

  • #2
    Write what you are passionate about - write the kind of stories you would like to read and see.

    As for themes, you need to think about that. I take aspects of my own personality, and universal human themes and explore them.

    I'm working on a sci-fi/horror story set during the Second World War. The protag took a decision to avoid responsibility after something that happened to him at the start of the war - he decided to do everything he could to avoid making decisions.

    When the story starts, in an ironic twist, the protag has not only surved but been promoted to Major and he's commanding a bunch of mismatched soldiers who - surprise - want to do nothing more than hide and survive the war.

    The story is an exploration of personal responsibility in the face of great evil - how evil can prosper when people do nothing. You can interpret it as an allegory about the rise of Nazism, and you can interpret it as an allegory about the rise of militant Islam... or anything else where people turn a blind eye. What I am doing is exploring the nature of humanity and looking at the stuff that people don't want to look at.

    Underneath the monsters, the explosions, the secret Nazi technology and the action, that is what the story is about.

    It's taken me two years to get where I've got with the story (although I haven't been working on it for all that time). You just have to think, think, think... take something you believe in and explore it to its natural, most extreme end.


    • #3
      I find the best ideas come when you're not trying to think of them. I'm the kind of person who questions everything in my daily life, in my mind. Why certain things do this or that. What is the meaning of them? It's when I ask these questions I usually inadvertently strike gold (or I think I do).


      • #4
        I need an idea. Where do I find one?
        Anywhere BUT in front of a blank screen.


        • #5
          Where do ideas and themes come from? Easiest answer in the world:



          • #6

            I agree - the LAST place to come up with an idea is in front of a blank screen!

            I think the best scripts are born when you stumble across an idea/story/character you just HAVE to share with the world. (That's worked for me, anyway.) When I've tried to "force" an idea (as when a producer told me he was looking for a Panic Room-type thriller and I attempted to oblige), the writing has been painful and slow and the results not as sucessful as I'd wish.

            I suggest getting out of that writing chair and into the world. Read a couple of newspapers cover to cover, a half dozen magazines (especially ones you don't usually pick up), and a few Pulitzer-winning non-fiction books. Volunteer at a local school, hospital, prison, or soup kitchen. Get a temp job. Pick something you've always wanted to learn about and go do it -- do research, take a class, hang out with people who do whatever, and get hands-on experience if possible.

            And I wouldn't worry about the theme -- you'll find out what it is once you start writing. (I think scripts that START with a theme can tend to be pedantic and/or wifty.) Figure out what STORY you want to tell, first.



            • #7
              Re: ideas

              I think this is where my ad agency background comes in helpful. We often have to pull ideas out of thin air and often on deadline.

              My first boss gave me a great tool - - write as many one-sentence ideas down as you can, in a fast, stream-of-consciousness way, then throw out the first half of the list because these are usually the most obvious ideas.

              I use the same method with screenwriting. I pay attention to trends, fads, etc., for a basic kernal of an idea or subject. I eavesdrop on conversations of strangers. I check 'Weird News' sites for oddball things. And mainstream news.

              This doesn't give you a story, it gives you an 'arena' so to speak. I often write a list of these topics and let the mind wander, ask myself, 'What if . . . '

              I also write the loglines FIRST, in longhand, in a notebook. Usually away from the PC. I find it's helpful and doesn't leave me staring at a blank screen feeling useless.

              Usually, one to three loglines survive the list as viable concepts. Then I run them past friends and family to see their reactions - -like a mini focus group thing. When I narrow it down to one,then I start to visualize characters, their quirks, etc.

              Hope that helps.


              • #8
                Re: ideas

                Think about the things that are important to you, think about a subjects where you have strong opinions that you like to talk about at length, try to the of a premise that would give you the chance to deal with that subject. If it's not important to you, it's not going to be important to anyone else.

                If you're stuck, a trick I use sometimes is to create my own vague outlines in my head for existing movies I haven't seen and then watch the movie and see if I came up with anything interesting that they didn't.


                • #9
                  What do you want?
                  Now ... who would prevent you from having it?
                  Now you want it so bad you'll do anything for it because ...

                  Say you want a cup of soup and the soup guy won't sell you any soup because ...


                  • #10
                    Another thing to peruse is one of those paperback books that gives you a thumbnail sketch of all the movies out on video. I don't mean to steal stories, but to give yourself a jumping-off point. Whether you've seen a movie or not, the description can make you think of other possible movies -- e.g. what if this story took place in space, and the sexes were reversed, and it was a comedy instead of a drama?


                    • #11
                      well like one of the members said. your idea come from you do. and your personaily. and idea it seem to come slow alot. but as my mother told me. don't think so much. and one day you get people tend to get better ideas. diffrent way. some think but not being around anyone. I don't have that idea at all. some think tv is bad. I don't I think if I see how people write shows. I never be good. and write not I like writing women stories. that also my personailty inside every little thing I write because their my thoughts!


                      • #12
                        Don't just sit and stare at a blank screen or sheet of paper. Write something. Even something bad. Every day, if your schedule allows. Write about a childhood memory or a fictionalized account of what would have happened if you or someone else would have made a different choice. Go somewhere in public and pick someone and write about what you think that person is like. Pull out a photograph and describe what is going on in that photograph, or make up things about it. Write poetry. Write prose. Write a personal essay. Write a letter to the editor. Just get the words flowing.

                        Ideas are everywhere. I have a ton of them. I don't know that they're all commercial or that I'll have the time or ability to develop them all, but they're everywhere. Read and observe. Ask "What if?"


                        • #13
                          Yeah, write something that you'd pay to see over the weekend...

                          as for themes, read Stephen Covey's books and disguise those themes with an actual story that's NOT about those themes... people will think you're a genius if you can do that "disguising"...

                          I wonder what's the 8th habit.



                          • #14
                            I strongly recommend taking public transportation. I take the subway every day, and there is no better place to let your mind wander.


                            • #15
                              listen to your friends troubles, fears, and hopes. Write them down in a small notebook when they leave the room.

                              Then use that as the basis to build characters and story.

                              That's what I do.

                              I even warn them about it ahead of time.

                              But they keep talking to me.