Print

7 Ways To Brainstorm Your Next Big Script

7 Ways to Brainstorm Your Next Script 1000x400

by Armaan Uplekar

There comes a time, in every writer’s work cycle, where they find themselves on the lookout for the next great “spark.” An idea that will not only excite and invigorate their creativity, but that could potentially connect with an audience once the story is translated to the big-screen. By inverse, there’s also the inevitable period in which you, the writer, find yourself struggling to settle on what to write.

Some call it a block, some attribute it to just a part of the creative process, but the search for inspiration is something that is part and parcel of what it means to write. There are a variety of ways you might be able to get the creative juices flowing, but we’re going to dive into seven exercises and ideas you can easily implement in order to focus on your next big script.

Read & Watch All That You Can

This might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many aspiring writers brush off ingesting new material. It’s certainly understandable – writing can be a tricky, time-consuming process, and it can be hard to make time for other people’s work when its already likely difficult for you to carve out time and energy for your own. But, what I’m suggesting is that’s exactly what you should do. Reading novels or watching movies, even if they deal with subject matter not entirely connected to what you’re trying to write about, is an invaluable and underrated way to open yourself up to new ideas.

Approach by Genre

Maybe you’re completely unsure what your next writing endeavor should be. Maybe you have the faintest germ of an idea, but you’re not sure how to build an entire story around a fledging character or set piece. A solution that might help you brainstorm is to focus on a particular genre that you might have an interest in. You might make different choices as a writer if you sculpt your story around popular conventions. You might be struggling to come up with an interesting way to tell a character-centric melodrama, but If you reframe your story as a horror or a dark comedy, it could lead you down new, inspirational avenues that you might not have previously considered. Working within the confines of a genre can bring a level of security and comfort to unwieldly writers who have a hard time corralling their imagination.

Consider Your Resources

With the continued advent of more affordable and accessible filmmaking equipment, more and more screenwriters are penning their next project with one eye towards viability and producibility asking themselves: “Can I actually make this thing?” If you’re a writer who’s looking to potentially produce work yourself but aren’t quite sure how to wrap your head around penning a screenplay, consider focusing on the resources you have at hand.

Kevin Smith infamously wrote “Clerks” based on the fact that he had access to a convenience store location that he could only use for filming at night. If you’re working your way through the inspirational process, a great way to brainstorm is to consider coming up with a script that makes use of what you have access to. Maybe the restaurant you work at could let you shoot on location after-hours, and that could be the key setting for your next micro-budget story. Maybe a good friend of yours has a unique look, and you might consider writing a character role specifically for them. The old adage goes “write what you know.” Likewise, don’t forget to use what you have.

List “What If” Scenarios

One potentially fruitful (not to mention fun) writing exercise involves coming up with hypothetical “what if” situations. Feel free to let your imagination really run wild as you come up with different scenarios that might be able to develop into fascinating characters, set pieces or even loglines. In order to streamline the exercise, consider starting with a character archetype – say a fast food cashier or a businessman – and just apply whatever ludicrous or exciting idea comes to mind.

The key is to not overthink things – you want a big bank of “what if” situations and overanalyzing them will only gum up your process. After all, even a concept as out-of-this-world as “What if Abraham Lincoln hunted vampires” became a blockbuster action-horror movie. The sky’s the limit, and what-ifs are a great way to get out of your own head and into the page; it’s an invaluable and easy brainstorming tool that might yield interesting results.

Research, Research, Research

Let’s say you want to write a story about witchcraft and supernatural horror in the 18th century. Maybe you have a couple key character roles picked out and some rough plot points sketched in, but you’re still looking to flesh out the rest of the story. Just like a “what-if” exercise, the key is to get out of your own head and seek fresh resources in order to come up with new ideas. While some writers look at research as an arduous task reserved for screenwriters dabbling in fact-based historical renderings, research can really give you a broader and more detailed view of your characters and settings, allowing you to come up with new, invaluable ideas in the process.

Design Inspiring, Story-Specific Visuals

It’s never been easier for writers to access visual aids that might help them tap into ideas that might otherwise be dormant in the mind. A great way to brainstorm is to look for visuals that might ignite a new direction for you to pursue. Websites such as Pinterest, Film Grab or Tumblr can you let draw inspiration from obscure photographers or unseen films. You can then use these images as a jumping off point to create mood boards, write scenes, or come up with the kind of images that might even inspire a whole screenplay.

Focus on the Personal

We’ve all heard it before. “Write what you know.” This piece of writerly advice is so familiar, so frequently reiterated, that it might even border on cliché. The truth is, however, “write what you know” is so well-known precisely because of how useful it can be as a brainstorming mechanism. “Write what you know” doesn’t necessarily mean that you should focus on rewriting your life story for the screen. Rather, it encourages you to focus on the personal, emphasizing that you should mine your own experiences for the kind of details that might spark some new and profound direction for your work. Perhaps you studied French in high school, and you love to cook and travel. This in turn generates an idea for a fish out of water road movie about an eccentric French speaking chef who finds himself cooking savory foods for the most unsavory celebrities and world leaders. Whatever the story, the world is yours.

Consider how many seasoned horror writers cop to the fact that they use their own fears as a way to inspire their best work. If you’re looking for a way to brainstorm, it might behoove you to use a combination of the bits of advice described above. All the while, however, make sure to keep an eye on the kind of material that affects you personally. Having an ingrained connection to the material at hand – no matter how peripheral or fleeting that it might be to an outside audience member -- is an especially important part of the brainstorming process.

Write on!