CREATE & CONSIDER YOUR CONCEPT by Jeff Newman Precious few professional screenwriters, once they get an idea for

a screenplay that enthuses them, simply put fingers to keyboard and start writing. Instead, most writers, prior to writing, do some prewriting. They may have done otherwise once or twice, and found that just rushing to the writing actually takes a lot more time in the end! they wind up with a goopy, droopy ultra"rough first draft that needs far more than pruning and polishing. #fter doing that once or twice, they now look $and think% before they leap. #s the saying goes, &ell begun is half done. #nd part of beginning well is spending some time thinking, making some tentative decisions, and organi'ing one(s thoughts. This is the first article in a series called Prewriting! )efore *ou &rite (+ade In.( #nd the first step in the prewriting process is creating your concept! coming up with the idea, and then clarifying and massaging it "" tinkering and toying with it "" until it(s an interesting, compelling, dramatically viable concept. +urthermore, it should be a concept that you are willing, nay eager, to spend some time with, it should be an idea that really enthuses you, that you are e-cited or passionate about. #nd finally, to be realistic and practical, it should be a concept that will be marketable. Not necessarily mass" marketable $although that would be great%, but ... would many producers, agents, prodco e-ecutives, and major actors agree to read a screenplay based on this concept. &ould enough movie"goers want to see it so that the film would turn a profit. #fter all, movie"making isn(t just an art, it(s a business $show business%. /ompared to publishing books or staging plays, movies are e-pensive to make $and to distribute and market%. If a film based on a particular idea is likely to attract only a tiny, niche audience, it had better be one that could be made for a very low budget. If it(s going to be something that would take an average movie budget to produce, it had better be an idea likely to attract a whole lot of people. 0o before committing to a concept "" before you spend weeks or months developing it and writing a screenplay based upon it "" take the idea out for a test drive. 1ake sure it(s a solid idea! one you want to write, and that enough others are likely to want to read and see. &e(ll talk more about that in a bit, but first! how does one think up good ideas in the first place. /21IN3 4P &IT5 I67#0 2nce you(ve been writing a while, finding ideas you want to write about won(t be a problem. The problem will be finding time to write all the concepts you keep coming up with. *ou(ll have more ideas than you could ever possibly find time to e-ecute. If, however, you are trying to restrict yourself to sure"fire, slam"dunk, high concept ideas ... that(s different. No matter how e-perienced you are, coming up with those kinds of fresh, highly commercial, mass"market ideas will always be a challenge. Ideas are a dime a do'en. 3ood ideas are worth a lot more. #nd high"concept ideas are as rare as diamonds in a dung"heap. &ell, just about. )ut when writers are just starting out "" and especially if the writer is young "" then finding good ideas is often 8uite hard. It seems that all the ideas they come up with are either not likely enough to create interest among others, or else they(ve been done. #t first, it just seems almost impossible to come up with new ideas, when so many movies and other stories have already been produced. 0o the efforts of a new writer to come up with a good idea are similar to the efforts of a pro trying to come up with a high"concept idea. 5ow to proceed. There(s no magical or one"si'e"fits"all answer. )ut here are some strategies that work for many.

some of the sensational. you could start doing some research.. TI17 T2 TIN?7: #N6 T70T 5ere are some 8uestions to ask yourself. down. *ou can(t take the e-act idea. an idea will present itself at some point. . and old movies. and be willing to play around with your idea if needed in order for it to pass muster. 7ven if all of this doesn(t result in your stumbling across an idea. 2r while drifting off to sleep. improving it. then do some switching and altering. it . Think of other movies along those lines "" ones you like and would be proud to have written.. now it(s time to start playing around with the idea. It knows what you are after. after a while . or driving. if necessary. &rite . +ind = 0eek If your subconscious didn(t come through after some polite re8uests. taking a walk. )ut before we get to that process .. <. #nd.. too. in terms of subject matter. while showering. Take the time to really go through these. It(s also absorbing all of this new information. )ut at least you(ve let your subconscious know that you(re seeking an idea. *ou think you(ll remember it. but not always. walking. 7specially just after going to bed. #nd every now and then at various times during the ne-t few days. 2nce in a while. Note! be sure to write the idea down "" at least a few notes about it. occupations.. Just skim and browse. stories might trigger an idea. The Power of 0elf"0uggestion +ollowed by :ela-ation 2nce you are in idea search mode. 3o through maga'ines you usually don(t read or never read $going to a library will save you lots of money here%. a good idea will 8uickly spring out at you... then you may have to do some e-tra work to prime the pump. and. but you might not. the genre. or driving . you can make the idea your own. #nd testing its worthiness. &hat if this approach doesn(t work. you will come up with an idea that makes you say #ha> 0o let(s say you now have an idea you like. If you come across an idea that grabs you. #nother strategy! start reading material you normally don(t have the time or interest to peruse. #fter thanking your subconscious mind. you can make what was old into something new and different. the locale% and enough details. If you know the subject matter you want to write about. Not usually. your life. stroll the aisles of books. &hile you(re at the library. This is especially important if it comes as part of a dream in the middle of the night. including non"fiction books on subjects you haven(t read about before. and look through some you(ve never read. )y changing elements $the time period. though. # 7ureka moment will occur. tone. If an idea doesn(t suddenly strike you from out"of"the"blue. #nd so. or wild and wacky.. #lso! look up plot summaries of old novels and plays. spend some time thinking about the kind of movie you(d like to write. Then! rela-. then keep reminding yourself every now and then.. 0o what(s another idea"generating approach. 3o about your business. :ead some tabloids. It usually does. that you think would be good. or even while dreaming. it still serves a purpose! your subconscious knows you are doing this. and roughly what kind of an idea. but by changing the details and some aspects of the story.9.. It often happens while in the shower. Now what. /hances are now good that an idea will suddenly bubble up from your subconscious. /hances are.or genre.

They want to read the idea as e-pressed succinctly.or news"worthy. e-citing. The concepts just didn(t sound interesting. #nd 8uite often. E. 6o you like it enough to spend all the time and effort on it re8uired to write a full"length screenplay. be the basis for a movie that a goodly number of people would pay to see. If it can(t sound both clear and compelling when described in GE words or less $and preferably about BA words or less%. but not a @A"9<A minute film. and. . 9A. F. to make them really strong and compelling "" some kind of and then or but then complication. It can(t sound too generic. They don(t necessarily need to be life"and"death stakes. it won(t sound intriguing. but not for a long haul. <. ideas are good but they are only halfway there. and. 6oes the idea take too long to e-plain. Note well! most scripts written by amateur writers never get read by a well"established agent or production company e-ecutive. 2r. 6oes the idea contain or suggest an objective "" a goal. it(s probably an idea that wouldn(t have any reel life. #nd does the goal sound like it would or could be very important to someone. They need another element. 2ne way to answer the last two 8uestions! C. would it be something likely to be written about in the newspaper and. bad things if the character fails. substantial. # big problem to solve. Is there something about it that e-cites or enthuses you. Is it too comple-. B. make 5ollywood professionals interested enough in the idea that they would consent to read the script. boring. Is the idea gossip" and.. &ould this be a movie you(d want to see. #nd it(s an idea that you yourself also like. intriguing... or compelling enough in logline or capsule summary form. 6oes the idea suggest high stakes. Is there something unusual or surprising in the idea. 0o . if you are able to revise and revamp the idea so that on the second trip through. if this idea were to happen in real life. 2r if not.or opposition. 9<. another angle. if this idea actually happened. if not. and would others be interested in listening to it. 99. based on this idea. if written well and produced well.or included in the TD news. If it does. Is the idea distinct and specific enough. It can(t sound too much like some other movie that many people have seen. Is it good for a short trip.or compelling. but we need to sense that one or more significant things could happen "" good things if a character succeeds. It(s probably too flat. competition. story"worthy. 6oes the idea suggest significant problems and difficulties for one or more characters. G. or achieve. but it needs to be different and distinct enough to seem fresh. #nd they won(t read anything longer than a 8uery letter $which can(t be longer than one page%. That is. or something that someone wants to obtain. Is this an idea you really want to write.9. then it may not be an idea that is clear and simple enough. too mundane. would the pro(s want to read your prose. 2r they seemed to lack any commercial potential. when presented in the form of a logline or short paragraph. &ould this idea. Is this idea solid and strong enough to sustain a full"length movie. at least something that is not just interesting. 0ome ideas would be fine for a short film or a short story. either. If your idea is able to successfully negotiate the do'en checkpoints mentioned above "" or. would some people gossip about it "" would they tell others about it. Is there likely to be some conflict "" some obstacles.. If it doesn(t seem likely to be something that would be gossiped about or reported on if it happened in real life. It can sound similar in some ways to other movies. but fascinating. @. Too ordinary or low"key or cerebral or . #nd it won(t seem fresh enough. become. it does "" then congratulations! you have a sturdy. well. 2r is it too slender. H. market"friendly idea on your hands. &ould this idea.

)ut don(t tell them that one is yours. #nd no amount of tinkering with the tower itself could or can change the underlying foundational weakness. even with a good deal of toying and tinkering. Prewriting involves pondering.. after all. and emotion building a castle on a foundation of sand. but still somehow weak and lacking. once they(ve come up with a story idea they like. your idea doesn't clear these do'en hurdles . if they guess what you(re up to. if it(s all based on an insufficient concept. daydreaming.If. The main problem is at the concept level. and some analytic thinking and decision" making. and condemn your screenplay and all your efforts. 6o some prewriting first. then that(s your choice. don(t tell them which one. III COMPLETING THE CONCEPT by Jeff Newman &hat(s a common "" and serious "" mistake that many newbie writers make. this advice proves helpful! don(t rush to the writing.loglines "" one of which is yours. even a full"fledged draft. The problem was the foundation. 2r. #sk which ones they like. and come up with one or more other ideas. . 0ee what they say and think about your is a good place to find out that information. #sk which they think is the weakest. even if the concept. 2f course.. blindly. It may or may not involve an outline $and if it does. 6on(t sabotage yourself. and impatiently rushing to the keyboard before the concept and some elements of the story have been thought through and given some early development. 0tart with a sturdy idea. it doesn(t matter%. or let them read. They plunge right into their first draft. then go back to the process described earlier. it can be an informal and. results in a draft that is based upon a concept that is partially and potentially good. 0ome forethought and some designing will make your screen story richer and less hapha'ard.or sketchy one%. and have greater structural is indeed solid. That(s not the idea for you. 6o you want to be e-tra"certain. #sk which idea they think is best. then it(s back to s8uare one. 5ollywoodlitsales.friends of yours who like movies. it was built very well. If you would rather e-plore the concept and the characters by writing scenes. isn(t it. it(s still not wise to jump into the actual writing. 6o whatever you prefer. *ou must start with a strong idea. )ut too often. Then test it out on a few folks.%. or they have a shrug"like. if you don(t mind writing an e-ploratory pre"first draft "" one from which very. nyeh "" might be okay kind of reaction . #nd then. and how compelling some of the events are. The idea is the foundation for all that follows. effort.. whatever works best for you. then no amount of limited revising and polishing can help. and brainstorming..loglines of several screenplays or projects that have sold in the last few months or so. and especially. Then select five or si. +or most writers. very little $if anything% will be used in later drafts "" then fine. and pinning so many hopes on this idea. It will likely have a greater sense of focus. right from the git"go. rashly. five or si. or when all are in a group. Then tell them. 6on(t spend time. thought. that it(s one that others will likely to be attracted to. Tell them you(re trying to get a better sense of what 5ollywood buys and what it doesn(t $that(s true. and ask them for their help $either individually. If they don(t like it. No matter how skillful the characteri'ation and dialogue. and cohesion. before committing all your precious time and skills. The problem with the Jeaning Tower of Pisa wasn(t that the tower was poorly built. direction. rather than doing some brainstorming and at least partial outlining. +ind the concepts.

screenwriting isn(t a clean and tidy process. and at other times in alternation. and a few major plot events. and so on. dialogue. and we just have to e-pect and accept that. In fact. moments. 0ome development is in order. then . a two"hour voyage. the second article of the series Prewriting! )efore *ou &rite +ade In. 0o let(s say you(ve come up with an idea that sufficiently e-cites you "" an idea that you really want to write. basic story idea that we(ll e-plore in this. 1ost times. and simply rush in. #las.... bits. There(s a lot of jumping around and backtracking involved. and we can then concentrate solely on creating options and possibilities. sometimes we(re lucky. or thereabouts%. since a straight path is predictable and boring. if that. or nearly.e. however. #fter all. then jump forward to the third task and find yourself doing the fifth activity at the same time. you might spend time on one task. and story" development phase. K e-plicitly mentions. and if little or no research is re8uired. just jot down a few milestone markers and reminders. The second is letting our imagination run wild. a story with progressive complications and which escalates and intensifies%. since these are necessary ingredients for drama. so we can accumulate a list of possible scenes. K attracts attention and pi8ues interest $one test of that! in real life. There are two primary tasks at this stage of prewriting. easy approach that will yield 8uick results with little wasted time. se8uences.. )ut how to proceed. events. 67D7J2PIN3 T57 /2N/7PT &e(ve already thought up a concept we like. it rarely works to start on item one and proceed to the last. The first is developing and setting the concept $we can change it later if we think it prudent%. &e want to make sure it is a dramatically viable concept "" a story"worthy vessel able to bear the weight of characters.or a difficult problem to solve. &e have a general situation in mind. If that(s the case. /reation is an oft"times messy and imprecise process. the concept will become firmly set. in a brilliant burst of creativity. to flesh out. K e-presses or implies an important"but"difficult goal to be achieved and. )ut now we are trying to e-pand. then move back again to the first for a bit of additional thinking. before moving on $and back% to the fourth. Jet(s start with . scenes. It(s a concept that . *es "" if the idea comes to you all"at"once. as though we were following a recipe or list of directions. and you can dive in. Now it(s time to start developing the concept $if necessary% and to begin brainstorming an array of story possibilities! events. It must also be able to make a sustained voyage without sinking $in our case. )ut there are a lot of gaps that need filling in. &hat kind of concept fits that bill of particulars. and the story concept "" and much of the story itself "" emerges rapidly. . some tentative ideas for some of the major characters.or news"worthy. &e want a craft that can weather rough seas and winds of generally increasing fierceness $i.Is there ever a time to skip the prewriting phase. the basic concept. and so on. or at least implies. and characters. It(s the development of your initial. #t some point. These two tasks can be done in tandem! at times simultaneously. conflict and struggle. # do this first and that ne-t agenda is seldom feasible.. the idea presents itself to us only half"formed.. move to the ne-t. note"taking. 0ome of us wish for a logical. or nearly . &e seek a story"ship able to change course. or we wouldn(t be at the brainstorming. characters...%. would it be gossip" and. within minutes of conception. if it comes to you fully grown and clothed. and that you think would make a good basis for a screen story.. Instead. and of events that are primarily cause"and"effect related.

we reali'e the concept feels a bit too general and. &hat we(re looking for. a major complicating factor "" an and then or but then story turn. he can get the big promotion he(s been hoping for. )ut here(s what we(re looking for $if it(s not already in place%. let(s focus on that last element. after some sustained brainstorming. T57 1#J2: /21PJI/#TI2N If you(re lucky. or an adversary or ally who is a clear mis"match to the main character. That(s already a good concept. makes a birthday wish that his dad must tell the truth for <C hours. #nd then the wish comes true. )ut then.. since it(s the one most often missing.. some kind of and then or but then complicating development or story turn usually needs to be added in order to keep the story from being too thin. The second part is the much"needed wrinkle that adds an e-tra level of interest and energy to the story. unpredictable. improving. the concept would seem too thin. It may be some kind of ironic aspect related to time or place. and who is certain to generate sparks. or. your concept will already contain an une-pected development. but once we look beyond that point. )ut with this complication. 1arty has une-pectedly and unintentionally been 'apped BA years into the . broad concept. in JI#:. and nothing but the truth.. characters. 1ost still"forming stories feature a broad concept that is interesting up to a point. It(s likely that what you(re looking for $in terms of augmenting. )ut whether it(s ironic or merely challenging. or to add a major problem to the central situation. 4nfortunately. It(s a complicating factor or angle that is unusual. sick of being lied to and disappointed by his inveterate liar. &hat major une-pected development could occur to intensify the main problem. the whole truth. but has a certain specificity to it. 2ften there is an ironic angle "" of all the times for this to happen or of all the people or places. )ut if not. now is the time to start searching for one. That(s what we tend to think up first. The concept needs another angle. Things become much more difficult. a major complicating factor "" an and then or but then story turn..or unlikely. well. K contains an une-pected development. complicated.or unlikely. #nd now he(s just been given the biggest case of his career "" and if he does well. the second part of the concept! just when he(s been une-pectedly given the biggest case of his career. as well as something that will make things less predictable and less linear for the viewers. +or instance. The first part is the general.K isn(t too general or thin. &ithout a complication of this sort. some writers are content to leave it at that. 0o that(s the major complication. They don(t add the crucial second part.. complicating $and preferably ironic% element. The second part of the concept in )#/? T2 T57 +4T4:7 also avoids the potential all he has to do is lie low and wait out the clock story problem. the 1ajor /omplication or Interesting #ngle doesn(t come to you. in effect. It would lack a sense of direction. and . 2f all the times for such a thing to happen.. )ut it needs another. It needs something une-pected. plus by insincere flattery of those he works for. or an unlikely.. suddenly. and here it is! the father is a lawyer who has succeeded partly by lying "" by his molding of the truth in his approach to cases. less"than"ideal person or team that must deal with the problem. 5e could just wait out the clock. he(s compelled to tell the truth . if not fireworks. and seem likely to be too easy of a problem for him to deal with. +or now. he suddenly has to tell the truth for <C hours. due to his son(s wish. etc. It can be any major development that makes the situation even harder for the main character$s%. JI#: the basic concept is already strong! a boy. unusual.or incomplete. and which make the proceedings more difficult for the characters. une-pected. If. and more difficult for the major character$ dad. scenes. he can(t do that. the success of which will ensure a big promotion. and. and completing the concept% will come to you during that process. is the second part of the concept.. or from running out of gas halfway through. then go on to the ne-t task! generating a list of possible events.

the source of his inspiration and guidance isn(t a motivational or self"help guru. will he be up to it. &hat could be a fairly interesting but also rather static and talky piece is made more compelling by the fact that the sister(s husband resents his sister"in"law(s presence and meddling. psychiatric help. the basic concept is this! # middle"aged man feels trapped in a largely loveless marriage and a soulless job. It(s the additional challenge and threat he presents. it needs another angle and. and too general. and a money"grubbing black marketeer. and their glaring incompatibility. but it also takes away the option of just waiting around until he can return. and it gives him a difficult task to perform $making sure his future parents get together%. &ith this added element. two non"combat robots. 5e hopes to find some meaning.past. It(s a farm boy. In fact. The complicating angle. machines with artificial intelligence are drawing energy from us as we sleep and dream our lives away. a long" retired general. and a chance for life and liberty of billions. so he disguises himself as a woman and lands a co" starring role in a soap opera. That(s interesting but familiar territory. passion. and seeks shelter with her married sister. is usually still present. that(s about a third of the concept. religion. he meets his parents when they were his age "" and is shocked by what they were really like. #nd that is provided by focusing in on one individual in particular $Neo%. practical. )ut what(s the major complicating factor. and much more difficult for him. and by the materialism and conformity he once bought into. It(s that he falls in love with the female lead "" who thinks he(s really a woman "" and he can(t tell her the truth. usually% where the additional story angle or major complication isn(t as bold or startling as in genre stories "" but some kind of complicating factor that makes the basic situation more interesting and less predictable. in this case. That(s fine so far. so good "" but that(s not enough for an effective concept. In #17:I/#N )7#4T*. This unlikely group "" later joined by a princess "" are all that stand between complete and permanent imperial domination. &ill he accept this task. 0o the final third! his future mother falls for him. capable of destroying entire planets. he(s in most respects the opposite to )lanche. Thus. he(ll vanish from e-istence. and authenticity in his life. There are some stories $dramas. often brutish man. and which increases the basic level of conflict or difficulty. unknown to us. The ne-t third! there. That(s the new. This not only makes things more interesting for us. and his daughter(s non"conformist boyfriend "" a youth who recently spent time in a mental institution. the story concept is much stronger and more compelling. )eing an earthy. If he doesn(t correct it prior to the one moment $in a few days% that he has a chance to return. and the empire intends to use it against the home planet of some of the rebels who seek to restore self"rule and democracy "" and on any other planets whose inhabitants aren(t submissive. In T57 1#T:IL. #nd the fact that he must do it before the lightning strikes the clock tower provides a deadline. and who escapes by smoking dope. and determines to force her out. . who refuses to accept society(s conventions or play by its rules. The central concept "" and thus. Those enlisted to deliver the schematics of the 6eath 0tar to the rebels are not some band of highly trained spies or a special forces unit. That(s an e-cellent and fascinating premise. the broad concept is that a galactic empire has created a huge and powerful 6eath 0tar space station. )etter. and following him as he makes this discovery. In # 0T:77T/#: N#176 670I:7 a delicate but very intelligent and manipulative 0outhern woman has lost the family home and her teaching job. the broad concept is that what we perceive as reality is really just a computer"enhanced dream "" that.or a complication. The fact that he interfered with the time"line and now might disappear into oblivion greatly raises the stakes. #nd if so. 0o far. #nd then ! he learns that some believe he is the fulfillment of a prophecy that one who seeks the truth and awakens from this coma"like state will be the one "" a human savior who will lead humanity to freedom from domination and e-ploitation by the machines. and now he seeks to turn his life around. so that he and we learn about it at the same time. that provides the added level of dynamic interest. spontaneity. common. instead of his future dad "" 1arty has inadvertently disrupted the time line. but still not enough. &hat completes and enhances the concept is what inspires him to wake up and to change! a teenage cheerleader friend of his daughter(s. additional direction that the story concept presents us with "" the vital second part that completes and invigorates the basic concept. but it needs more specificity. In 0T#: &#:0. Is he really the one. the inspirational or animating idea "" in T22T0I7 is that a talented actor can(t find an acting job because he(s so difficult to work with.

There(s no point in spending all the time and mental effort in writing a story unless the underlying concept is solid. and some new angle that will increase the level of difficulty. It(s too broad or general. and make the situation less predictable. and which makes the story less linear and predictable for the reader or viewer. It(s two very different teenage friends of his daughter.or solve the big problem. It needs greater specificity. If not. and.s% In addition to the above. 0ometimes this will come fairly 8uickly. This second part is some kind of 1ajor /omplication or New. 2therwise. The second part of a concept "" the 1ajor /omplication or New. 4nlikely could refer to the person or team who are given a task or who must achieve the goal. 1ost initial concepts need a second part to complete and enhance them. +irst.or a book of philosophy. remember the B 4(s. Nearly always. Interesting #ngle "" should be one or more of the following! K 4nusual K 4ne-pected K 4nlikely )y unlikely we mean unlikely but credibly so. 0411#:* 6on(t proceed to your first draft $unless you intend it to be more of an e-ploratory draft% until your concept is sufficiently developed and dramatically viable. 6oes your concept have an une-pected. Turning now to your story idea "" the concept you(ve recently come up with and are intending to develop and write into a screenplay. you can go back to the concept. 6oes it have an and then or but then factor. creates a deadline. and the initial depth of his despair. provides the main character$s% with a difficult task that must be performed before the goal can be achieved. une-pected. you(re trying to build a castle on a foundation of sand. you can instead start generating ideas for story possibilities. une-pected. and then $based on some of the ideas and options you come up with%. prescribed. if you(re not satisfied with the results of your initial thinking. #nd the above elements and. situation.or opposition "" the conflict%. or. try to create a complicating element that does one or more of the following! raises the stakes. tested path. and. complicating angle.. 0ome kind of story"invigorating wrinkle. twist. and unlikely source.or contains an ironic aspect of some sort. then now is the time to try to come up with one. deal with the difficulties $obstacles and.or is in some way unlikely. )ut the main thing is to provide a second part to the main concept so as to complete and invigorate the story concept "" a new wrinkle. 2r it could refer to an unlikely pairing of two individuals.or other aspects of the 1ajor /omplication should make the situation! K Jess Predictable $for the audience% and K 1ore 6ifficult $for the main character. Interesting #ngle. This makes his road to recovery and authenticity somewhat more difficult. or development that complicates things and which is unusual. that(s an unusual. 3iven his age. it will fulfill some or all of the following criteria. and. here(s the good news! *ou can flesh out and solidify the concept first. and it certainly makes it less predictable. since it doesn(t involve any set. and makes the situation and proceedings more difficult for the major characters. . 2ften. the initial concept is incomplete. If not. 4ne-pected and 4nusual are self"e-planatory. add interest..

dramatically viable concept. 7njoy the process. tasks. bits of business. etc. unrestricted. &elcome those ideas.T57 N7LT 0T7P )y now $or soon. There will be times in between your dedicated sessions "" while you(re driving. return to general brainstorming "" generating ideas and . it(s better to dip into your creative river on a number of occasions. your brain will still be providing you with suggestions. III /opyright <AAF by Jeff Newman BRAINSTORMING & NOTE-MAKING by Jeff Newman $This is the third installment of the series on Pre"&riting $for screenplays%. or fruitful valleys and challenging but climbable hills. obstacles. observe. % ):#IN0T2:1IN3! # J2N3 JI0T 2+ P200I)IJITI70 )rainstorming and note"jotting should be a fun. spread out over a few days $at least%. showering. most"needed part of it. se8uences. or paging through a maga'ine "" when ideas for scenes will suddenly jump out at #nd when you(re not involved in active.cfm.%. and you can investigate needed details later on. In short. &arning! don(t get bogged down at the research phase. it usually shouldn't be. compelling. or bubble up une-pectedly from your subconscious. &e think out loud. &e let our thoughts wander. once you do some brainstorming and apply the above criteria% you should have a sturdy. and events. This doesn(t have to be done in one sitting. brainstorming is the mental and imaginative process of generating ideas and possibilities for your story. mentally stimulating activity. If your idea is one that re8uires some research. this is when we create a long list of possible events. you can do some brainstorming prior to plunging into the research. when the bulk of your research is over. 0o spend several hours at this. speculate. or hear about will trigger ideas for characters.inde-. It(s also a list of possible characters and themes.journal. 1ore precisely. Now it(s time to begin $or continue% brainstorming some initial ideas and possibilities that can help you decide how to flesh out the story and design the plot. or the main. you rarely need to become an e-pert. Then. bits of dialogue. That will be the topic of the ne-t article in this gags. barren deserts.hollywoodlitsales.. overly long detours. it can be 8uite heady. scenes. preparing a meal or eating. In fact. daydream. &e pursue some what if or maybe suggestions that we provide to ourselves. then do your research. &hile doing so. go to http!. shaving. directed brainstorming. developments. )e sure to record those ideas. and then move on. 3ive yourself a fle-ible time limit. &e imagine. some of what you read. and moments. /reate and /onsider *our /oncept. find out what you need to know and some things that may be helpful to know. and be sure to have a small notepad handy at all times $or a pocket recorder. &e travel down some story paths to see where they might lead! dead ends. )rainstorming is where we unleash our brains and let them run wild. To start with the first article.intI6ME9 and scroll down to the bottom article. and ponder.www.

+or now.. use your analytic brain to work with your list of raw ideas "" not to eliminate any. now that you have largely depleted your store of possible story angles. )y committing to an early. they will be good. )ut we(re going to keep it on a leash. it(s idea"generating time. go through your list in analytic mode and see if some ideas or possible events can be revised. K &hat opportunities might be turned into problems! a double"edged sword.. K /an some of the possible events be flipped . This is mostly a right brain activity "" the imaginative. fairly good story direction. Now it(s time to put your left brain to work. but even so! don(t censor them. dedicated brainstorming. 62 . so to speak. There(s another reason for not letting yourself be critical while brainstorming. what problems. &hat(s ne-t is very. or some new options added. The other reason! you don(t want to close off potential story paths too soon. /onsider the reverse or the opposite $or nearly% for some of your first"thoughts ideas. #fter a while. Turn your internal editor"analyst"critic off. *ou now have lots and lots of ideas listed "" possible scenes and events. you might never hit upon the great approach that would otherwise present itself later. That is. or to go into idle mode. will be good ones. 6on(t criti8ue. be kind "" to yourself and to the ideas you generate. The creative spigot will go from a generous flow to a miserly trickle if you subject the outpouring to logical scrutiny and to criticism. J4637. you(re creating and listing ideas. #nd still later. so you can sift through them later for the gems. creative. developments. very important. especially if you have a highly trained or advanced creative sense. to up the negative ante%. Instead. not criti8uing them. 0ometimes. *ou may have learned from e-perience that your very first thoughts and ideas often turn out to be too obvious. $Note! don(t discard the original version "" keep both it and the flipped. #t least. you can alternate between right" and left"braining thinking. Not yet. besides wanting to encourage and accept a gusher of ideas. opposition. &hen you are in brainstorming mode. That(s generally true. Just keep saying thank you and got it. 6efer decisions until later. non"critical frame of mind. for a while. :ight now. That is. but to create a few additional ones. . That is. in a non"judgmental. etc. This should be a create possibilities and e-plore options phase. *ou want lots and lots of ideas on your list. 3ive the roses some thorns $and make them poison"tipped. never assume you(ll remember an idea. upon later consideration. and let the ideas keep coming. #nd so! 6on(t edit. /onsider the following 8uestions. N2T . intuitive part of your brain. and e-ploring story options. &e(re not starting the winnowing and decision"making process. plot directions. "" for your overall story concept. and challenges might turn out to be blessings in disguise. critical mode. analytical left brain to switch off for a time. K /an some of the ideas be e-aggerated or made more e-treme. 6ictate it or write it down. problems. 1ore dire. 0o at this point.. you will put the left brain in charge for a while. )ut not yet. some good ideas will never present themselves. 7LP#N6IN3 T57 JI0T 0o let(s say that you(ve spent several hours over several days doing this kind of directed. and so on.. hoping that some of them. for now. reverse. #nd if you get into the censoring. don(t be selective. can they be revised and made into the opposite or nearly or partially the opposite of what you originally had. opposite version on your list. &hile brainstorming. difficulties.possibilities.% K &hat problems might also be opportunities for the main character$s%. Instruct your logical.

and. might inspire or otherwise influence a character to change.. you(ve generated so far would seem right for such structural events. could there be. what ordeals endured. Think of events that can help create change in the character "" events that can motivate and help cause growth. con8uer a key flaw. K /an some characters be combined. or nearly.K +or some of the ideas. &hat dilemmas might he or she be faced with. and what is it.or /onfrontation. That is. or encourage. and see if one or more themes are presenting themselves. fantasy. mystery. 0ee if others can be made more e-treme. romance%. almost demand. moments. or in some ways riff off of% those commonly seen genre events and e-pectations. The results achieved during these hours of active. etc. reali'e something of importance. dedicated brainstorming have been augmented by stray thoughts and ideas gleaned during odd moments while you(ve been doing other activities. adventure. and . )y now. you(ve worked with the story 8uite a bit. &hat events might open the character(s eyes. then see if you can create some events for your story that would fulfill $or defy. +inal 2rdeal and. *ou may not know enough yet about your character and the overall development of your story to make the decision of who gets the arc. 5aving done that. what situations might need to be e-perienced. evolution. #ssuming you are able to identify one or more themes. Just as theme can help you develop your plot. Then. thriller. 1#?IN3 /52I/70 )y now. or e-istence. you went over your list and played with some of your listed scenes. what fears faced. by e-ample and. If your story fits into one or more genres $action. intentionally or otherwise. so too can structure and $when applicable% an 7nd of #ct < Turning Point. can the themes themselves be used to suggest still more ideas "" ideas that help illustrate those themes. statements or observations about life. or some kind of mentor $or two or all three of the above%. the very nature of the story and its major events will suggest one or more themes . :esolution /lima-. 7nd of #ct 9 Turning Point. structure. you(ve spent several days where you(ve set aside some time for directed daydreaming. #nd now. etc. then think of events that can occur that can help cause the arc to occur. go through the events. change. then you can see if any of the ideas. Is there a clear character arc yet for one of the major characters. an antagonist. and is right for this story. an optional 1idpoint reversal or shift. # consideration of character arc can also lead to plot possibilities.or e-hortation.%. If you are aware of some of the basic structural milestones in traditional stories $/atalyst. insight. fulfill an inner need. 0o spend some time playing with some of your early event possibilities "" see if some of them can be turned on their head "" reversed or done the opposite way..or be able or willing to do something he or she was unwilling or unable to do earlier. could be a credible one. humanity. 2ften times. This may take a few days or more. science fiction.. It may still be too soon for doing more than pondering some possibilities for a character arc. could one or more of the characters change "" learn. This could be a romance character. If you are able to settle upon a character arc at this time with a high level of confidence that it(s an interesting and effective arc. try to conjure up a few more events that would seem fitting for each of these commonly seen structural developments. then study a few movies you admire from each relevant genre and identify some developments or story beats that are seen in most stories of that genre. how can the stakes be increased. )ut at least give it some thought at this time. #lso think of other characters who. western. 7ven if some seem to fit the structural bill. and character arc can generate plot possibilities. society. If not. genre. Then see if theme. events. or $if it(s negative change% deterioration. characters.

Time to fully unleash your left brain. longer list that you generated during the brainstorming process. /ross out those ideas that just aren(t that inspired "" because they are too obvious. )ecause a story can only go down so many paths. 0ince some events re8uire more than one scene to play out. if you haven(t done so already. instinct. too cliched. Instead. structure. then events that motivate. fresh. #nd that means it(s time to start evaluating what you have. 3ive preference to story ideas that illustrate theme$s%. or to drawing up a more complete story outline or treatment $should you elect to do that at all%. you(ve given consideration to theme. to see if thinking about these story elements might generate still more specific ideas for your story. if it wasn(t addressed earlier%. If you(ve decided on a character arc for one $or more% of the major characters. events.%. )ut before you proceed to your first draft. you may decide to highlight just the half"do'en or do'en events that. and a sense of oneness with the audience $what would be intriguing. Is the major complication or additional element in place "" the and then or but then factor. They are just those moments. highlight them and save them "" you may be able to use them in another. There are some genre musts that need to be observed. promote. Now $finally>% it(s time to start making choices. +inally. and so on. If certain possibilities really e-cite you but just don(t seem to belong. after all. This becomes a matter of creative judgment. 0o go through the list and cross out $or cut and paste elsewhere% those ideas that just don(t seem to belong with the others $the styles clash. 0ome themes will emerge as you write the first draft. and illustrate the arc can also be given preference. or it would just lead the story into a whole other direction you(re not interested in taking it%. and which paths you should start proceeding down. This is one of the most important steps in writing. )efore plunging in $unless you enjoy writing e-ploratory drafts prior to your actual first draft%. )ut right now. and others that may not be re8uired. moments. these are guidepost or milestone story events. spend some additional time on designing your characters. and character arc. at least as of this point. and it(s really a prewriting step $although it can be a rewriting step. and which to discard. se8uences. actually%. bits. Now is the time. too ho"hum in nature. too similar to others you(ve decided to keep. and to bring the editor" judge"critic"analyst on board.%.% to keep. and on the orchestration of characters. you definitely want to include in your first draft "" events you will be aiming for and writing toward. and which story options to close off. and characters that you(ve decided you really want to make use of. future story. )ut others can be seen at this point. this number will generate an ample number of scenes. beyond its original broad stroke. you may need some criteria to help you decide which events $etc. finally closing off some options. This can be e-citing but also sometimes scary! you are. to finally nail down the concept. There is no strict set of guidelines for this. and start making some decisions. there is still one more prewriting activity you should engage in $two related ones. common sense blended with story sense. and compelling for many in the audience. #nd then do the same for major structural turning points and developments. you will wind up with a list of <E"BE events. 7ventually. genre. 0elect events from your list that match up with those broad genre events. you may not choose to make use of a full"fledged outline. 2f course.found new variations for them. out of the much larger. In effect. Not all of them need be big events or major developments. personal preference $what kind of movie would you like to see. as ideas that the story seems to be illustrating. . but which you desire to employ.

Now it(s time to focus on characters and their orchestration. there is a prewriting approach that can incorporate that preference $a step that can benefit all writers%. &e(ll go into that in the ne-t article or two. set aside your list for now. 0o let(s assume you(ve worked your list of brainstormed options. If so.+or those who find they discover a character best by actually writing scenes. as discussed above. III /opyright <AAF by Jeff Newman .