3 Ideas For Getting Your Script Off the Ground

Image from JohnTrigonis.com

Image from JohnTrigonis.com

Staring at the cursor on a blank screen is frustrating. You want to write a short screenplay, but can't seem to come up with anything profound or meaningful. How can you jump start the writing process. Here are 3 ideas to jump start your creative engine.

  • Ideas can come from anywhere, so be open to inspiration. The initial spark that formed the basis of my short film Exodus Road came from an image I couldn't get out of my head: There's something buried in the ground and our main character risks his own safety to go back for it. Ideas may come from a dream you've had (maintain a dream journal), a song you've heard, a conversation with a friend, a painting, etc. Be observant. Take notes on what you see and hear. Maybe you can develop it into a script now or maybe you come back to it later. Maybe you don't write that script at all, but you use bits and pieces of the idea in another project. In 2004 I jotted down the premise for what I thought might be a good short film called One Mile. I left it in my notebook and didn't come back to it again until early 2006 when I started to expand the story, calling it Freeze Frame. This eventually became my short film Collection, which I completed in 2007.
  • Always be asking yourself "How?" "Why?" "What?" and "What if?" For Exodus Road, the idea started with an image, so naturally I asked myself "Why?" "Why is the main character going back for this item?" And that led me to ask, "What is it that the main character is going back for?" Which then led to, "What if this happens after he finds it?" Trace this journey. Allow it to splinter off in multiple directions. See where it leads you.
  • Collect pieces of dialogue. Listen to conversations. Take note of how people speak, how they choose their words, phrases they use, jokes they tell, slang they throw around. Write these bits and pieces down and start collecting them. They will become your reservoir from which you can draw as you write your script. This will provide your characters with authentic voices. 

I'll leave you with this quote:

Sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.
— Anna Quindlen

What writing prompts help you the most? Where do you find your inspiration? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.