Some people might tell you that no matter how original you think your writing is, somebody in the world is bound to have already done it already. Well, not a completely identical story, but a very similar one, perhaps. Some overlap with an existing narrative, story, character or plot structure is unavoidable, because the number of idea is finite. However, that’s no excuse to write a stereotypical thing that’s been done a hundred times over.
This is such a wide topic, that it’s worth exploring in more detail. Thus, I’d prefer to split it into two parts. This week we’ll look at sources of inspiration, and two weeks from now we’ll explore drivers of originality. So, let’s start with the not so obvious places you can draw inspiration from before you submit to the best screenwriting contests.
Traveling by bus or train can be a very stressful endeavour, with annoyance levels directly proportional with the number of fellow travelers. Given this reality, you’ll be fully forgiven if you prefer to take out your headphones and block the outside world with some quality music. However, if you decide in favour of this approach, you’ll be missing out on some potentially interesting conversations, which might serve as inspiration for a story, a character, or a plot twist. It doesn’t need to be any of those – it can just as well serve as an atmospheric design, or a mood setter. Sure, most bus chat is utter rubbish, but if you’re lucky enough to overhear or witness something which you can turn into a gem, it’s worth the effort. Try it sometime.
I had just watched ‘The Favourite’ and was browsing a couple of film boards, standard practice for me when dissecting more intricate movies. A very simple remark from one user caught my eye – he or she pointed out how worthwhile it is to explore the potential of things that happened in the past, but few people know about them, or have a vague recollection at best. Just imagine how many interesting ‘hidden’ stories are just laying in wait for an adaptation. As if to confirm my point, Chernobyl came out a few months later.
Your parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbours and friends are bound to have told you many stories as you grew up. You might have loves the stories back then, you might have been indifferent, or outright hated them – it doesn’t matter. What if you re-explore them years or decades later? You’re bound to have a fresh view on them, and a story which you knew by heart when you were 10, but never gave much attention, might just become your new masterpiece screenplay. It’s worth a shot, and if it’s successful, it will bring about the added satisfaction of having been something with a personal connection to you for a sizable amount of time.
Every piece of news is a story in its own self. Unfortunately, almost all of them only ever become a boring tv news report or social media post, to which a handful of people will react with emojis, just before it forever disappears from sight. And while in the case of most pieces of news, disappearance is welcome and highly encouraged, some stories die out with plenty of potential still in them, and that’s a pity. So, I’m not telling you to actively scan the news – that would be terrible advice. I’m saying that if you happen to hear an interesting, or strange, or funny, or sad, or ironic piece of news, don’t just react to it in the spur of the moment and then disregard it. Try to think about it a tad deeper, give it a chance to be remarkable, and it might as well do that.