26 August 2006

what's so hard about ideas?

I have friends (shaddup) who claim that the writing part of screenwriting is easy for them. What they claim is tough is the ideas. They claim that they can sit for days—weeks, months—and not be able to think of a single story ideas which inspires and ignites them.

I have the opposite problem. Every time I sit down to think of cool story ideas, I am overwhelmed by the number of cool sounding stories I wish I could see as movies. Like Billy Blaze in NIGHT SHIFT, I can't keep these ideas out—they just coming at me all the time ("idea: feed mayonnaise directly to the tuna fish!").

Or, as Headley Lamar tried to explain to brutish shit-kicking Taggart:
My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives!

These damned ideas are flying at me like bugs at the teeth of a grinning cycle rider: too many, too quickly, too often for me to even think about it most times. When one of these ideas hits and sticks with me—when it lodges in my brain (or, to continue the forced metaphor, "teeth") such that I find myself still thinking about it over and over, constantly, for long stretches of time, with that idea expanding and developing and revealing itself like a glovebox roadmap unfolding on an open-window breeze—then I will usually add that idea (and the synopsis as it exists at that point) to my running list document of ideas.

This morning I added another damned idea to the current Idea List, bringing the count to TWENTY story/screenplay ideas I'd love to work on if ever I could just find the time.

[And, please: spare me your lisping snarky comments about "so why are you wasting time on a blog, Sir Thinkalot?" Urping up a post like this one here takes me about ten minutes of no special effort, and often helps me clear the pipes prior to a session of more serious writing. Writing a screenplay takes weeks of dedicated effort. You might as well compare taking a sip from a water fountain to eating Thanksgiving Dinner, as both involve "swallowing."]

Five of those ideas have already received some degree of my dedicated attention: one is an old idea that was once a completed original screenplay of mine and now exists as a sort of basketcase dismantled project, another has been written and performed decently in major contests, another is under current development and has attracted some degree of attention and support, and two others have intro/test scenes written to help me define and explore the tone of the eventual project.

(Curiously/annoyingly enough: two other ideas from that list have recently shown up as actual movie projects elsewhere, indicating to me that perhaps I have a fairly decent mind for recognizing commercially viable story ideas, so bite me, naysayers.)

My point there is that these are not empty pipe dreams I am talking about. These are not throwaway half-formed moments or scenes I am talking about. These are actual story worlds, where something really interesting is going on and interesting people are forced into interesting situations to overcome or prevent these big events. "Stories," in other words. Stories which I know would rate my interest to the point of plopping 9 bucks on a ticket counter to see on a screen.

And I'll be damned lucky to ever play with even half of these cool ideas.

So when I hear people—whom I absolutely trust and believe—complain that they just can't come up with a cool idea to pursue as a writing project, I am totally confused and bewildered.

That just doesn't happen 'round here.
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B

7 comments:

The Moviequill said...

20?.. you past me now, I have 16... yes I will do all of them if I have to, I am not giving up

Chesher Cat said...

Now I have the idea for my next screenplay.

It's about a miserly Texan screenwriter who steals all the ideas out of the Screenplay Ideasphere Community Vault, leaving nothing but crap for everyone else. But there is an unfortunate consequence to his dastardly deed. With so many ideas fighting for space in his tiny brain, he is unable to put words to paper (or computer) and eventually his head explodes, freeing all the ideas to the awaiting less greedy screenwriters. Think "Being John Malkovich" meets "Altered States."

suzbays said...

I don't have a problem coming up with ideas. I have a problem focusing on only one or two at a time. I suffer from Multiple Idea Syndrome or MIS. Eventually, I do focus enough to finish one, so I guess I'll live.

Brett said...

'quill-- sorry, but I miscounted. It's 24 ideas right now (I misplaced an eentire page worth of ideas).

debareenaryno-- my brain is massive and scalable. Storage memory is cheap, so the risk of a total cerebral overload is not serious or imminent. Moe likely, I'll continue piling up ideas and never getting around to using them.

suzi.q-- sounds familiar. The real problem with such a "problem" is that it's always more fun to play with a new idea than it is to keep working with an old one, as the early progress is always the easy to make and note. Being really good at coming out of the starting blocks is great, but it's that last millimeter which is the most important-- you might be faster than anything at the start, but until you cross the line, you still ain't won jack.
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suzbays said...

'tis true, B, which is why I give myself monthly goals so that I eventually finish something.

Curtis Edmonds said...

Same thing here. I have more ideas than I can control effectively. The problem is, the damn things always show up in the car, like discarded Cheerios thrown by a distracted toddler. The only time that a majorly creative writing idea-thingy ever shows up is when I'm behind the wheel of my rattletrap Ford, plunging down a North Jersey back road on a pell-mell helter-skelter scamper to, well, the office. And of course, there's never any way to write any of this down. It's a wonder I get anything done 'tall.

Brett said...

I discovered (after just a few years of never thinking to look) that my cellphone has a memo-recording feature. Now I can shout notes to myself when I am driving and have a great idea hit me out of the blue.
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