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Using Newspapers To Develop Screenplay Ideas
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Where do great ideas come from? Writers find inspiration in the most unusual of places - I often get my best ideas when I'm out running - but can you actually work to develop ideas for screenplays?
The answer is yes - like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you will become. And while great ideas do sometimes come to you spontaneously, at other times you might have to work a little harder to develop a great story idea.
The following exercise is one that I use regularly with my students, and is a great way to develop your creative skills. Give it a try - you might even come up with the story for your next script! All you need for this assignment is a newspaper and some imagination.
To begin with, all you have to do is read a newspaper! While reading the paper, you want to be on the lookout for anything that catches your attention. It doesn't matter what it is about, as long as something about it appeals to you. It can be quirky, tragic, mysterious, funny - the only requirement is that you find it interesting.
Once you've found a few stories that catch your attention, choose your favorite one and read it a few times. Be sure to get a good grasp of the story, its characters, the various elements that make up the story.
Now comes the creative part - grab some paper and a pen and develop the basic outline for a film based on that story. You'll want to be sure that your story has all the key elements of a good screenplay - at minimum that means a protagonist, their goal, and someone who is trying to prevent them from reaching their goal.
The beauty of an exercise like this is that there is no wrong way to do it - you simply need to have fun with it. You don't have to confine yourself to just the facts in the article, in fact you should allow your imagination free rein to go off in different directions - maybe you'll come up with an interesting back story, some new characters, or other interesting elements like a love interest or a family problem?
As with any script, this is your story. You are the God of your story world, able to make life or death decisions, manipulating characters and situations with one clear goal in mind - to create the best, most interesting screenplay you can!
Here are some stories that I read recently that you could have fun with:
69-year-old grandma makes it big as a DJ! Mamy Rock, aka Ruth Flowers, has been performing at gigs in Europe for a while but most recently has made it big in the US, where she has a loyal following.
Reading a story such as this might give you inspiration to develop a story about an older person following their dream - whatever it might be, and no matter how great the odds against them.
Taiwanese woman Chen Wei-Yi has had one of the most unusual weddings in history by marrying herself. She carried out the ceremony as a protest against the pressures on women in Taiwanese society to get married.
This story throws up all sorts of possibilities, giving you the chance to explore themes such as society's pressures, the expectations people place on us, or how people choose to rebel against expectations.
Taking the time to practice and sharpen your creative skills in this way is a great way to improve yourself as a screenwriter, helping you to develop a range of interesting and original ideas for your next screenplay.
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