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Can't Think of Story Ideas

Me and a friend were thinking of doing a short film this summer but, like thousands of other people can't quite seem to come up with a good, original idea for a story. We were talking about ways to come up with a plot (i.e, emotions, random items) but we really can't think of anything aside from a couple ideas that are sort of out of our league as far as skill level (and time :D).

Any suggestions on how you would come up with a story, or any ideas you are willing to post that you wouldn't want (I don't know why you WOULDN'T want them :lol:) will be appreciated.

Thanks,

Intuitive
 
Me and a friend were thinking of doing a short film this summer but, like thousands of other people can't quite seem to come up with a good, original idea for a story. We were talking about ways to come up with a plot (i.e, emotions, random items) but we really can't think of anything aside from a couple ideas that are sort of out of our league as far as skill level (and time :D).

Any suggestions on how you would come up with a story, or any ideas you are willing to post that you wouldn't want (I don't know why you WOULDN'T want them :lol:) will be appreciated.

Thanks,

Intuitive

Recall and recreate interesting events that have happened to you in the past. Practice structure by changing them into a cohesive beginning, middle, and end. Or pick up a newspaper and point to an article at random, convert it into a script.

It doesn't have to be Citizen Kane to be worth filming, and often one of the greatest enemies of productivity can be waiting for "the perfect idea." Just do the ideas you have now, and figure out how to make it work.
 
Maybe you're just not a writer... in which case, there's no shortage of quality short & simple scripts out there. There are thousands of wannabe screenwriters who'd love to give you (for free!) their best material to work with.
 
Maybe you're just not a writer...

I disagree with that. Just because he can't come up with an idea doesn't mean he can't write and a lot of great writers suffer from not having any idea what to write about.

But my advice is to think of something simple and easy to do, write it and then come up with ways to try and make it more enjoyable and entertaining (even small things - all added up and they create something good). Or come up with a simple story and plot, and add layers of lies and deceit to give it that 'movies you have to watch twice' factor, e.g The Usual Suspects. Now that may be a big budget movie but it has a simple plot with loads of lies, deceits and twists added on top before revealing everything at the end (it's a great movie I would highly recommend you see it).

That's my advice.
 
And to think it another thread last week everyone was insisting that great original ideas are a dime a dozen

You're absolutely right - this one example pretty much disproves that theory! :)

Might not help for this summer, but the one thing I've found useful is to always write down any story idea, character, dialogue, scene, etc that I think of, even if it's not a full idea for a story, even if it's not particularly great. Either carry a small notebook everywhere, or (what I do now) use a note-taking app on your phone.

Periodically I'll go back over notes like that and come across dozens of ideas that I've completely forgotten. Sometimes the distance lets me see that they really weren't that great, other times the fact that they're suddenly fresh again spurs a burst of new related ideas and I'll flesh them out some more. Either way, the key seems to be the time in between having the idea, and then revisiting it. If you don't write them down though you're likely to just forget them all together; if you do though, when you find yourself casting about for ideas it's a great way to kickstart the brainstorming process.

Personally I've found the creative process is as much about editing & discarding as it is about generating ideas - so the more you've got to work with, the better.
 
Sometimes setting a limit on the possibilities can really inspire me.

Set some limitations on story elements, etc.. just anything to sorta narrow down the options and get you started..

  • No more than 3 actors
  • Uses only 1 interior location and 2 exterior locations
  • Is a drama
  • has a sad ending

then throw in some images you'd like to see on the screen..

  • man pours a drink
  • woman points a gun

... and see where that takes you..
 
.........

Periodically I'll go back over notes like that and come across dozens of ideas that I've completely forgotten. Sometimes the distance lets me see that they really weren't that great, other times the fact that they're suddenly fresh again spurs a burst of new related ideas and I'll flesh them out some more. Either way, the key seems to be the time in between having the idea, and then revisiting it. If you don't write them down though you're likely to just forget them all together; if you do though, when you find yourself casting about for ideas it's a great way to kickstart the brainstorming process.

..............

And what's even more fun: after a while you may rediscover 2 or more unrelated ideas that can be connected into something new.

Sometimes you just need to do 'nothing' and live life to get inspired.
 
Since H44 doesn't do anything with it:

I'll give you something simple:

Man working hard to meet important deadline in time, also needs to be in time for a date that evening.
His co-worker wants him to fail, his boss wants him to stay longer if needed and his girl wants him to be in time for a change.
How will he survive this day?

Keep scenes short, like sketches.
Maximum 5 locations: 2 at the office, the restaurant and 2 on the road.
How does he get rid of his co-worker? (When does he get in action?)
And how will he get there in time?

This story about the person with both an unexpected deadline and a date he shouldn't be late for is really a training in making a short story with a person in 'conflict'.
To begin you just start with him working at his office/desk. A co-worker can ask for his plans for that evening (just curious or asking him to join the rest to a bar or something), so the main can say he has a date and wants to o home quickly.
Right after that he gets a load of extra work.
The rest is up to you: will he be in time on his date and how does he try.
The end could be him arriving just in time, but al messed up. Or arriving just too late. Or he's still working when his date walks in angry at him or at his boss. You choose.
Just keep it simple with a few scenes:
- opening: introducing main character, his plan for the night and his problem (too much work to do)
- 2 or 3 short scenes of his struggle (maybe even a violent fantasy of him beating his boss and walking out real cool)
- ending
Again: keep the story simple and straightforward with some humor and absurdity people can relate to.
Everybody knows the feeling of having fun plans and someone making them (almost) impossible.


------------

Another simple idea H44 did nothing with:
3 actors (or 2)
3 locations (max)
Most part: woman walking sad on the streets/a long the water/highway. Sad music in the score.
Flashback: in a fight with (ex)boyfriend (not a fight scene! maybe just 1 slab, besides smashing stuff and yelling in a living room: cold be your place!)
She starts crying (as she walks outside).
In the end someone says something that lifts her spirit. Or she drowns herself (depending on your mood then you need only 2 actors) or jumps from a bridge. (No need to show the drop! Suggest things!)

Length: 2-4 minutes. Shorter is better, but too short will lack time to convey the emotions to the public.
Writing: 1 day
Storyboarding: few hours only, but scout your locations.
Shooting: 1 day
Edit: 2 days

Style: you decide. (I'd go for handheld argument in living room, (mostly) tripod on the streets searching for poetic, desolate compositions that make her small combining with close ups that can be out of focus sometimes: keep it calm when shooting handheld.)

Result: moody video in portfolio. And more experience.

This sad girl story can be seen as an exercise in atmosphere.
You just bump right into the story after one beautiful shot without any person in it. The music already starts, maybe even before the fade in (? just making it up as i type) to create the sad atmosphere. While she wonders around real sad (near the sea or a river) you can either show a flashback of a fight or just use audiofragments (just made that up as well) as if she is still hearing that angry voice saying terrible things to her.
As a conclusion you can let her jump in the river (sad ending), walk into the sea/river and let her dissappear (sad ending with a mild magical touch) or you let a passerby (is that a real word?) give her a napkin and tell her it will be alright (a hopeful end). And then show the title (you will have to make it up, depending on the ending, the location, story). You could look at it as if it's a long commercial without selling anything where the title is part of the payoff.
Remember, it has to be short, so there's no need for a complicated plot.
You just want to convey an emotion through action and beautiful shots. (And you want something nice and finished for your portfolio :P )

-----------

BTW,
I copied my own ideas I posted in 2013.
 
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Writing a scene can be literally about anything. I'd just start with something very real. Just a conversation between two people and see where it goes.

Even just having a launching point IE:

You can just launch into a scene with one guy saying to another guy:
Chris: Yo...what's up with your shoes?

from there use your imagination.

Mike: Nothing dude.
Chris: You are wearing velcro shoes.

The justifications that happen will make a real feeling scene. I'm not saying this is going to be your final scene...but its a launching point. And to be quite honest...any scene can be interesting if it feels real. Just don't make it too contrived... Really justify these people's actions and reactions...don't make them caricatures....and they will most likely be interesting. Relationship is the easiest way to drive a scene. Either a relationship between characters(doesn't have to be romantic) or the relationship someone has to themself.

I do a ton of sketch...and I would suggest taking an improv class if you really wanna free your mind up a little bit.
 
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