Every year thousands of screenplays are written and only a handful are bought. If you are an aspiring screenwriter who has not yet been able to sell material to Hollywood then your problem may be your screenplay’s storyline. A marketable story needs to offer the audience strong characters, a unique storyline, a format that fits the requirements of a particular genre, and it needs to be developed fully.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 1: Select a Genre
Most of the screenwriting literature available on the market today recommends that novice screenwriters focus their writing on a single genre. This does not mean that you have to only write screenplays in a single genre. What it does mean, however, is that each screenplay that you write should easily fit into one genre category. As your writing gains acceptance in Hollywood, you will be able to mix things up and create multi-genre scripts, but for your first sell, try to keep your story focused on a single genre.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 2: Watch Recent Releases
Staying on top of what is being produced is important to your story’s development. You want to incorporate popular story trends into your screenplay without duplicating what has already been produced or optioned. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety are two trade publications that can help you stay in touch with what is selling.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 3: Gather Ideas
There are a lot of places that you can get story ideas from. Newspaper headlines, listening to people talk, your dreams, and your personal experiences are all great sources. To find a story idea that can be developed you may need to play around with notes that you have made about your observations. When you look at a possible story idea think about how that story idea can be developed to create a completely unique story that will attract people to the movie theaters.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 4: Organize Your Ideas
Now that you have several story leads your next step is to start developing a single storyline. To do this you may have to develop several storylines before you find one that will work for your screenplay. Brainstorm possible connections the story idea could have to current events, to potential characters, or to other story ideas. If you hit a stumbling block during the story’s development then you may want to put it aside and work on another storyline.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 5: Develop the Main Characters
Once you have a story idea you next need to develop your main characters. These characters should be memorable, they should have a specific function in the story, and they should be tied to the main theme of the story. The characters that you will need to develop during this stage of your screenplay’s design include the protagonist, the antagonist, and a couple of the supporting characters.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 6: Outline Your Idea
In this step you will want to start outlining the key events of your story idea. This will help you determine if your story idea has legs to stand on its own or if you need to scrap it and try a different angle. During this step you will want to make sure that you plan for the key components of your selected genre. If you don’t know what those components are then you will want to read up on that genre, watch films in that genre, and develop your understanding of your genre’s story expectations before you proceed any further.
Generating a Winning Idea Step 7: Have a Conversation With Yourself
The final step is to talk to yourself about your story idea. Ask yourself questions about the structure and flow of the story. For example ask yourself if there is a better way to set up the action in the story, and ask yourself about the set up and execution of the plot points in the story. By talking your way through your story line you will be able to engage your mind into actively participating in the development of your story. This is also a great way to identify story weaknesses.
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