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Humanities LibreTexts

3: The Idea Store

  • Page ID
    39582
  • Some writers are idea factories and can look almost anywhere and find a new twist on a story or situation that is worth watching, but what do you do when you cannot find an idea? That is easy, you go to the Idea Store. The Idea Store is a series of exercises that are designed to get your synapses firing and your creative juices flowing. There will always be times where you are at a loss of ideas and so the Idea Store was created to help you get started on a concept for your story.

    Story Mash-ups

    People love stories but they really love when you can take a story they already know and twist it in such a way that it makes them reevaluate the story they already loved. A story mash-up is where you take a story or Myth that you know very well and mash it or combine it with a new genre, perspective, or additional story.

    • Step 1:
      • For this exercise you will need to make a list of Genres. Write down as many as you can.
    • Step 2:
      • Write down a list of the titles of your favorite stories. Make sure that you vary them in theme and content. For example, make a list of Fairy Tales, Myths, Contemporary plays, Family Stories, Books, etc.
    • Step 3:
      • Cut each individual Genre out and place it in a bowl/ box/ hat/ etc. Cut out your favorite story titles and place them in a separate bowl .
    • Step 4:
      • Pick a sheet of paper from each bowl look at the combination. See if you can write a play about it. If the combination is too similar to the original story pick from the bowl again.

    Twisting the Narrative

    Choose a play or story and see if you can examine the story from another character’s perspective. Let's say you have the story of Rapunzel, but you think why would a mother lock her child up in a tower far away? What if Rapunzel was a vampire and or violent psychopath that the queen removed for the safety of the kingdom. How would that change the story? One incredible example is the play Wicked. The play takes the story of The Wizard of Oz and turns it on its head and forces the audience to identify with the villain and audiences could not have been more delighted.

    • Step 1:
      • Write down the title of a famous story or a story you know very well.
    • Step 2:
      • Look at the basic plot elements of the story and see if you can look at the story from a new perspective. Ask yourself why the events of the story would have logically taken place.
    • Step 3:
      • See where your thoughts take you.

    Displacing or Replacing a Character

    As a playwright you need to study people. We all have unique people around us and at the very least you have unique characters from stories that you love. This exercise is about distilling people down to characters, and placing those characters in unusual situations in order to maximize the conflict and entertainment of a story. The following exercise can be done with people you know, characters you read about, or by going out and studying people in your community.

    • Step 1:
      • Go to a public place, sit down, and observe the people around you.
    • Step 2:
      • When you spot someone interesting write down notes about their appearance and behavior. What makes them distinct?
    • Step 3
      • Now create a backstory about them and try to see if you can create a reason for why they are the way they are.
    • Step 4
      • Ask yourself what situation could that character be placed in that would cause the most disruption to both the character and the status quo.

    Headlines

    Some of the most interesting stories come from news headlines you read. Each day there are compelling stories that you want to learn more about and this could be your opportunity. I remember years ago reading a story about a police officer in Oakland that wrote a letter to his department confessing his involvement in a sex ring involving other members on the force and a underage girl who was a family member of a fellow cop. The officer wrote the letter, submitted it, and took his own life. This story still haunts me and maybe one day it will become a play, but there are so many questions that were raised and the entire police force was forced to change as a result. In addition, each year planes and people vanish into thin air or unlikely heroes emerge in times of need. Look to your news feeds for inspiration. As you research make sure to get permission from people if you actually use their lives.

    ● Step 1:

    ○ Look at a news headline that catches your eye and research the story around it.

    ● Step 2:

    ○ Ask yourself, what other stories could be told from this story? Whose perspective is the most interesting? What questions do I want to explore and or answer?

    ● Step 3

    ○ Start writing.

    Music, Props, and Art

    Often you will find that your best ideas come from art and objects that you see or hear. Find music that transports you to another world, find art that terrifies you or draws you in, or look for objects or props that tell a story.

    One person brought in a pocket watch to class one day. Everyone in the class was drawn to it, and it had something about it that was unsettling. A member of the class then said “what if something supernatural had that watch.” Then another person built off of that idea and said “What if that person was at a casino.” Then the idea formed for everyone that we could have a demon run a casino, get people to bet their souls and when they lost, their souls were stored in the watch. With that idea, we wrote the play Snare.

    • Step 1:
      • Go to an art gallery, museum, antique store, pawn shop, prop storage, or listen to music. Choose a piece that draws you in and ask yourself why.
    • Step 2:
      • Ask yourself, what stories could be told from this art/ object/ music? Whose perspective is the most interesting? What questions do I want to explore and or answer?
    • Step 3
      • Start writing.

    Word Dump

    Sometimes you are going to have a really good idea in your head that has been brewing for some time. A word dump is where you sit down and write down every idea you have in a sort of idea dump from your brain to the page. Write down every idea, plot point, and character that you have thought of and then examine your ideas once they are out of your head and in front of you.

    • Step 1:
      • Sit down. Write down every idea connected to the story/ idea/ narrative down on paper
    • Step 2:
      • Ask yourself, what fits and what doesn’t. Then ask yourself how you could structure the ideas so that they built in intensity and reached a climax. Then place them in an order. Examine it. Rearrange the ideas until you are happy with the progression.
    • Step 3
      • Start writing.
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