One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is getting ideas out of my head and onto the page. I guess every writer is different but I find that as soon as I start writing, I have a flood of other ideas so I’ve always been looking for a quick, easy and efficient way to collect things before I write a page here, write a page there etc.
I’ve attached a template (Brain2Page) I developed to capture the things I think are helpful. Just for fun, I’ve used it in re-visiting what was my second ever idea for a feature film (circa 2003). It’s very rough and not done in any real depth but for the benefit of showing what the template is, I think it will suffice.
Usually, when I am first getting the idea out I tend to start with a premise, a set-up of the dramatic question. What is the challenge? This is the what if question? This is a great starting point for developing ideas. I.e. What if a down and out boxer had the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight title and gain the love and self-respect he so desperately craved? (ROCKY).
From here you should be able to establish a genre or mix of genres. I’ve read a ton of different things on the internet about the following point but for me, it always helps me explain my ideas – I call this the ‘Vs’ or for the benefit of the template, the ‘Ball-Park’. This is what the idea is informed by or influenced by so people can picture it quickly. So, if I have an idea for a road trip/journey movie I might say it’s Thelma & Louise vs. Easy Rider vs. Stand By Me. Some will tell you you shouldn’t do this, some will say it’s essential, all I can tell you is – WEAR SUNSCREEN! (Inside joke….for me).
I always like my characters to grow throughout the film or learn something so I have a section here on ‘the Moral of the Story’, the classic being ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (Spiderman). What do your characters learn? How do they change? What is the moral of the story? (What is the point of the film?)
The next section is the Outline. This, for me, is usually a general brain dump and sometimes takes the form of almost a scene-by-scene where I write action after action whilst including the odd line of dialogue. The only rule I live by here is; IT’S FOR ME! So it has to be funny/scary/thrilling and most importantly, INFORMAL. F**k grammar – How quickly can I get back into the idea is what is important.
I’ve included a ‘Rules’ section here because the first idea I used this template on was an idea for an animated feature (something in the guise of ‘Up’ or ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’). Animated features can be wacky but I have found the more wacky and expansive the idea, the more rule making you have to do so it doesn’t hurt to start developing a rule book. I.e. In Star Wars pretty much anything goes although there is NO time travel or teleportation…you see what I mean.
Whenever I come up with an idea, I often come up with one or two scenes I really like just out of nowhere. Maybe I’ll think of a killer opening shot and a perfect ending for a story that I’m not entirely sure I know how to tell. Either way, I find it helpful to just note potential scenes as if you’re writing an outline or scene-by-scene and you’re in act 1 but an idea for a climax comes up then you want to capture it straight away not wait for it to come around in the process!
Finally, something that really inspires me when I write is a good soundtrack! I have found this helps in keeping a good handle on the tone of the work and it can go a long way in bringing to life the environment, time and world you are creating. Just look at the music played in the montage scene in sport films…It’s commonly understood that you’d never write specific music into a script, this is for other people (directors etc.) but again, this is something that is for my benefit. Being a keen music fan, if I was ever asked then of course I’d offer an opinion but I’d usually keep this ‘soundtrack’ to myself.
Anyway, I hope this template helps – I know I have found it useful.
Good luck with getting those ideas down and keep on chasing the dream!
Oh…and there’s this, a timely reminder on advice sought from stangers;