Friday, March 5, 2010

Stuck for a storyline? Pitch that idea

If you are sitting in front of that blank computer screen or empty sheet of paper once again, then welcome to the club. We all get “dry” of ideas from time-to-time. Here's a tip that grew out of a conversation with a retired literary agent, and a bit of Googling about scripts and how they are “pitched” to movie and TV producers. I employ this technique frequently as I'm thrashing about for some interesting storyline to write about. I pitch story/script ideas to myself as if I'm the publisher/producer. Here's an example of what's frequently flowing through my mind when I'm off doing something totally unrelated, like kayaking. I find that trying to do this while sitting in front of the computer is often fruitless. I'm making this one up right as I type this blog entry, so it's not a plot spoiler. Plus, if you can take it and make something out of it, then just remember me when you are sitting on your ranch in Montana.

-It's Executive Orders meets The Manchurian Candidate
-Rogue AF General plots coup to takeover US Government
-Finds “like mind” in charismatic, ambitious US Senator
-Senator is elected president and seeks to implement takeover
-Now president seeks to cut out powerful General from plan
-General turns against president
-General's newly found loyalty to US, although growing out of sense of betrayal, leads to armed conflict between forces loyal to new president and those loyal to Constitution, resulting in near loss of the United States to rogue foreign forces who come to aid of traitorous president.

I do this little scenario around 40 – 50 times per week, until I find something that begins to “click” and which sounds plausible. Those few lines are turned into a broader, usually 1-2 page, outline. If I still feel that it's plausible, then it goes into my “projects/ideas” folder for later development. That way, I always have a few ideas that are out there on the horizon.

My major source of ideas however, is still the flow of daily news. My file cabinet is full of interesting little clippings of information that could easily be “color” or “background” for a story. And, I use “favorites” on my computer a lot...sorting websites and stories into folders for later use.

However you do it is up to you, but although I'm a proponent of writing...something...anything...every day, I'm also a proponent of writing with a purpose. If you are constantly churning ideas around in your head, “pitching” them to your own "inner producer", then you will eventually hit on a combination that inspires you.  Just remember to be passionate about your "pitch".  Don't be your own "inner critic" at the same time you are trying to be the idea proponent, or you will shoot down your own ideas before they fully blossom.  Hope this helps you find your next great book idea.

Write on!

Jack Riston

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