The Screenwriting Idea: A Love Story

initial script ideas

photo by: Xanetia

Let’s take a brief interlude from our discussion about rewrites (Just Walk Away, The Delete Key Kills the First Draft). At this point, you’ve been with that initial germ of an idea for awhile. Maybe a month. Maybe a year. How’s the relationship going? Is it a love story with a happy ending; a saccharine-sweet swan boat ride?

Or, is it halfway between love and hate, with the line constantly blurring? Does every word it says to you make you tense? Do you occasionally do the dishes? Or does it demand everything from you?

This goes all the way back to the beginning of your project. You’ve had the idea. It’s your first date. The rush of it is still with you. Maybe you chatted the idea up a bit. You and your idea had an amazing night together. And then you called back. And you went out again. And again. And again…

If the initial spark of the idea is like that first kiss or first date, then the rewriting of that idea is like the moving in together and slowly hating each other, snarling at the slightest sneeze. But there’s still something there. Something that keeps you coming back.

The point of this seemingly (ahem) autobiographical interlude is this – if you have an idea and say “hey, this would be a great movie!” get ready to be in a committed relationship. The fun will wear off. The exoticism and intrigue of that first spark will fall into monotony as you extract and refine every last detail to the peak of creative satisfaction. But that initial spark is still there. Sure, it may be hidden behind the delete key, dirty dishes, vacuuming, clichéd phrases, stilted dialogue, and one-dimensional characters, but it’s there. And, like a committed relationship, you have to work at it.

When it comes to the projects we take on, creatives are serial monogamists. Some (like me) are serial polygamists (again, talking projects here. I don’t have that kind of energy). Either way, just know that if you have an idea, be ready to spend a long time with it. Because once you’ve had that idea, all that lies in front of you is the bumpy, treacherous road of execution. That road is paved with the half-baked intentions and unfinished “masterpieces” and littered with distraction, “shiny new’s,” and rabid gerbils.

It’s by walking down that road that we find the magic in what we do – by pushing ourselves through the unpleasant, and recapturing, with every passing iteration and edit, with every hurdle we overcome, that initial spark that excited us so.

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