Ideas? Search Me

Writers in my MA Scriptwriting class quickly find out they have to come up with a lot of ideas very quickly – sometimes on the spot. And not little ideas – big ideas that could make a feature film or full-length play. My hope is to make them aware (if they’re not already) that they are swimming in an ocean of potential stories – they don’t need to clutch at the first straw that comes floating past, rather they can endlessly make up ideas, audition them, make them compete against each other. It should always be a question of why this idea instead of all the others, what’s the imperative to write this one now?

Earlier this year, when sending the writers off to think up yet more ideas I took pity on them somewhat and produced the following cheat sheet they could use if they felt they were running dry. It’s a series of Google (or search engine of your choice) search terms – pairs of words. A lot of the pairs have got some kind of inbuilt tension, a friction between them, from which drama is likely to spring. The idea is that the real-life stories the search terms reel in from the net provide inspiration for fiction.

This is me trying to be modern – usually I just send idea-challenged writers back to the newspaper, that old-school and reliable compendium of human drama in all its forms.

To throw some arbitrariness into the mix – and prevent uncomfortable racking of uninspired brain – feel free to plug any of the two-word search terms below into Google and follow the results till you feel the tickling of a new idea …

Take what grabs you from the net stories these terms link to, and make your own story for a 30 minute theatre piece.

Search on …

Strange case

Bizarre incident

Family tensions

Desperate dilemma

Sibling rivals

Past haunts

Town divided

Passion proves

Feuding friends

Mystery unsolved

Lovers vow

Ken Duncum is The Michael Hirschfeld Director of Scriptwriting at the IIML. Ken will be  at the next Writers on Mondays with David O’Donnell at Circa. It’s said that, all going well, the playwright/director relationship can be ‘better than a marriage’.  Ken and David will talk about who does what and who did what in their world premiere production of West End Girls (running at Circa, 4 Aug-1 Sept). Where – if anywhere – are the creative divisions between writing a play and directing it? Are they two different things – or different phases of the same thing?

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