Creating original works, whether they are screenplays, sonnets or shows, is incredibly difficult. This is one of the reasons why 64% of the productions on Broadway over the last 30 years have been adaptations (Another reason? People want them more than you think).
Often I get what I think are great ideas for new productions. Maybe I’ve imagined a setting or a storyline that I think would translate well to the stage.
But then what? Either I have to put my fingers to the keyboard and crank the sucker out, or I have to commission a writer to take my idea and spin it into gold.
Once you get going, the writing comes easier. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and one at rest . . . well, you know the physics.
But how do you start a totally original idea that is entirely made up?
Start with something that isn’t made up.
I always look for some specific kernel of truth to inspire me or my writers to start the story. If I’m working on a show that takes place in a small town in New Jersey, I’ll find a small town in New Jersey, take a Zip Car across the bridge and spend a day there, soaking up the specifics about that town. If I’m working on a show that is about a duck hunter, you can bet I’m going to track down an actual duck hunter and hang out with him or her for a day or two. If I’m doing a show about medieval times, you can bet I’m going to go back in time and . . . ok, maybe I’ll read about the middle ages instead.
Some people call this research. I call it The Story Spark Plug.
Just a little bit of truth . . . just a little bit of non-fiction . . . can beget the best original stories around.
Need an example?
Sunday night Mark Boal won the Academy Award for Best ORIGINAL Screenplay for his movie, The Hurt Locker, which is about a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team during the Iraq War.
Before writing the movie, Mark was a freelance journalist who was embedded with a bomb squad.
Huh. I wonder where he first heard the phrase, “the hurt locker.”