As writers we come up with ideas all the time. But not all of those ideas are enough to turn into a story.
I’ve been working on one such idea the last few weeks. It’s still early in the process, but it’s an idea I’ve had for a long time. Right now I’m in the process of gaming things out to see if this idea has enough meat to turn into a screenplay.
It’s a weird process. You take this idea and you start to throw a few darts at it. Maybe you have a strong idea for a character. Maybe you just have a strong hook. Maybe you just have this awesome scene you know has to be in the middle. Whatever it is, you’ve got something, and now you’re trying to see if you can stick anything else to it.
I have a bunch of exercises that I play around with. I’ll explore the various theories on the best ways to structure a screenplay. I’ll revisit the things I’ve read from Field, Snyder, and Gulino, each time learning a little bit more about the story I’m going to tell.
But sometimes, and unfortunately more often than not, I’ll hit a point where I realize I don’t have enough. I can’t make it work. There isn’t enough to turn this idea into a 100 page screenplay. And I walk away and try again with another idea.
It’s all part of the process. You need to know when to walk away as much as you need to know when to keep pushing through. I don’t believe in writing a script for the sake of writing. If I can’t put together a solid outline I’m excited about, I’m not going to be able to write something of any consequence.
Fortunately, I think with my current idea I’ve got something. I’m not there yet, but I can taste it. The signs are all there. The story beats are falling into place. The characters are coming along. But it’s still not quite ready. That’s going to take some more work.
But for those curious, here’s the title and logline:
The Time Tourist — When a meek computer programmer from the future travels back in time for vacation and gets stuck, she only has 72 hours to find a way to get home.
There’s far more to the idea than the log line, but the concept I want to get across is that in the future people use a form of time travel to go on short vacations. I think the title and logline both get this across pretty well.
The idea that hit me was as simple as “what if in the future people use time travel to go on vacation, and one of them gets stuck in the past.” It’s big. It’s broad. And it can basically go anywhere.
That’s as high level as many of my ideas start. From there I figure out characters, a narrative, a perspective, and whether or not I can evolve this idea into something broader. I’m almost there with this one, but I guess only time will tell*.
* Yes, that pun was as painful to write as it is to read.