Some screenwriters face the dreaded writer’s block, while others have far too many story ideas to write. Both cause untold distress to the screenwriting species. The latter may not be as much of a problem as you previously thought. Having too many screenplay concepts means you have choices.
Then comes the big question. What screenplay should you write next?
There are a number of ways to approach this dilemma. It all depends on the main purpose of your next film or TV script. If you simply want to express yourself or practice your writing skills, write the script that is burning inside you the most. The one begging latest to transition from your mind to your page. The one with the most meaning.
If you are a more strategic screenwriter, you need to consider the marketplace too. Balance your creative desires with market needs.
Do not write a screenplay based on a successful TV show because you think it will sell. It will most likely NOT sell. It will more likely be labeled as a cheap, derivative knockoff of an existing movie or TV show. And you won’t get any joy writing it.
However, if you have a refreshing spin on this material that will put your personal screenwriting stamp on it, then write it.
What if there isn’t a burning story ready to be birthed inside you? Fallow times fall upon most screenwriters. They can’t think of anything story-worthy to write, nor do they want to write something for their eyes only.
Help is at hand.
Look at your community to see what films they want to see. Read the news. See what’s trending on social media. Real life is a strong barometer of what audiences are interested in right now. A contemporary issue will already have a potential audience built into it. Your job is to write your screenplay in a compelling and dramatic way.
Look for the intersection of what you’re most interested in and your personal interests.
These social media metrics help you narrow down your potential story ideas. Never let the metrics take over. If you write a screenplay solely based on news stories with the highest readership, your screenplay will be perceived the same way as writing a script based on a popular movie or TV show, in the hopes that you ride on its coattails.
The downside of over-reliance on metrics is that you might end up with a one size fits all screenplay with too broad an audience. If you try to reach too broad an audience, you run the risk of attracting too few. A little something for everybody means nobody is fully satisfied.
Even studio films which claim to be entertainment for all demographics, dissect their audiences into many fragments.
What if have a few general ideas you want to explore that aren’t in the news? Say you’re really interested in skateboarding, ballroom dancing, or tattoo artistry. These are highly specialized fields with relatively smaller, but more engaged audiences. This is where social media and blogs can help shape your screenplay by researching common discussion topics.
Explore the world and live in it for a while. If you want to write about motorcycle gangs, find out how their communities are organized, how they speak, how they vote, how they settle disputes?
See what the zeitgeist is in the world as well as their traditions and behaviors. Social media will give an overall snapshot of what people in this world are talking about. See where there is overlap between the current discussion threads and your personal interests to guide you. This will potentially attract more audiences.
Now that you have narrowed down your concepts, you are in a better position to plan your story. You may not know exactly what your story is, but you do know what it ISN’T.
The timeliness of your story is probably more important for TV than film because of the relatively shorter turnaround time. The story immediacy in enhanced in TV shows currently on air, where they may infiltrate the pre-planned story arcs.
Your final steps in deciding your next screenplay are choosing your main characters, which are most active in driving the plot, and their emotional story arcs.
This may seem like a somewhat paradoxical move because you’re reverse engineering your script from concept to screenplay, However, during the actual writing process, your characters wrap themselves around the concept. This allows the emotional underpinnings of your characters to bloom and let your concept to breathe more organically and organically. This creates a healthy symbiosis to help you create the most viable version of your script.