BY GREGORY GAROFALO
Creative writing can be tough, right? Well yeah kinda, but really it’s the inspiration that’s the worst. Like yeah I could have written A Quiet Place if I had the idea (or so I told myself when I left the theater.)
But what if I told you that you can come up with an idea just as good as A Quiet Place if not better and it only takes practice. See the brain is a muscle and like any other muscle, in order to get a good performance out of it, it needs to be trained and worked out.
Today I’m going to share with you the tips and tricks you need for getting inspiration and writing a story in seconds.
IT’S ALL ABOUT IRONY
The big secret behind all ideas is the irony. Now I’m not talking about rain on your wedding day, I’m talking about the “What could go wrong?” that makes us say: “Dang, I wanna see that.”
Like when an airhead decides she’s going to go to law school, or when an immovable dark knight meets an unstoppable joker of chaos.
Your first step to working out your brain is to get used to seeing movies through this lens and to start coming up with as many ironic situations as possible.
During my film school an instructor took two bowls of paper strips, one bowl had strips with a brief description of a character and the second had a situation. The idea was to randomly grab one of each and create a ridiculous premise.
It sounds nuts, but it’s the best exercise you could do. Irony becomes second nature and before long “A banjo player… joins a heavy metal band” evolves into something like the premise for the cult hit Community: “A Slacker makes a fake study group… to get the girl… but actually has to lead the study group if he wants a shot.” (The show was an absolute master at irony.)
THE DART BOARD
If you’re anything like me you want to sit down and open your laptop, or notebook and just write for hours (on an unrelated note I think I just figured out why I can’t get a date.) However what I didn’t realize until just recently, is writing like the wind is mostly the final step to a process of outlining plot points and fleshing out characters.
I call the early stage of this: The Dart Board. A writing instructor of mine once told my class that you need a non-linear way to outline your story when you’re thinking through ideas. And honestly, it helps so much.
I use a chart similar to this:
This is where you get to bring your ironic situation to life.
Tear a page from your notebook, draw up something like this and just start throwing darts. You have a character and a situation, so what’s the worst thing that can happen to a banjo player who has to join a heavy metal band? What’s their goal?
Let’s say I’m writing Star Wars, I know I want to have some kind of spaceship dog-fight for the finale, introduce my hero on a desert planet and that I want to have a giant space station that my heroes get trapped in at some point.
Now if you’ve seen the movie (and let’s be honest, you have) you’ll know each of those plot points come from very different parts of the film and definitely not in order. And that’s the problem with ideas, they’re fluid and visual, hardly ever in any kind of order. This is where the dart board comes in, it gives you the opportunity just to throw up whatever comes into your mind.
You can arrange and rearrange your ideas in different orders to see what works best for your film without forcing yourself to think in a way that’s unnatural.
RINSE AND REPEAT
Practice makes perfect and this exercise is all about practice. Can you really write your dream story in seconds? Well no, crafting a story does take work, but you can give yourself a leg up by getting yourself used to coming up with situations on the fly.
Come up with as many ironic prompts as you can and plot out some ideas, I can guarantee you’ll strike gold. Honestly some of my best ideas have come from writing processes like this and as soon as you get a good idea your mind immediately has a process to work out the kinks.
Writing innovatively doesn’t have to be as painstaking as we make it out to be, hopefully this helps you knock your next creative story out of the park.