Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh story, where for art thou?

As a writer I am often pitched ideas for possible stories. Some days, like today, I hear the kind of story that makes my blood boil...and I know for certain there's something special about this one; it's the kind of tale I can devote hours, days, weeks, even years of my life to.

And other times I'm tossed back into that old 80's commercial, wondering, "where's the beef?"

So how do you know when you have a story that is not only worth the time investment to write it, but also worth the time of the cast and crew needed to bring it to cinematic life?

I could be flip and answer simply, "you just do." And while that may be true, it's not an answer that actually helps anyone. So here are some of the questions I ask myself when considering whether or not to tackle a story idea and attempt to capture it in script format; hope it helps you:

1) Is this a story that MUST be told?
2) Does this story stir strong emotions? For example, does it bring tears to your eyes? Or does it make you seethe with rage? Are you laughing so hard you may wet yourself?
3) Do you want to tell others about this story? Do you find yourself already sharing shards of this story with others?
4) Do you daydream about this story?
5) Do you armchair cast this story?
6) Can you hear the characters beginning to regale you with their story, clamoring to jump out of your head and onto the page?
7) Do you see the trailer? Or the opening shot? The closing shot? That clip that will be shown during the Oscars ceremony?
8) Is this a story that you can live with for the next two years of your life?
9) Is this a story that YOU must tell?
10) Will you sleep if you don't tackle this tale?

Hope this list helps you. It's just helped me. I'm finally ready to turn down one story idea. And I accepted the other story pitch the moment I heard it, only a couple hours ago; now here's hoping the originator of the tale will want to work with me too.


  1. I think the series I'm working should be produced. I’d like to know what you do with it after you’ve outlined the seasons, named each of the episodes in the first season and wrote the first episode.


  2. Read Pamela Douglas's fantastic book and you'll start to understand the steps toward production.