Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

20 Writing Ideas Based on True Stories

There's no denying that Hollywood loves a good true story. Audiences eagerly respond to movies and TV shows based on real events. As a writer, have you tried writing a script based on a true story? Maybe you're interested in writing one but don't know where to start. Writing prompts can be a big help when you're stuck. Keep reading, as I'm providing 20 writing ideas based on true stories!

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Top 20 Writing Ideas Based on True Stories

Write about a political figure

Try writing about the life of, or a specific moment in the life of, a president, senator, governor, or another political figure! Pick someone who's known and tell us something unexpected about them. Or pick someone relatively unknown and introduce an audience to them. We've all seen the success of Hamilton. Is there a way to approach a story about this political figure's life that's surprising or relevant to today's audiences?

Write about a concert or music festival

Write a story set against the backdrop of a memorable concert. Whether that's the historic benefit Live Aid concert in 1985 or the disaster Fyre Festival that defrauded ticket holders, let a music experience be the basis for your story.

Write about a pop star

Elvis. Taylor Swift. Beyoncé. The Backstreet Boys. Prince. Let the life of a pop star inspire your story! For further inspiration, see Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" or Lena Waithe's "Beauty," a film based on the life of Whitney Houston that doesn't explicitly say it's about Whitney Houston.

Set a story in Antarctica's McMurdo Station

The largest research station in Antarctica, McMurdo, is operated by the United States, operates year-round, and can support up to 1,258 residents. What's it like to stay in a research station in the Antarctic? What type of research is being conducted? Are the characters bored or lonely? What sort of danger might they face?

Rewrite a moment in history

Take Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" as inspiration and alter a well-known historical event. Maybe write about how the first moon landing included the meeting of aliens or how Robert F. Kennedy survived an assassination attempt and became president. Pick a well-known moment and play around with altering it unexpectedly.

Write about a cursed sports team

The Red Sox curse of the bambino. The Cubs curse of the billy goat. The Madden NFL video game curse. Almost every sport has its own story about a cursed team or player. Write about the one that you find most interesting!

Write about the making of a movie

Do you know of a movie with a fascinating production story? Was the production plagued with issues and inexplicably crazy like the making of "Apocalypse Now"? Was the film's production referred to as being cursed like on the set of Terry Gilliam's "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"? Or was the leading actor notoriously difficult to work with as he was deep into a method acting approach like Jim Carrey in "Man on the Moon"? Pick your favorite behind the scenes tale about a movie's production and write about it!

Write about a tourist trap

A toilet seat art museum. The Museum of Bad Art. The Ben and Jerry's flavor graveyard. The United States has its fair share of bizarre roadside tourist attractions. Do you have a favorite? What's the history of this attraction? How did it come to exist?

Write about the history of the bikini

The bikini as we know it has a strange origin story. French engineer Louis Réard invented the bikini partially because of material rationing during World War II. It was named after the location where the U.S. was doing atomic testing, Bikini Atoll. The bikini wasn't immediately a hit, with the Catholic Church condemning them and society generally feeling that the bathing suit was too revealing. It took time for the bikini to gain popularity.

Write about an animal elected to office

In Idyllwild, California, a golden retriever named Max is mayor. Max was not the first animal ever elected to office. There's a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to non-human electoral candidates. Give it a read, pick your favorite one and start writing! How did this animal get elected? What kind of town do they live in? What are some issues with having an animal hold political office?

Write about Mothman

In the 1960s, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, residents reported seeing a winged giant moth-like creature that they later dubbed the Mothman. Write about the sightings and stories told by the witnesses.

Write about the Great Molasses Flood

Back in 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts, a disaster occurred when a larger storage tank filled with molasses burst and flooded the North End. Twenty-one people were killed, and 150 were injured in this strange and unfortunate tragedy.

Write about an unlikely friendship

Hunter S. Thompson and Pat Buchanan. Buster Keaton and Harry Houdini. Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. There have been some surprising historical friendships that have existed throughout the years. How do two unlikely people become friends? How do they overcome their differences? Pick your favorite unlikely pair and start writing!

Write about listeners' reactions to War of the Worlds

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles narrated an adaptation of the H. G. Wells story, War of the Worlds, over the radio. This broadcast famously incited panic, as some listeners believed that an actual alien invasion was taking place. What were listener reactions like? What did listeners do to protect themselves against the aliens? How did they find out that it was a fictional story being broadcast?

Write about group psychological phenomenon

Whether it's a dancing plague in the 1500s, the Salem witch trials, or today's teens developing tics from watching TikTok videos, cases of mass hysteria are incredibly interesting. Pick a mass hysteria story that most interests you and explore it. What causes mass psychological phenomena? What does it feel like to be swept up in such a situation?

Write about a local legend

Is someone in your town, city, or state well-known and has a unique story? Write about it! Who are they? How did they come to be locally well known?

Write about a pandemic

Use what you've learned from the Covid pandemic to help you write about a pandemic of the past. Flu pandemics, the plague, and cholera outbreaks - history is no stranger to periods of illnesses. How can what we've experienced with Covid help us understand and depict past pandemics?

Write about a natural disaster

Write about a natural disaster and how communities must work together to rebuild their way of life. What are some of the challenges they may face? Is it possible to build something better than before?

Write about someone who famously changed careers

Before becoming a famous chef, Julia Child worked in secret intelligence, advertising, and media. Terry Crews was an NFL player before he became an actor. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder turned actor turned Governor of California! Some people have incredibly interesting and unexpected career paths! Write about someone who famously made a bold career switch.

Write about Harry and Meghan

Imagine living in the public eye, leaving the royal family, and constantly refuting tabloid claims! There's tons of inspiration to choose from when it comes to royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! You can write about their relationship and how they got together. Or you could explore the racism and intense scrutiny Meghan has endured. You could write about what the future holds for them as former royals. A lot of storylines to consider!

An infinite number of true stories are out there waiting to be explored! Hopefully, this list of prompts was able to help you to get started on one. Happy writing!

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