Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

How to Come Up With New Story Ideas for Your Screenplay

Coming up with one solid story idea is tough enough, but if you have professional writing aspirations, you’ll have to do it daily! So, where do we go to find that endless well of inspiration that pros seem to have found already? Look inward.

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That’s the advice we heard from DreamWorks Story Editor Ricky Roxburgh, who previously wrote for Walt Disney Animation Television series including “Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure,” “The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse,” “Big Hero 6: The Series,” and “Spy Kids: Mission Critical.” All of these gigs required Ricky to dream up storylines frequently, so he couldn’t let his well run dry. He drew from his own experiences to find common themes in the human experience.

“Most of my inspiration just comes from, my stories are about a character that doesn’t know their place, or doesn’t feel right where they are, feels like an imposter,” Ricky began. “So, I’ll draw from different points in my life where I’ve felt that.”

Part of finding these story ideas is realizing that the thoughts and emotions you have on a daily basis are likely universal, and you’re not alone in those feelings. So, use them! Dream up new characters who will experience what you did and perhaps create a more satisfying ending to their story.

“I did a “Tangled” episode, Rapunzel meeting Pascal. She’s now a princess, she lives in a kingdom, she’s got tons of friends, but Pascal is still Pascal, he’s just a little chameleon, he feels forgotten,” he said.

He likened the story to his own personal experience as a kid.

“That story came from when I went from sixth grade to seventh grade, you know all these friends I’d known for years and years and years, in this little elementary school, everybody just went … poof, and they were getting more popular, and I felt like I was less popular.”

Veteran TV producer and writer Ross Brown explained a similar process for coming up with new story ideas, and we detailed a writing exercise to draw out these feelings on that blog post. But, there are plenty of other resources to lean on when you’re stuck.

Story Idea Websites:

How to Come Up With Your Own Story Ideas:

  • Draw from personal experience.

  • Watch films or TV shows in the genres you love, then expand upon those stories with some fan-fiction writing.

  • Read, read, read! Pick up some screenplays from your favorite films, or switch it up with a genre you wouldn’t usually choose. Find a poem that inspires you, an inspirational quote, or maybe even a cookbook! Ideas can come from anywhere, but you have to be a sponge.

  • Stay curious. Ask lots of questions. Why is something done this way? Why do I feel like this? Why do we still load airplanes front to back? (Okay, that’s the question I want to be answered more than anything! 😉)

“So, life, I guess,” Ricky summarized on his source for story ideas.

Be perceptive. Stay curious. Be a sponge.

The stories are there if you know where to look,

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