Screenwriting podcasts have become quite popular and so useful over the years and we love them so much. Many BlueCat writers listen to them religiously and gain great insight from the broad range of topics they cover, be it business-related or focused on the task of screenwriting.
In terms of the screenwriting craft, podcasts, along with courses, classes, consultants, workshops, books, blogs, and conferences, have talked about mostly everything.
But what is not taught frequently or referred to rarely at all is something that we’ve all forgotten too often when we’re trying to write, and that is the very thing that started it all for us.
When I was assigned to write a story by Mrs. Collins, my second-grade teacher, shortly after she had taught us to how to write letters and words, I found myself writing a road trip called “3 MILES TO NILLYPOO.” As I wrote my little story, and found myself at the bottom of the first page, I thought to myself, as I flipped the page over…..
I COULD MAKE THINGS UP!
It was my first memory.
And along the way of writing as an adult, and teaching screenwriting, and judging the script submitted to the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, I don’t consider this as a solution to writing a masterful script.
One of the hallmarks of a fantastic story is its originality. If you go to a movie and find it too familiar, we’re disappointed. We’ve processed its specific emotional and spiritual rewards before and we seek new ones to enrich our perspectives on life.
So when we tell writers, write a great script and your dreams will come true, do we actually tell you how to create it?
When do we talk about making stuff up? Isn’t the most special thing at the heart of every great tv show or movie is how different it is? Where does that come from? There’s no app or software.
This is why it’s not the subject of many panels at Austin and why it’s not the topic of your weekly podcasts. What is behind this?
Why don’t people discuss imagination as a solution to your broken, boring screenplay?
What did it feel like when you first read the word imagination in this essay? You might have groaned. Why is that? Because we think it’s childish or simple. We ignore it because it’s obvious.
Intuition—the lightning spark of an idea that occurs to you in the split-second flash of a thought—- this is the gold of screenwriting. When we point our heart’s eye to the inward sky of our life’s experience, we can find wonderfully, odd things. Do you listen to the idea? Do you stretch your mind’s eye to something strange and overlooked?
Perhaps an idea will hit you or an image will emerge that might threaten your beat sheet, or the theme you’ve chose, or the genre you visit often. Do you cut and censor the idea, the results of your imagination, because you think it might not work or make it much longer to finish your script?
Do not fear where your imagination will take you, or what people will think of your ideas, or whether it will make sense.
You can make sense of everything later.
Imagination often finishes in last place in our screenwriting. Because of the practical decisions we make when writing, we loose sight of the impulses that inspired us to create.
What if your character doesn’t get on the plane? What if your character is a girl and not a man? What if she doesn’t know how to drive?
We don’t use imagination enough and when we do, it’s an afterthought. Do we practice listening to our creative instincts? How often do we censor them? Listen to the voice inside you, let something occur to you, and do not question. This voice is what should drive your story. This is the source of everything perfect about movies that we cannot explain.
Let the rest of the advice you hear go soft. Focus on where the motor of imagination runs infinitely inside of you. Learn to respect it and rely on it to champion and steer a powerful wave of original characters and story, leaving you an individual writer with an unforgettable script.