When I watch a movie or tv show and sense that I have seen this story before, it’s an awful, sinking feeling. But why? What if I loved the movie before? Why am I upset I’m seeing the same story again?
On the flip side, when we see something completely brand new, it can blow us away and keep us talking about the story and characters for days after, sharing the experience with others and savoring the impressions made on us.
As a writer, it’s important to understand why I need to set my bar high and aspire to write something no one has seen before.
Why Write an Original Story?
People watch stories in movies and television shows to bring meaning to their lives and underscore the value of their existence. They reflect and identify the emotional and spiritual experiences of the characters and this intimate powerful exchange confirms our shared values of love, truth, honor, and compassion, which transcend all languages and borders of land and water.
A great story reminds us that we are not alone, there is always hope, and while life is not always just, it is very beautiful. A great story connects us to every living thing, and most importantly, our spirits within ourselves.
Every new story reaches us in a new way, opening our hearts to these crucial truths about our short time on this planet. When we see a completely original story, the fresh perspective on the wonders of life reminds us of why we love to go to movies in the first place. An original show unleashes a wholly new feeling of purpose, an excitement for love, and an unbridled will to seize life’s boundless opportunity.
How to Write an Original Script?
We can see what a brand new story can mean to the people who came to watch what we wrote. They are asking us to bring them something they have not seen before. They do not want you to borrow and derive your work from the work of others before——-they have seen it, lived it, taken it in, and now they want more. They want YOUR story, and every day, the audience is there, wanting something new to reset their contract with themselves and all the lives around them.
The key to the new script, the ORIGINAL script, is truth. Nearly every scriptwriter I know has seen a ton of stuff and has plenty to say about all of it if you ask them. So we know what’s out there. We know what has come before.
Evaluate every choice you make with your story with this parameter: seen this before? Writers write the same stuff because they are not being honest with themselves when they make their choices. We can put our heads in the sand and push forward with our scripts, filling up the white space with the hard work of writers we have seen before, or we can tell ourselves the truth, be honest and wait until we make the choices no one has seen. Many writers have held this standard——if you want to write an original script, you need to write your own story in the face of what has been produced before.
The Original Script is Difficult and Precious
We know why audiences want the original story, what it means to them, and how important it can be. Think of all the great original movies and television that changed the world. We writers need to seek this sacred place. Our audiences deserve our commitment to a spectacular new story. While it requires great and painful effort to walk the patient road and insist on making the original choice, seeing what you have created, you alone, and the welcome your work will receive will be well worth the cost of an honest day’s work indeed.
Gordy Hoffman founded the BlueCat Screenplay Competition in 1998 and remains its judge. Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival for LOVE LIZA, Gordy has taught screenwriting at USC and UCLA, as well as workshops and lectures around the world. A proud member of the WGA, Gordy recently wrote a screenplay for Bennett Miller and Annapurna Pictures.
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