Today I would like to introduce you to author Lee Pletzers, who has graciously offered to tell us about finding and forming ideas for writing and screenwriting, and then progressing from there. Lee is a writer who is very active in the genre world, online and off. Over 40 of his short stories have found publication in anthologies and magazines, zines and online. Lee is an avid reader and writes reviews for HarperCollins and Hachette via SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand). He is also a member of AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association) and SpecFicNZ. He has edited 4 anthologies, worked as editor and reviewer for Sinisteria horror magazine, has translated one novel from Japanese to English and edited several novels for small press authors.
It All Starts with an Idea
by Lee Pletzers
It all starts with an idea and they come at any time of any day and you can’t control it. You have no say in the matter, really. For me, ideas just pop into my head, as if my muse was chewing her pencil and a crack appeared in the fabric of space and time. From that crack, a slice of thought slipped out and my muse caught it.
A lot of people believe ideas are the product of the universe and some people (Dean Koontz?) can just grab them when they need. But adhering to this belief, one must assume thousands of other people also received the very same thought. Writers would plot around it; poets would create beauty from it; hundreds would do nothing with it. This is called the initial idea and it is the start of whatever you want to make of it.
My initial idea is to write a series of articles based on writing / learning the art of screenwriting. It is an area that interests me and has done for years. Only now do I have the opportunity to attempt it.
Screenwriters make 200,000 smackaroonies a year according to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A movie from a “known” scriptwriter can command anything from one million all the way up to four million. The six major film studios must pay a minimum of $106,000 for an original screenplay (according to the recently expired contract).
The above was discovered once I started studying screenwriting. Naturally to get the above movie sale, a writer is in a never-ending contest with a zillion other writers. And once you get the sale (if you are that lucky or your stars were in alignment with Mercury and interstellar solar particles), one can expect at least a dozen rewrites. Not all rewrites are done by you. But for 106 grand, I’d do it.
Note: If you are really serious about screenwriting, get a copy of Final Draft. Yes it will cost you a few dollars and there is a reason for that: it is bloody good and does all the formatting for you. It has become the industry standard and even Stallone wrote his latest Rocky flick using this software. Find some way to get the money for it: beg on the street; busk; strike a pose; make a sign that reads: Starving Writer Needs Software; just don’t ask your folks, okay. That’s the easy way. If you earn it, then buy it, you’ll use it and master it. The software will have more value added to it instantly: Your sweat, blood and tears as you laid tar on the roads and dug trenches for pipes, would have all been worth it.
The initial idea comes from many places. Some places are: A crack in the universe / hearing part of a conversation on the street, bus, train etc / experiencing life, café / workplace / a book, movie, TV show / stuck in traffic / newspaper or magazine headline or article / childhood memory / the moment before sleep claims you / dreams / a blank page (works for most people) / typing random words for a full thirty seconds and then reading what you wrote (this is an amazing technique; sometimes when you rearrange the words you have a complete sentence) / reading this article. (Side note: having written about the words on the page I had an image in my head of words swirling on the page and a middle age guy watching them and hearing words. They are telling him to “kill” — initial idea.)
Now we have the idea. Great! That was the easy part. What do you mean, the idea was hard? I look at a coffee cup and I wonder who made it. Where did they stand in the production line? Are they/he/she young or old or somewhere in-between? There are a lot of chemicals in a place like that. What if…?
There are a million, trillion, gazillion ideas out there, open your mind to them and you’ll never run dry. Now develop it, nurture it and help it grow.
· How does it start?
· What happens next?
· Who is she / he / them?
· What are they doing?
· Spot the problem.
· What is it?
· How do/does he / she / they deal with it?
(Put your characters through hell. My wife sometimes says, “I don’t like this now.” And pouts. This means she cares about what’s happening to the characters, but she still can’t turn away from the story. The outcome is just around the corner.)
The All-Important Outcome
To help build and nurture that fantastic idea is to use some excellent software, like Freemind and it is fantastic for helping answer these questions and more, and it will help you construct a plot. This is the roadmap and Freemind can lay out the highways and side streets. It is a learning curve to master but simple once you get the hang of it. And you’ll wonder how you survived without it.
A novelist views the world in paragraphs. A screenwriter views the world in visual snapshots. The trick is to combine the two.
You can find Lee at http://thestoryteller.co.nz. His latest book, The Last Church is now available at Amazon.com ( http://is.gd/2W62x ).
Music: More Than a Feeling by Boston.