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  • Brainstorming…When it Rains it Pours

    January 8th, 2010

    Have you ever gotten stuck? Ever know that there’s an answer out there that will bring your whole script together but you just…can’t…find it? Or perhaps you’ve got a great logline and concept but you just don’t know where to take the story that will make it commercial and complex? What do you do? Well I suggest it’s time for a brainstorming session. And I suggest you don’t do it alone.


    Around the end of the year, it’s easy to put things in a drawer and just wait until January to start something new. But that just means December is the perfect time for brainstorming.  It’s often helpful to make a list or speak out loud – you might just come up with the answer you’re looking for, but if you’re doing this by yourself, you might not realize it. Stream of Conscious sessions can be great to stir up ideas but I think they are even more productive if there’s someone weathering the brain-storm with you who knows what they are talking about and can say, “Yes! That’s it! Try that idea!”


    Writers at every level use this technique to fix a story problem, flesh out their stories or come up with new ones. It’s a service that some script consultants offer, including myself. It’s basically like having your own development executive by your side to help you realize what’s working, what isn’t, and why. I highly recommend it and have found that many of my clients at No BullScript have come to love it. Some writers want someone there through the whole process – like a mentor – from fleshing out the idea through the writing of the first or second draft to make sure you stay on track, story-wise. Others just want a professional stamp of approval and suggestions on an idea or storyline before they write it because they are worried they might be wasting their time. It’s certainly better to use a consultant at this point rather than wait for the pitchfest and use the executive as a barometer on your story. You only get one chance with them!


    I feel like two heads are often better than one. I had two recent clients that found the answers they were searching for after a brainstorming session. The first just couldn’t come up with a third act turning point – a catalyst that was sufficient enough to bring her characters together. Her current one was too dark and just didn’t fit the story, and she had dismissed others because they didn’t seem original or important enough. And it was through just brainstorming during a phone consultation – listing all the things that could happen to this character – that we figured out the one that fit. 


    Another client of mine had a million ideas and loglines but no sufficient storylines fleshed out and he didn’t know where to begin and was worried about taking them in the wrong direction. So what did we do? He sent me 10 ideas (a logline and whatever thoughts or bits of information he had already worked out) and I brainstormed possible storylines for all the ones I thought worked, creating some characters, some storylines, and basically giving him options on ways the story could go that matched what he wanted. And when I sent the ideas back, he had all these options to choose from that reinforced his belief that he had some great concepts to work with and he couldn’t wait to start writing.


    In general, this is a great exercise for writers. Come up with 10 loglines – they don’t all have to be winners – and then take the 5 you like best and spend 15-30 minutes on each,  brainstorming storylines or characters or plot points that could flesh out the story and write them all down. You don’t have to be too specific, but sometimes a certain scene or line will pop into your brain – write ‘em down! You may not like any of them, or you might find a trend or theme that could help you with other projects. Or maybe – you will create a story you fall in love with. Being able to plot out a general story in a short amount of time will really help you down the line.


    As an executive, I used to do this all the time, but the days where a company will just work on a pitch from scratch with a writer (especially an unproduced or first time writer) are over. Nowadays, you not only need a completed script but preferably a package. But you can still do this on your own, or with a consultant.


    Brainstorming with a consultant isn’t about telling a writer what they should write – it’s about giving that creative rock the first nudge down the hill and helping set up different ways for it to fall — and then letting the writer take over. Sometimes a writer just needs someone to talk to – to flesh out ideas out loud. Or create a list of every possible option and eliminate from there. Talking to your buddy or family member or dog is great but isn’t going to give you the constructive feedback you need to make this list productive or make you see the bigger, sellable picture.


    If you are interested in a brainstorming or story conception/direction session, or are looking for professional feedback on your ideas, please contact me at And in the meantime, keep thinking, and keep writing!

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