Screenwriting : Inspiration? by Sonny Dyon

Sonny Dyon


How do you get your muse to whisper the sweet nothings of inspiration to you? For me, I watch other films, I read other screenplays or books or any good writing...I search for things about the story in my world that would apply. I ask because I just came across this list of inspirational quotes and thought I would share, but I decided that I would also pose the question as well... So enjoy this: But quid pro quo, please share what inspires you or, if you have an inspirational quote or whatever...let's have it!!!

Steven P Baer

All true art is some form of expression of the human condition. I find my inspirations come in humans expressing their current conditions. The human condition has changed little through the ages. However, observing how the human condition is being expressed in contemporary every day life is one of the keys of inspiration in effective writing.

Paul Anderton

Anything can inspire. I find the newspaper a great source of inspiration, whether a story (or combination) informs a plot, or just triggers an idea...

Valerie Michele Oliver

Fifteen minute time-limited writing prompts get my creative juices flowing. Then, I record them using VoiceBo, and share them with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and my blog. It's great how a story can expand from a short writing prompt. Here's an example of one prompt. "Back Up the Truck"- This has "coming of age" script feel to it.

Stephane Lun-Sin

Great topic! That may be different for each person. For me music does it big time. Also reading books about mythology and the hero's journey. Quotes and philosophical ideas definitely triggers my imagination. But other times I just need to 'let it go' so that it somehow works at a different level of my mind. So swimming and meditation can help. In any case still looking for the perfect alchemy...:)

Ben Felix Spencer

My story ideas always come out of something I want to say about the world. So I'm often inspired by events or people around me. I then think on them for a while and write rough outlines, which can then be filed away until I have time to work on them (once other projects are finished!). Ideas and inspiration are never the problem for me: getting down and finishing the work is!!

Kathy Rowe

My story ideas can come from anywhere! From a news article; to just talking with friends and someone says something out of the ordinary that kicks my brain into gear. And once I get an idea, I better write it down, otherwise, another idea will flood right over the top of it. My worst problem is keeping all the characters in the right stories since I usually work on more than one at a time. My muse doesn't shut up!

Joshua D. Maley

Inspiration for stories or concepts come at random to me (something I hear or see; something I've read). Refining those bursts into something is fun, and music is a big inspiration for me, because it evokes moods that often inspire creativity. When my head is in a new idea, I'm constantly listening to music, changing/adjusting playlists, finding new songs and rediscovering old songs. Most of then the songs have nothing to do with the story or idea, it's just the mindset and mood they evoke in me, that inspires me. Most often when I write or do something formal, it's to total silence. But every other free second, even at work, it's all about getting my head in the right space so that the ideas flow, and music helps me with that.

Jake Dion Gomizel

What I have been doing is taking different kinds of public transport. bus, train, boat as I venture to the city. I have a pair of wireless radio headphones I take with me and listen different things like 90's rock to classical and just walk. I find that observing is a key aspect from getting yourself out of writers block or getting an idea rolling.

Daryl Ortmann

A lot of the time, I don't have to go looking for it. Something happens and it clicks in my brain without my having to do anything.

Janet Caulfield

Music, dreams... my best inspiration comes from my subconscious.

Patricia Fox

"There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." The Buddha

Amber Glasgow

I sometimes find inspiration in literature. I've had an idea for a screenplay kicking around in my head and came across a book the other day that got the gears rolling. For acting, I find inspiration by watching other actors. The Stoning of Soroya M., Flame and Citron, The Fall, Doubt, etc...these are some movies that inspire me.

Christy Condoleo

My inspiration/muse appears to me most when I just block out life's noise (my job, bills, etc.). It also comes to me when I need to just 'leave'. My ideas can come from a piece of origami paper or an emotion or a walk in the's whatever leaves an impression with my psyche.

Jake Dion Gomizel

Sorry for all those multiple posts (phone played up on me). Here is just a follow up on what i said above. I have been going into the city for the past 4 days, not doing anything in particular, just walking around, getting coffee and talking to random people off the streets (funny enough, they were all American). Tonight i came up with the idea about a Uni student who is trying to write a novel and is in complete writers block, after walking around the city and listening the radio his headphones play up and end up on the classical radio channel and he starts to see the city in a way he never saw it before. Turning an old and still expanding city into a music score is the main focus of it. And i just came up with that by walking around doing nothing what so ever for a few days. So there you go, thought i should follow up on that.

Anthony Crociata

I read Chuck Wendigs blog "terrible minds" - if he doesn't piss you off enough to motivate you, nothing will! I highly recommend it.

Kira George

My inspiration comes from everything. From the way my car sounds when it is sputtering across the highway while driving to work, the way pedestrians flip off a car that nearly hits them, to listening to epic music/movie scores and writing scenes to that rhythm. (but mostly music is where I find it)

David Ashutosh

I talk through ideas with a good friend. I watch certain other friends go through certain experiences and I watch the longer arcs - months, years, etc... the arcs within the arcs... What happens when a couple gets a divorce? What happens when a couple works through an affair? What happens to them? the kids? how does the community respond? I look at things that happen literally - like one writer talking about seeing the city in a new way, and see how it can be applied in another form. For example: What if it was a detective instead of a writer? What if it was a news reporter who saw the world one way and then saw the world another way? Or what if it was an executive who saw the world through the eyes of money and came to see the world through the eyes of something else? an artist who came to see the world differently would be an interesting flip if done right as well. Julia Cameron who wrote the book 'The Artist's Way' talks about the concept of an 'artist date' once a week for four hours where you go and do something to basically feed your inspiration and creativity. That concept stuck with me although i don't do it officially that way, but I have times where i just feed creatively. There are a few key tv shows I like to watch. I email certain friends who are not writers to process an idea and/or talk through it with friends - often with friends with unique careers and/or unique interests in storytelling, but not necessarily writers which makes me feel more comfortable than talking through with fellow screenwriters or novelist types. I have a scientist friend for example who has fun ideas about science that he suggests. He gets me to think of options I may not otherwise consider and just has got me thinking in different ways where I don't so much copy something as get influenced by his thinking. There is the base inspiration and then the refinement process which includes other minor inspiration. I am in different support group kinds of things and subject groups - like on different religious, spiritual things, or I read things that are common in the culture - like stuff on addiction and certain ones which are particularly culturally relevant. I start with one level of exploration and then if i want to go deeper into something I can go deeper if it makes sense for a character or storyline I want to work with. A friend works with an 'image journal' she collects images from magazines and things - could be personal photographs from nature or community and then she writes things around them. It is for her a way to explore her psyche, personal desires, etc... but I have thought about adapting for screenwriting and finding online images for inspiration and doing a sort of collage. I pay a lot of attention to images I like in films because sometimes it is not just the story, but what I see, or what I like seeing inspires elements of a story. Film is after all a visual medium. For example if I like a scene of a certain kind of chase, then I could get inspiration from motorcycles in terms of where people like to ride and what would be a beautiful ride and that would inspire something set in a certain location. For me, much like many, setting is a lot of it. The series 'Franklin and Bash' recently moved to Miami I think it is. Of course then it is an excuse to get the guys in swim suits and other things. I listened to an interview with the guy who wrote 'Traffic'. He talked about developing theme and context before story and that stuck with me and I seem to do some of that in terms of thinking about projects. I think not just about individual characters, but contexts they exist in - groups of characters. So then getting to know groups of people can help inspire some elements. Watching groups of people over time. I look at classic stories and how they work, Grimm's fairy tales (ie. darker ones with teaching stories) or fantasy fairy tales. I like an element of rooting in the classics and sometimes references to the classes. I loved for example the modern adaptation of 'Great Expectations' with Ethan Hawke. I like some films which allude to those kinds of things, maybe even with character name references that those who know it would catch. I look for my personal classics and then I examine them off and on. I look for the emotional core of something of a classic - what does it hit in me. Why am I so compelled by it? and then I work to weave such things into something. To some degree it can be like cooking for me - How much spice to I like? How much gore/shock do I want? How much love do I want? Things like that can lead me to one sort of story more than another, just like knowing someone likes Hot and Spicey can lead them to look more at food cultures that have that flavor more. I for example like spy shows and international elements which then I need to think about which international elements I want to see and explore which issues they have. I can then look to news and library books. But then I can weave in things like the woman does the street shopping in ways I have observed, so I can write elements of her into characters and her dynamic with her husband. They have a relationship I see both up close and I know some of the extended family. So I bring the personal into something that is also more 'fun' and a 'ride'.

Beth Fox Heisinger

My inspiration comes from my everyday. :)

Wayne Jarman

I led a discussion on 'Gaining Inspiration', only last month, for our branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW). Part of the presentation was brainstorming different techniques that each person used. The resulting list was large and varied. Individuals have very different methods. The admin of our webpage was thinking about uploading it. If he does, I will drop the link here.

Hannah Raehse-Felstead

Sometimes I feel that I can't write it down quickly enough. Even watching the news will give me inspiration. When other writers complain about "being blocked" I just smile because I can honestly say that I haven't gone a week without an idea popping into my mind. And I find that having an empty mind, just after doing some manual work for instance, is the time that a really good idea will appear. We were driving home from a holiday in France one day and we crossed a small river (O.K. a rather large stream) and the name of that water course sparked a whole tv script. In fact, it was one of the few times I did not have a pen notebook and I had to stop at the next supermarket and buy one. I find it not a question of seaching for inspiration, but just being open it to it.

Denise Treadwell

I so relate to you Hannah. Sometimes it feels like inspiration overload (of course it's not). I welcome, embrace and am truly grateful to have such a gift. The frustration comes when you can't find a reputable outlet to present it to the world.

Steven P Baer

"Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." - Thomas Edition.

Hannah Raehse-Felstead

Steven, I disagree, always have done, ever since this little gem was first quoted in 'A' level English class. You can sweat yourself to a state of anorexia but, if the inspiration is not there, you are perspiring over nothing. Personally I find it divides more like 50/50.

Denise Treadwell

Different things work for different people and even that may vary from time to time. I think the key piece here is to truly understand the word "INSPIRATION" (In Spirit). I dare to juggle the numbers...FOR ME, 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration. And the perspiration is just my trying to find the time to write and void myself of distractions.

Hannah Raehse-Felstead

It occured to me this morning that if writing really is 99% perspiration then perhaps you are in the wrong job.

Denise Treadwell

Wow Hannah:( PLEASE READ what was written...for me, 99% INSPIRATION!!!!!

Hannah Raehse-Felstead

Denise Not a personal slur on you or anybody, just a comment on the 1% inspriation, 99% perspiration quote - sorry if you were offended.

Denise Treadwell

I was not offended at all...Believe me, it's not that serious. My point was simply to clarify because your response was, interesting, for lack of a better word. Take care and thanks for 'clarifying'.

Steven P Baer

Hannah, please do not consider that we are at war with words, but rather we are merely expressing two varying POV's. With that in mind, let me quote one of your country's more respected poets: "Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think; whatever you want, be sure that is what you want; whatever you feel, be sure that is what you feel." - T. S. Eliot Here is where the real perspiration begins and ends.

Ben Felix Spencer

I think you're confusing the use of the word 'perspiration'. I don't see it as meaning sweating, working so hard you collapse, like working down a coal mine... for me it simply means "doing". I think this is what Edison meant. If you are inspired with the impulses for new stories for 99% of the time, I don't think you'd ever get anything done (including eating!). I'm personally with Edison on this one-- But I think it's coming down to semantics now ;)

Denise Treadwell

I don't think it's "semantics" at all. What is for 'you' may not be what or how it is for others. If you truly understand inspiration, it's like a thought. How many thoughts do you have a day, a minute? Does this take time away from your daily functioning (stop you from eating, talking or working)? I mean really? That's all inspiration is...hence it's root "IN SPIRIT". Thoughts are from the mind, inspiration is from the spirit. And on that note, I don't want to clutter my spirit or my thoughts, so have a blessed day.

Hannah Raehse-Felstead

Sorry, Guys and Girls, but Thomas Alva Edison is first reported as saying "GENIUS is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration" sometime around 1902, in the September 1932 edition of Harper's Monthly Magazine. And this is something I totally agree with. However, writing, real writing as opposed to the ‘written on demand’ books that appear on our bookstalls requires for more inspiration than perspiration. Most writers have far more thoughts that inspire characters and situations than they ever use. That’s why they have a notebook in which they jot things down. A phrase; the way a man counts his money or a girl twists her hair around her fingers; something seen on the news. It is the equivalent to an artist’s sketches or a composer’s jottings and many of these notes will simply wither on the vine. However perspiration does have a quite specific meaning and, even though we have now (I hope) cleared up the exact quotation, many people will still come out with the old: writing is ………And I still maintain, as is my right, that it is 50/50 and if you are spending 99% of your time sweating it then you are (one is) probably in the wrong job. However, it’s your life, your time you spend it the way you see fit.

Wayne Jarman

I commented earlier about a brainstorming session that I conducted at my branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) and suggested that if the Admin of our website posted it, that I would provide the link. This is the link, for anyone who is interested in having a look. Just click on the heading on the webpage (BRAINSTORMED LIST OF GAINING INSPIRATION):

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