When Stuck for a Good Idea

Like any filmmaker who finds themselves between projects, I decided I wanted to write something new. To be precise, something new that I could also actually make within the month. So I sat down at my laptop, ready for inspiration to strike which I could fan into a fierce flame that would become my next short film…



I just sat there. I can’t describe how incredibly annoying it was – and I’m guessing, seeing as you’re reading this, that you have had similar experiences. But it just felt unfair! I had found myself with a week of free time which wasn’t particularly normal, so it was perfect to put pen to paper and start to createl But the hours passed and it seemed that pen might be on paper, but the brain was not connecting with the pen.

So I did what I’ve heard every great writer advise, just write something. I squeezed out what little my imagination was giving me and ended up writing ten pages of absolute genius…not really. It was trash. I literally printed it out, read it back, and threw it in the bin. A waste of time and a waste of paper. Apologies.

Now, I’m not the best of writers I’ll admit. Dialogue has never been my forte and can often be a little stilted, but that wasn’t the problem. I just wasn’t having the ideas. And ideas are usually my strong point – and structure, but that’s a different blog.

So there I was, sitting without a decent idea but desperately wanting to write something. And then this word drifts into my mind from GCSE drama class… stimulus. I still hate the word, make me think of teenagers throwing a sock in the middle of a circle and then jumping up ready to improvise a Oscar-worthy performance based around a sock. 

I digress.

Stimulus. However much we want to think our best ideas are born out of our own brilliance, they actually are amalgamations of everything we’ve already seen, heard, read and learnt. And now and again, we need to give a little jolt to our creative centre. So I decided to do the unthinkable…\

I used Google. I’m sorry but it’s true. I googled things like “short story starters” and “story stimulus”. This would never work. I scrolled through sentence starters and quick one-sentence ideas like:

  • “They sat next to each other on the train, still pretending to be strangers…”
  • “What if, in the basement of your house, you discovered a secret passageway?”
  • “She picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport, and inside was the evidence from a crime”

Suddenly I came across one sentence which grabbed my attention and my imagination was kickstarted into action, revving up the gears slowly but surely into what became a script which I am extremely proud of. I wrote the ten page script in a day and shot it over two afternoons that weekend. This is what we came out with…

A Heartwarming Story About the End of the World. Whether you love the title or not (and I do), I can’t claim the credit – that was my wife’s stroke of genius!

Of course, the short film is clearly filmed quickly and with limited resources, but it has actually developed into a six-part series which I’m working on now – and all from looking up story starter ideas on Google. It might feel like cheating, but it’s not. The sentence that this entire story came out of was this: “A woman drops her wallet on the street, and it falls open. You pick it up and are about to return it to her when you notice a strange picture inside.

Below are a couple of sites with some great ideas to kick you off, and remember; everyone starts with the blank page, writers just colour them in.