That's why I've developed these methods for sparking ideas and stories that I like to keep my back pocket for these occasions.
These five methods are sure to get me back on track and I'm surprised by how often these ideas have later gone on to became some of my best work.
Read magazines you wouldn't normally buy
The main advantage to magazines like this is that the article may actually be talking about ideas and research that not only you've never heard before but likely your audience hasn't encountered either making for some really fresh ideas.
If science isn't your thing then nothing beats one of those awful celebrity gossip magazines with the latest news about those D-list TV celebs you forgot even existed.
However it's not those stores I'm looking for. Inevitably in these magazines they will tend to have strange articles about weird and wonderful people living strange lives. You know the ones I mean, they have headlines like ”I thought my husband was from Spain, it turned out he was from Mars”.
Sometimes these totally awful articles can be just the thing to spark a new idea.
Listen to local radio stations
The best kind of radio for this in my opinion isn't the national stations but the local stations.
They're great because they tend to have large sections when members of the public will phone in to ask a question or express their opinion about a subject and, as I'm sure you already know, the public are quite mad and being on the radio somehow amplifies that madness to new heights.
Lots of my characters have been based on people I've heard on the radio. I think that because you can't see them your brain has to fill in the gaps about who this person is.
What I look like?
What do they do for a job?
Why do they care enough about the topic of conversation that they felt the need to call in?
No matter how inane the topic of conversation on these shows might be, what's interesting is that people genuinely care passionately about the subjects.
We can use that passion to create compelling stories that have a good chance of grabbing an audiences interest.
Spy on people in public
You see, because of where the bakery was positioned we used to get people from all walks of life. From the completely burnt out mother and her three hyper energetic children that didn't seem to understand how chairs work to the homeless men that would come in to steal sandwiches thinking they weren't being watched, despite the fact they will come in at the same time every day and do the same thing.
Every person that came through that door was potentially a new character for a story and all I had to do is ask myself
Where have they been that day?
Where are they going next?
How on earth are they managed to make one cup of coffee last two-and-a-half hours?
To this day I still use the same process except now I have to go and sit in a public park or or ride the bus somewhere.
I can safely say that I've never been let down and an interesting character will always come walking into my life.
Lets face it, isn't that start of most great stories?
Open a book to a random page
More often than not this lead to absolute madness but we were then able to discuss the merits and failures of the ideas.
Once we had discussed the two stories in enough detail we would then write a third story using only the best ideas we had created and filtering out most of the nonsense.
I have to say we would often laugh more at the first two pieces than the third just for their pure insanity and incoherent story.
This is an extremely fun exercise to do with two people they can also be done alone.
I recommend picking up books that aren't necessarily story books because they can really throw you some odd sentences and will make you really think hard about how you're going to turn it into a story.
As an example I have here in front of me a book called 'Purple Cow' which is a guide for marketing your business. I picked the number 74 at random and placed my finger on the page.
The sentence my finger found was “kids, the prime consumers of small bandages, love them and so did the parents who wanted to make the boo boos get better even faster!”.
If I told you you had to go away and write a story about that what could you come up with?
Remember that time you said you could do it better?
What's ironic is that as soon as I'm sat in front of my laptop ready to start writing, all of those fantastical ideas have been left in the cinema. Now, faced with the reality of actually writing a film, I can't come up with a single idea.
To combat this I've started keeping a journal so that when I'm done second guessing this years summer blockbuster, I can write some of those ideas into the journal. Then when I'm stuck for ideas I get the chance to put my money where my mouth is and write a better version of the movie I spent an hour badmouthing!
I hope this has helped you to think of new ways to develop ideas for scripts.
I have genuinely used all of these examples over the years and they never fail to get me results.
As an exercise why don't you you take one of these ideas and use it to write me a short story I'd love to see how you use these tips to create something new.