The logline is:A New England matriarch with a week left to live pledges her fortune to whomever in her small town fulfills her dying wish...
I thought this would provide an interesting brainstorming exercise (by the way, I’m not in any way endorsing this competition. I’m simply using it as a brainstorming exercise).
Okay, to give this competition your best shot, don't grab the first idea that comes to you (you can always return to it if you want to). Instead, brainstorm many ideas and choose the best. We've done this kind of exercise before . But this time, as well as using triggers like a random noun or a genre, I'm going to suggest you add structural triggers.
For example, let's say you combine the logline with the random noun 'dog', you could add a structural trigger like 'a flashback film involving the logline and a dog' or 'a Pulp Fiction structure involving the logline and a dog', or 'a story involving a group of characters on a mission or in a siege or having a reunion - involving the logline and a dog. '
But first things first. How do you brainstorm? My method involves using triggers to get ideas. Below, I'll give you some ideas for triggers, but first, remember the rules of brainstorming.
- always think ‘this must be real but unusual’
- give yourself permision to be less than brilliant (or you’ll block)
- go for quantity and the quality will come
Combine the logline with each of the following, then brainstorm as many lateral ideas as you can
- a genre (eg War Story,Gangster Story, Revenge story, film noir, fish out of water)
- a random noun: eg shoe, wall, library, market, truck, handicap, horsea theme eg mercy, despair,dependency,unemployment, fiscal regulation \
- a character type (eg psychopath, comedian, comedian-psychopath, child, asporing musician, dressmaker, air conditioning technician)
- a character from myth, fairytale, popular media, history (Cinderella, Fairy Godmother Figure, Icarus, Thor, Popeye, Napoleon)
- a newspaper headline (eg Thousands killed by volcano’)
- a traffic sign (eg ‘Go back’)
Now, try some structural triggers – think parallel narrative instead of linear one hero model..
Think of a version of one or more of your ideas that uses flashbacks or time jumps, OR employs a group on a mission, siege or reunion, OR uses two similar or diametrically opposite characters on a journey towards each other or apart from each other or in parallel, OR uses a consecutive story form like City of God or a fractured tandem form like 21 Grams.
Suddenly, you'll find that your options have doubled or trebled. If you're rusty on parallel narrative or don't know about it, go to my website for a brief explanation. For a detailed explained explanation of how to recognise and structure parallel narrative , see my book The 21st Century Screenplay.
Choose your best idea.