12. Where do great stories come from?
If your goal is to be a working writer, one important skill you’ll need to master is how to come up with great stories day after day, year after year. The kind of stories that feel fresh and unique. The kind that have an element of conflict and the promise of a journey. The kind of stories that ring true to your audience and capture the human experience. The kind of stories that have something important to say.
So where do these stories come from, and how do you meet the challenge a working writer faces when you suddenly have an opportunity to pitch for a series or film? The first thing many people do is head over to their computer, but in my experience, there’s a better way.
In the early days of my career, I had an opportunity to write for the US series Rugrats. The competition was fierce and my first task was to pitch story ideas. Each story pitch had to be written up in a paragraph called a 'springboard', and since the selection would be made based on how strong my ideas were, how unique they were, and how perfectly Rugrats they were, I had to pitch a lot of them in order to give myself the best chance. I had one week to deliver, and I pitched approximately forty.
One thing I can tell you is if I had sat in front of my computer, I either would have had a complete panic attack, a case of writer’s block, or at the very least, would have struggled to have come up with fresh and creative ideas. But luckily, I had a trick – and that trick has lasted me a lifetime!
I always carry a little book around with me, and I write down memories of things that have happened in my life. I write down the comical and ridiculous memories, the dramatic ones and even the painful ones. Over the years, I’ve filled up boxes of these little books and they have been the inspiration for every single episode I’ve ever written, every single series or character I’ve created and every award I’ve won.
Because of this discipline, I never have to wait for a great story to come to me. My biggest problem is, there is never enough time to actually write up all these stories!