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Brainstorming a Premise

You can develop stories in many ways. Some people prefer to write out their thoughts. Some people like to work it out visually. One way is to simply brainstorm ideas. Brainstorming is an exercise in pure creativity. Get a sheet of paper and start writing down ideas. If you like to draw, you can also make simple sketches to work out a story visually.

Take a sheet of paper and fill it with one-line premises for films. The more premises, the better; if your ideas spill over to a second, third, or fourth sheet, that's great. You may even take several days to come up with the ideas, keeping a pad in your pocket to write down ideas as they hit you. At this point, you simply need to generate ideas for characters, stories, or both. These can be complete or incomplete ideas; the goal at this point is simply to free your mind, be creative, and come up with as many ideas as you can.

A sample page might look like this:

Adult can't open childproof bottle

Prank phone calls gone bad

Angry Milkman who delivers nothing but sour milk

How to Climb a Tree, as told by a fish

The cockroach who became president

Dust bunnies brought to life by static electricity

The woman who stole the Eiffel Tower

A hamster who can't sleep because the dog is snoring

A drill sergeant running a flower shop.

Plane with broken engine—two people, one parachute

Ham and two slices of bread try to convince cheese to make a sandwich

Hot potato, the world's sexiest potato

Spinach on tooth that won't go away before big speech

Stan, the guy who was canned as ham in Spokane

Magician who has a stuck bunny

Big, mean wrestlers playing shuffleboard

As you can see, these are just ideas, not complete stories—don't worry about whether they will work. Put these ideas away for a day or two, and then go back and review them objectively. For each premise, try to picture exactly how the story will take shape. Remember, a complete story needs three things: character, motivation, and obstacles. Ultimately, one of these many ideas will strike you as the idea for your film. Once you've chosen your premise, you'll need to develop your story.

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