When you tell people that you’re a writer there are a few comments you often hear. The first is whether you’ve written anything they may have seen or heard about. Then they may say that they have a story for you about their own life. And the third is, ‘where do you get your ideas?’
Way back, when I was on the comedy nursery slopes, I had a commission from BBC Scotland to write sketches and a mentor – Phil Differ. (http://www.brignewspaper.com/2012/12/interview-only-an-excuse-creator-phil-differ-exclusive/)
I suspect I’ve faded in his memory as one of the many new writers he advised, but I remember Phil and I remember his guidance. He told me to write about the things that made me angry.
At the moment I am angry about how vulnerable people are treated in a specific environment and an idea is no doubt nesting in my subconscious. I don’t know how the idea will be expressed – documentary, factual drama or some other form but there’s a story to be told.
I think ideas are everywhere. They are in colours, clouds, scenes, conversations, music, newspapers. blog posts, graffiti. And I don’t think ideas only spring from anger. I think they are the children of intense emotion; compassion, love, despair, fear, and joy.
If you consider that the goal of the writer is to elicit emotion from the audience, emotion as the idea springboard is only logical.
Next week I’m going to be talking students at Lincoln University about characterisation in long form. It’s an annual event I enjoy because the students are consistently smart as tacks. I plan to ask them what the goal of the writer is. The first student who emails me with the right answer – indicating they’ve bothered to research the guest lecturer – will get a free read and notes on either outline, treatment or finished script.