In today’s massive and largely competitive film industry, it’s becoming harder and harder to stick out of the screaming crowd of like-minded individuals begging to get noticed. 

You may feel that every story has already been told — so what’s the point? 

Here’s the thing, so what if almost every type of story has already been told? They’ve technically already been told thousands of years ago — and ever since, we’ve been telling different variations and perspectives of those same exact stories. 

So, the point is…tell the story you want to tell. Find your distinct vision and voice that’s different from everyone else. It may be a similar idea or concept, but the fact that it’s yours makes it unique and special. 

Literally anything can be a story. But not everything is story worthy. 

Executive producers and industry professionals are in constant need of unique and compelling stories worth telling. This is why it’s important that you learn what elements make up compelling stories so that when the time comes, you can use them when pitching to a film producer or director. 

If you’re looking to get your story idea produced and funded, check out our one-sentence pitch competition for the opportunity to receive funding up to $10,000 for your film as well as other prizes.

Below, you will find a list of elements in compelling stories you should consider when brainstorming for new creative story ideas to pitch with. 

Does your story have conflict?

Like I mentioned before, anything can be a story — but not everything is story worthy.

For example, take a look at these two short story ideas:

Story 1: A young man decides to join a fraternity.

Story 2: A young man decides to join a fraternity, but little does he know the fraternity is actually a satanic cult full of serial killers looking for new victims.

Which of the two stories do you find more interesting? If you chose the obvious answer (Story 2), this is because Story 2 has conflict.

Conflict acts as the building block of your story. It’s the spark that lights the fire that is your story. Without it, your story won’t really have a story — and it will be dull and meaningless.

Audiences love watching characters struggle and grow. They’d much rather watch a film with characters going through constant adversities in order to achieve their goals, rather than characters who are simply handed everything.

Conflict creates tension, suspense and uncertainty — whether it’s a protagonist struggling with their own inner demons, or a protagonist combating an antagonist with opposing views or goals. We want to find out and see if the protagonist will win or lose at the end.

Does your story have interesting characters?

When coming up with story ideas, make sure you know who your characters are and what they want.

Movie producers looking for the next great idea want a story with compelling and interesting characters. They want audiences to root for and relate to them — not despise them.

Characters are interesting when they’re complex and human. As mentioned before, a good story is one where characters go through some kind of struggle and adversity. Audiences want to see characters grow and develop instead of stay the same throughout the film.

Perfect characters aren’t interesting — flawed characters are. This allows room for conflict and growth.

Does your story have a theme?

A family holding hands

What is the underlying theme of your story? What do you want audiences to learn and take away from it?

Theme is another crucial component to consider when coming up with a narrative story idea. Whether you’re coming up with a horror story idea or a romantic comedy, your story should contain some sort of theme audiences will pick up on.

I’m certain that if you look back at all of your favorite films, you will be able to pin point the themes for each film. Almost every story you watch or read will try to convey a specific lesson or meaning audiences can see and use in their own lives. This generates more emotional connection, especially if the thematic message hits home to your audience.

Is your story marketable?

Producers are looking for story ideas that can sell and ultimately make money.

Although it’s important to come up with a story idea that interests and intrigues you, you shouldn’t completely disregard the market.

When you’re thinking of an idea for a story, think about your target audience. Who will want to see this? Which type of people will my story connect with the most?

When you figure out who your audience will most likely be, you’ll have a better idea of the story your trying to tell and market.

Make sure to decide on a genre for your idea — that way you can research and learn from other films within that specific genre. If you’re interested in writing scary stories, research popular films within the horror genre that have received critical acclaim. What makes audiences react to these stories in a positive way?

Learn your story’s genre and conventions and try to incorporate a fresh new take and idea within that genre that hasn’t been done before. This will spark interest in your target audience and will make them want to go see your film.

Your story also doesn’t have to be original to make money. Your story idea can be an adaptation of a book, video game, or some other type of work that already has fans and an audience.

Production companies and movie producers are looking for books and other pieces of work to adapt, constantly. They know that it will be easy to sell because the idea already sold and has die-hard fans. This typically will reduce the risk and anxiety of creating an entirely new idea from scratch.

If you’re solely interested in generating original stories, that’s great! The world is in constant need of fresh new ideas and voices.

The main thing is to not feel discouraged in your work. If you need a little help coming up with an idea, don’t get stressed. Instead, do some practice exercises to get your creative wheels turning.

Use a story idea generator online and write a story based on the prompt given to you. This can give you story plot ideas or characters you haven’t even thought to consider.

Write every day if you can — whether it be a short story or a journal entry. This will only improve your writing and your creative process. It will also help you immensely when trying to come up with your next fictional story ideas.

You don’t need to attend film school or have a degree in film to come up with interesting stories. Ideas can come from anything and everything — such as your own personal experiences, inspiration from other fictional stories, the news, friends, family, etc.

You don’t need to be in a classroom setting to come up with an idea. Think about Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, or Christopher Nolan. These widely popular and successful filmmakers and storytellers never even step foot in a film school.

This should tell you that anyone is capable of coming up with the next big movie idea. So get out there and get inspired.

If you have an idea or script that you’re eager to get funded and produced, check out our funding opportunities for the chance to win up to $10,000 in funding for your film.

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