How to Spin Storytelling Gold Out of Straw

If you’re new to the storytelling business and you’re stuck for what to write about, here are a couple of ideas to get you started. This is geared toward filmmakers, but it will work for screenwriting or a novel.

If you’re an amateur or student filmmaker, you’re certainly on a tight budget. Probably the best approach is the Duplass Brothers’: take a look around at the people, props, and locations you have access to. Build the story out of those pieces. Get something done, whatever it is. You are learning and a great way to learn is by doing.

If you feel you have more leeway in deciding, here are the six story arcs (from an article in The Atlantic) that are most popular, based on artificial intelligence analysis of lots of stories:

  1. Rags to Riches (rise)
  2. Riches to Rags (fall)
  3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
  4. Icarus (rise then fall)
  5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
  6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

Start with one of those, and use the Duplass Brothers’ approach to pull it off.

And then, last but not least, think of a Grimm’s fairy tale or Greek myth that resonates with you. Google either of those terms, see if anything strikes a chord, and then figure out how to do a modern retelling with the people, props, and locations available to you as student filmmakers.

Most of all, have fun. Making a film is tedious and stressful. Hours of hard work are required. Have fun or you’ll wind up hating it.


  1. Wired,
  2. The Atlantic,
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