Day 1 – Developing a Random Idea

Last week I introduced the Time Magazine Story Idea Generator. I selected one of the ideas at random and I’m going to use it to develop a screenplay. Using my 70 Days to Your Screenplay Workshop I spent an afternoon trying to develop the idea into a story. Here are my notes after the first day.

An upper-class rich snob and a minister confront adultery, 
deafness and terminal illness in Long Island

Immediate change will be the location; all of my screenplays are set in Canada. Therefore I’m going to set this one in Toronto. My original idea was two brothers but I decided that I would get more of a dramatic story if the upper-class rich snob was a woman and the adultery was between the snob and the minister.  The minister can be diagnosed with the terminal illness throwing the rich woman into a panic over the thought of losing her lover.

What makes this story different from others like it? I have a minister who doesn’t take his vows seriously or maybe doesn’t agree with some areas of his vows? Is he weak? Does he see his attraction to the snob as a test of the flesh and his illness as his punishment from God? Now that could work. Rather than a long affair the entire thing happens quickly in the film. He meets the woman early and is immediately attracted to her. At the first plot point he makes some sort of pass at the woman which she doesn’t exactly turn away. Early in the second act they have a night of indiscretion and then the guilt settles in on the minister. She enjoyed it as it was more than her husband has done in years and she would like it to continue. The minister keeps turning her away and then he discovers that he is suddenly ill with only months to live. But where does the deafness come in? What if I changed deafness to blindness; as in blind faith?

Conflict: In the first act the conflict is mostly within the minister as he is attracted to the snob, but he believes strongly in his vow. Very early in the first act the two are thrust together as part of some church event and their closeness makes it even more difficult to resist her. After the one night, he wants nothing more to do with her as he feeling guilt and remorse but she would prefer it to continue. The discovery of the illness brings in a new level of conflict, between the minister and God. The minister failed his test of the flesh and is being punished by God for that failure. After the affair, the minister kneels alone in the church and prays to God, asking for forgiveness for his sin. In his prayer the minister says that he will suffer any punishment that God feels is appropriate. So when it is discovered that he has the terminal illness, he refuses treatment as he told God that he would suffer through his punishment.

The story becomes one of a man’s relationship with God and how a moment of weakness can change a man’s life very quickly and how blind faith can lead to death. It’s a story about making peace with one’s own past before your time is over.

Next week we’ll discuss Day 2.



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