In the previous post I quoted successful young songwriter Benny Blanco about writing songs from a female perspective. In the same Huffington Post interview he made a point about song writing that I think also applies to screenwriters and novelists:
"Most of the time when people work with an artist, they don't give them what they need for the future, they give them what their last album sounded like. So it's like, "oh, One Republic needs a song, why don't we send them 10 that sound like 'Apologize?' Or, "Oh, Rihanna needs a song, why don't do 'We Found Love'?" But what you really want to give someone is something they don't know and have them realize they need it."
Too often, screenwriters and novelists do something similar--they look at what's hot these days (vampires, superheroes, etc.) and write something similar, when in fact breakthrough scripts are almost always something different that the studios or producers or publishers didn't know they want until they see them.
I think the best way to come up with those kinds of ideas is to listen to your gut. Shut out the inner critic who tells you "this will never sell," or "this is too eccentric," or "this has never been done before."
Who, other than Charlie Kaufman, thought, "I wish somebody would write a movie about a puppeteer who discovers a portal that takes him into John Malkovich's head"?
Who, other than Alfred Hitchcock, thought "Let's follow this woman as our lead character and then we'll kill her off and have three other people take over as our viewpoint characters"? (I know that "Psycho" was based on a novel by Robert Bloch and adapted by Joseph Stefano, but the book starts with Norman and his mother, not with the Janet Leigh character).
The same is true for novelists. If somebody had told you a couple of years ago, "I'm working on this Young Adult novel in which these kids all have to kill each other until there's only one left!" would you have said, "Wow, that's a sure-fire hit!"? I wouldn't--I would have wondered whether any publisher would touch it, and I would have been wrong, as "The Hunger Games" proved.
The moral of the story is come up with your unique story, don't try to recreate some else's.
(If you'd like some fresh ways to be more creative, get my book, "Creativity Now." It's published by Pearson and available from Amazon or your other favorite book seller. It also makes a great present.)