Your Idea Machine by William C. Martell (Bluebook series #1 of 16)
by Beverly Nault
Stuck on what to write next? Not sure if your idea is worth the 110 pages and hours of time it will take to flesh it out? Your dialog dragging? The first in the Bluebook series, William Martell’s Your Idea Machine may be just the tool you’re looking for.
Idea Machine and its companions are only around fifty pages but hold a lot of bang for the bucks. Reflecting on his experience as a produced screenwriter Martell explains how to evaluate whether your ideas are relevant or uninteresting, overdone or fresh. Instead of dismissing weaker ones, though, he shows how to come up with ways to tweak for a new take. Good for general story themes or concepts, the book’s also helpful in coming up with ways to make dialog and scenes snappier.
At the end of each chapter, Martell assigns exercises on brainstorming either the general concept or deeper into making a dull scene or dialog fresh, unpredictable, or twisty. He uses many examples from well-known films to illustrate what works and what doesn’t.
But wait! Martell cautions that the balance between unique and universal must be handled well. “If an idea is unique, but no one can relate to it it’s not a great idea. If an idea is universal, but we’ve seen it a million times before, it’s not a great idea.” (From chapter 2, “Killer Concepts”).
The right idea goes deeper than just the concepts, themes, or twists on genre, and Martell digs into conflicts, whether to chase trends, how trends begin and end and how to determine if your screenplay is high concept or budget, mainstream, or arty. In the chapter titled “Martell’s Story Creation Method,” he shares how he comes up with ideas that studios are likely to be interested in for spec sales or assignments.
Written in a pithy style that’s easy to follow, Martell’s advice comes across as genuine, as if you’re with him in his favorite coffee shop, or in a hands-on workshop. My editor’s eye caught several typos, but not so many I threw the book against the wall. My kindle thanked me for that. I’ve already downloaded his Grand Finale Bluebook, which is also proving to be helpful.
From Amazon: “William C. Martell has written nineteen produced films (2022), including three HBO World Premieres, two Showtime Originals, two MOWs for USA Network, and a whole bunch of CineMax Originals (which is what happens when an HBO movie goes really, really wrong).”
Martell has an active presence on social media where he gives advice and insights, and breaks down screenplays’, directors’, and actors’ performances on his blog sex in a submarine
About Beverly Nault: Beverly Nault was a technical writer for an aerospace software company before she began writing creatively for publication. In 2011, her first novel, Fresh Start Summer, and memoir Lessons from the Mountain, What I Learned from Erin Walton, written with actor Mary McDonough, both released. Since then, Bev’s had ten novels and several short stories published. She’s been a freelance editor for fiction and non-fiction writers, a first reader for a literary agency, and staff acquisitions editor for the literary journal, Eastern Iowa Review. Bev lives in Mesa with her husband Gary where she dabbles in tennis, and excels at spoiling their three grandchildren.