Pitch me an idea for a short screenplay / script

I am part of a monthly play / scene - writing workshop. Every month we submit roughly ten pages of new material to be read aloud. It’s coming up on Monday, and I have yet to come up with anything to write. I am racking my brain and not getting a good idea.

So I thought I’d try an experiment. I thought I’d ask for suggestions for a scenario. The scene(s) should be about ten pages in length. It’s officially a play-writing workshop, but people have brought screenplays to read as well. It should involve dialogue rather than prose. (The point of the workshop is to have actors read the work in progress aloud, so that the writer can get an idea of what his/her work sounds like when actually performed.) Since we have to come prepared with enough scripts for all readers, I usually try to keep it down to 2-4 speaking roles (including somebody to narrate the stage directions if necessary.)

That said, pitch me an idea for a scenario and perhaps a few rough character descriptions. I’ll pick one (or two or three perhaps) and try to work it up into a ten page script. Of course, any ideas pitched here will be fair game for anybody else to work into a story if they’re so inclined as well.

Let’s see if this works!

Two characters – a man and a woman, both adults (mid-thirties maybe). They could be married or just in a relationship. The scenario is this: she is trying not to tell him she has miscarried the baby they were expecting together. He is asking questions, first innocent and general, but gradually more insistent and direct, while she’s being evasive without actually lying.

Whether she ultimately tells him what’s going on or not I will leave to you.

If that one doesn’t grab you, how about this one: A man gets a cell phone that has a genie in it, and instead of rubbing it like you would a lamp, you get the genie’s attention by texting it. What would the man wish for? What kind of trouble could he get into by using text-speak? Maybe add a best friend, who hates texting (an English professor, perhaps), to help him get himself out of trouble before it’s too late.

Two dogs meet in the park. One confesses he’s fallen in love with his neighbour’s cat.

A bunch of people sit around trying to come up with a scene for a writing workshop. They keep coming up with weird half formed ideas but ultimately nothing catches their attention.

“What the hell can we write about, nothing ever happens around here.”

“Didn’t you have a car accident, last week?”

“Cat accident.”

“OK… forget that.”


Stick with what you know.

Two ghosts on a lunchbreak complain about how difficult it is to scare modern cynical skeptical people these days.

Film noir: A hardboiled detective, a glamorous vampish woman, and a narrator.

From a million SDMB threads:

What if Obama isn’t a US citizen? I have no dog in this fight, and don’t give a shit, but say the “Birthers” are right. Like it can’t be totally impossible can it with this amount of dodging. At some point in time (if the birthers are right) there was a conversation like this:

Hey BO, you got a birth certificate?

Well…not exactly.

What if they ask to see one?

We can stonewall. Call them something or other like they are concentrating on minutiae … “Birthers,” yeah let’s call them that. We just refuse to dignify their question. Make hints about racism.

But they’ll just say why don’t you produce the birth certificate. What then?

We stonewall. And we ignore.

Hey BO where were you born?

A manger in Bethlehem boys or in the 'hood or wherever the votes are.

Titanic meets Godzilla! It can’t miss!

Three people go into an elevator, only two come out.

Seven people from disparate socioeconomic and employment backgrounds go on a three-hour boat tour in Hawaii, only to be blown off course and stranded on an uncharted isle. They learn to use the natural resources to build shelter and forage for food while making plans to escape. The strandees then start discovering inexplicable mysteries, including the existence of non-native species, buried hatches leading to secret vaults, the fact the plants are actually made of polypropylene, and cryptic messages left on scratchy tapes by read by a guy who sounds suspiciously like Christopher Walken. Eventually (about page 8) it turns out the whole thing is a setup; one of them has sinister ulterior motives and is engineering the situation to keep them stranded and out of contact. Curiously, he is the only one with a private hut.

I call it Misplaced.


Well, building a bit from don’t ask’s scenario, try a story about a would-be filmmaker stuck for ideas who solicits for them, and receives quite a few that he likes a lot. With each attempt to make them into films, however, he runs into larger and larger snags making it impossible for him to complete them.

Make it comedic, and it could be Mulligan’s Atoll.

So Don – which one are you going with?

How about a porno?

2 women, no dialogue, lots of moaning

Telescopes discover what looks like a HUGE mining operation on the moon (it would have to be huge to see it).

Where are they from, what are they after?

After further analysis, it appears that there are new fantastically hot heat sources on the Moon. We assume an alien culture that has developed fusion tech and is using and mining the moons helium-3 as a fuel.

What do we do?

I’ve always liked the idea floated by an SDMB poster way back: it’s a screenplay about a guy in the 1950s, pitching the most ludicrous sci-fi script imaginable to the movie studio (or, if you prefer, nervously explaining to the executives what’s happening in the background where costumed actors and extras are busily going through their paces on the set).

“So, it’s the twenty-first century: we beat the Soviets to the moon, and – well, haven’t been back since the '70s; why bother, right? Also, the Cold War is over; neither side got around to firing nukes at the other, and the Soviet Union eventually just called it quits and went back to being ‘Russia’. I know you were thinking silver jumpsuits and flying cars and whole meals packed into a pill – but my bold new concept is that men pretty much just go in for the same jacket-and-tie look while driving on the same roads, still drinking cokes and eating hamburgers and so on. Oh, and I’m not big on rayguns, either; figure the Army’s infantrymen will still go into action with ordinary rifles at the ready, same way folks won’t have robot butlers at home. Can’t you picture it?”

Thanks everybody for your suggestions. I decided to go with your idea Chef Troy about the couple experiencing the miscarriage. I liked keeping it simple - a minimum number of characters on a single setting. And I had a good mental picture of it from the get-go. The scene just flowed. (I let the story just go where it wanted to go, so it wasn’t exactly the situation you described, but that’s writing.)

I also particularly liked GuanoLad’s idea about the ghosts, but couldn’t quite get the ball rolling on that one. Gimme some time, I’ll work on it.

Here’s the scene. Whaddaya think?

A studio apartment. The front door is stage right, a kitchenette is stage left. A sofa-bed is center-stage. It’s a mess - clothes, books, and odds & ends are strewn everywhere. There are dirty dishes piled on the kitchenette counter.

We hear the sound of keys turning in the lock on the front door; The door swings open. JANE, a woman in her late 20s, enters. She looks harried and agitated. She plods through the door, fogetting to close it. She seems slightly dazed. She simply drops her purse on the floor and collapses on the sofa.

Jane has some papers, official-looking documents, clutched tightly in her hand. She gazes around her apartment distractedly, then looks at the papers as if just realizing she’s holding them. She crumples them up, tosses them to the floor, and covers her eyes with her hands and WHIMPERS slightly.

After a moment, she SIGHS, picks the papers up off the floor, smoothes them out and places them on a kitchen counter. She starts cleaning up her apartment - picking up clothes. She doesn’t realize the front door is ajar.

RANDY appears in the doorway. He’s in his early 30s, and is a classic Williamsburg hipster - beard, tattoos, skinny jeans & ties, etc. He has a package in his hand, but he’s holding it behind his back and we can’t see what it is.

Jane hasn’t noticed him yet. He smiles impishly. He sets his package down on the hallway floor, just outside the doorway. Then he tiptoes across the set towards Jane. He sneaks up right behind her and then -

Jane SCREAMS in surprise, and spins around. Randy LAUGHS. Jane punches him in the arm.

RANDY: Ow! That hurt.

JANE: Don’t ever do that again, Randy!

RANDY: C’mon, lighten up!

JANE: It’s not funny! And haven’t you ever heard of knocking?

RANDY: Haven’t you ever heard of SHUTTING THE DOOR, Jane?

Jane looks over, sees the door wide open. She GASPS in exasperation, stomps over to it and SLAMS it shut.

JANE: Where were you last night?

RANDY: Oh, you’re my keeper, huh? Now you’re that kind of girlfriend!

Randy LAUGHS, but Jane is clearly not amused.

RANDY: It was a joke, Jane, c’mon. I was just down the block at the Cider Mill. Christ, you’re in a mood.

JANE: Yeah, I’m in a mood, Randy! Why do you think that is? Deal with it.

She resumes cleaning up her apartment, ignoring Randy. Randy is flustered. He watches her, but doesn’t help out.

RANDY: Ok, look! Jane, (pause) Jane, can you PLEASE stop that and talk to me? We really need to talk!

Jane rolls her eyes, drops what she’s holding and stands there, hands on hips, glaring at Randy.

JANE: Fine, Randy. Let’s. TALK.

RANDY: Well, I can’t talk to you if you’re gonna be like that!

JANE: Really? How do you expect me to BE, Randy? After I - (she stops herself)

RANDY: After you what? No, wait, of course I know. I get it, all right? I really do. Jane…I’m sorry about how I reacted. But come on, it was a big surprise. I just wasn’t ready for it, when you told me about the…

JANE: About the BABY?

RANDY: Yeah. (Pause) The baby.

Jane shakes her head in exasperation. She turns, walks to the kitchenette and sinks into a chair, facing away from him.

RANDY: Jane, please, I’m trying to apologize. Look, I just wasn’t expecting it and I panicked! I’ve had time to think about it, and I talked it over with the guys…

Jane spins around to face him.

JANE: (Interrupting) “The guys??” You told people about it?

RANDY: Course I did! Just Ryan and Chad. Well, you didn’t expect to keep it a big secret, did you?

JANE: No, I guess not.

RANDY: I know I was…less than enthusiastic the other night. But I’ve thought it over now, and I’m gonna be a good father. I will. (LAUGHS) I love kids, you know that. It’ll be great having my own kid, our own kid. I already picked out a name for him - Ajax!!

JANE: What?

RANDY: Yeah, he was an ancient king! It’s awesome!

Jane gets up and paces anxiously.

JANE: I don’t believe this.

RANDY: You can pick the name if it’s a girl.

JANE: And what about your “music career?” (She practically spits the words out.)

RANDY: What about it?

JANE: It was all you cared about the other night.

RANDY: I can still do it! You never did believe I could making a living at it, did you? (Pause) Ok, all right. I’ll get a day-job. Hell, I’ll work at a public school. I’ll be a music teacher. They’re practically begging people to be teachers nowadays, right?

JANE: I don’t think the school system takes applicants with drug dealing convictions.

RANDY: That was two years ago! It was only a little pot! And I only got probation.

JANE: You still smoke!

RANDY: I’m giving it up! For real, I’m quitting it! (Pause) I filled out an application at Starbucks, for Christ sake!

Jane stops pacing, faces him.

JANE: Oh my God, you’re serious.

RANDY: I know that sounds shitty, trying to support a kid on a Starbucks paycheck, but it’s something ain’t it? I’m gonna stop smoking pot, I’ll work days, I’ll change the kid’s fucking diapers! I wanna make it work!

Jane takes a deep breath, she suddenly can’t look Randy in the eye.

JANE: Randy, you should know-

RANDY: (Interrupting) No, wait! I wanna do this right, Jane. I swear to God, I wanna do this the right way.

Randy approaches her, he puts his hand out to touch her and she shrinks away from him.

JANE: Randy, please, I have to tell you –

RANDY: Lemme finish! If we’re gonna have a baby, I feel like we have to be a family. A real one. so –

JANE: Oh, no. Randy, don’t –

RANDY: You gotta let me get through this! I know there’s a certain way you gotta do this. I can’t afford a ring, but I can at least do it right.

He gets down on one knee.

RANDY: Jane, will you do me the honor of marrying–


Long, awkward pause. Randy appears frozen. Jane gradually falls apart, leaning against the counter and SOBBING. Finally, Randy gets to his feet.

RANDY: No, you’re shitting me. You cannot be fucking serious. You are fucking shitting me!

Jane snatches the papers off the counter and thrusts them at him. He takes them and stares at them.

JANE: You don’t believe me? Here’s my hospital release form.

RANDY: (Reading)“Miscarriage…” Oh fuck.

JANE: I was in the Bellevue E.R. all last night. I only just got home before you walked in. I tried to call you a dozen times!

RANDY: (Weakly) I lost the charger for my phone.

They both stare into space for a moment, unable to look at each other.

RANDY: Jane, how…how could you let me go on like that??


RANDY: I’m fucking pouring my goddamn heart out to you, I’m down on one goddamn knee PROPOSING to you and you’re not even pregnant anymore?

JANE: Oh my GOD, Randy! Is that all you have to say? Is that really all you can think about, how embarrassed you are?

RANDY: You were gonna tell me! You were gonna blurt it out, but you stopped yourself! You just wanted to see me get all TWISTED, didn’t you? You wanted to see me sit there and kiss your ass and laugh!


Jane grabs a dish from the counter and flings it at him. He ducks, and the dish SMASHES against the wall.

JANE: Get out! Just get the hell out, you fucking childish loser! and if we see each other in the hallway, Don’t bother talking to me, don’t you even dare look at me!

Randy tosses the hospital release form on the floor. He stalks toward the front door.

RANDY: No problem at all, bitch! No problem at all!

He swings the door open, but stops suddenly. He sees his “package” that he’d left there.

RANDY: Oh, right.

He snatches it up and holds it out to show her, it’s a bouquet of roses.

RANDY: Bought these for you, to show you how I feel.

He tosses the roses across the room, they scatter across the floor.

RANDY: Happy fucking Valentine’s Day!

He exits, SLAMMING the door shut behind him.

Jane crumbles onto the sofa and SOBS for a moment. At last, she wipes her tears away, and once again gazes around her apartment.

JANE: Oh, what a mess!

She resumes cleaning up her apartment.


Cool – I like it! I can totally imagine seeing this performed.

That is well-written dialogue. I can’t help hoping, though, that these two finally do marry each other–better only two be made miserable than four…