When you write a screenplay, it’s easy to think it’s the most compelling story int he world. However to an outsider, such as a Hollywood reader or studio executive, the real question isn’t what your story is about but why is it so special in the first place?
Identify one unique feature of your story such as setting, character, or plot. If one of those are unique, you have the potential for a unique story.
There are hundreds of monster movies but “Jaws” defined a genre making a great white shark the monster in the ocean. The new character of a shark made “Jaws” different, but now we’ve seen dozens of shark movies and none of them can match up to “Jaws” because they don’t offer anything unique.
“Alien” was pitched as “Jaws” in space, and that put a monster in a unique setting of a spaceship. Then Hollywood tried to clone “Alien” with similar monsters in a space station or an undersea station with predictably dull results, much like all those shark movies that are mildly interesting at best.
“Jaws” defined a new character, “Alien” defined a new setting, but another way to make your story different is the plot. Don’t bother trying to create an original plot. Instead, try to use an existing plot told in a different way.
Romantic comedies tend to work the same: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. That’s basically the plot of “Knocked Up” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Just switch this plot around with girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy, and you get the plot of “While You Were Sleeping” and “The Proposal” where the story focuses on the woman trying to find true love instead of the man.
Same story, just with a different twist.
Make at least one element in your story different. There have been lots of stories about treasure hunters but “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was unique in that the treasure hunter was an archeologist wielding a whip.
There have been many monster movies where a hero must escape an unstoppable creature, but “The Terminator” was unique in making the monster a killer cyborg from the future.
There have been plenty of war movies but “Inglorious Basterds” was about Jewish soldiers killing Nazis while being hunted down by a man dubbed the Jew Hunter.
When creating your story, something must be different. Identify that unique feature and you’ll be on your way to telling a fresh, original, compelling story.