Coming up with a new story is difficult. That’s why Hollywood often looks to foreign movies and borrow existing plots and characters to create a Western version of the same story with English-speaking actors and actresses.
“Quarantine” is a found footage horror film based on a Spanish film of the same name. By simply remaking this Spanish film, Hollywood could quickly create a new movie.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to obtain the rights of an existing story, all you have to do is take an existing story and find a way to twist it. For example, Stephen King wrote a novel called “Misery” where a writer is rescued by his biggest fan, who turns out to be a psychotic nurse intent on torturing him as he recovers from a car accident.
Hollywood turned “Misery” into a successful movie because they adapted the existing plot of the novel and turned it into a compelling screenplay. Then a South Korean directory saw “Misery,” which is told largely through the point of view of the writer who’s being tortured, and that’s when he decided to borrow the plot and characters.
So rather than create a remake of “Misery” for South Korean audiences, he borrowed the plot and characters of “Misery” and decided to tell a story from the psychotic kidnapper and torturer. That South Korean movie was released under the name of “Save the Green Planet.”
In “Misery,” the hero is the writer being tortured. In “Save the Green Planet,” the hero is the person torturing a hostage who he believes is really an alien from Andromeda who has come to Earth to destroy it.
So the story in “Save the Green Planet” is basically the story of “Misery” except told from the kidnapper’s point of view. It’s similar enough to borrow the same plot and characters but different enough to avoid buying the rights to “Misery.”
When creating your own screenplays, think of stories you admire and then borrow the plot and characters to put it in a different setting so you have an original story all your own.
“High Noon” was a western about a lone sheriff fighting two gunslingers sent to kill him. “Outland” was a science fiction film about a lone sheriff on a space station fighting two hit men sent to kill him. It’s the same plot but different setting.
“Misery” was about a writer trying to escape from a psychotic kidnapper. “Save the Green Planet” was about a psychotic kidnapper trying to torture a man to get him to admit he’s really an alien from Andromeda. Same story but different goals and point of view.
Make it easy on yourself. Don’t try to create a story from scratch. Start with a story you like and change the details around just enough to make your story unique and original. You’ll be surprised at how this simple tactic can make writing a story so much easier by recycling a story that already works.