The “Fish Out of Water” brainstorming technique has long been a staple in literature, as well as in the movies. Taking someone out of their normal element and placing them in a completely foreign environment makes for obvious laughs, adventure, and conflict. Audiences love to watch and cheer for characters who stumble and fall, but are ultimately forced to adapt to their unfamiliar surroundings and circumstances.

Here are some films that employ the “Fish out of Water” concept.

The movie Splash is literally about a fish out of water. It’s about a mermaid who leaves the sea and eventually falls in love with Tom Hanks. She has to keep him from finding out what she really is until he accepts her and later rejects his life on land to join her back in the deep.

Trading Places has Eddie Murphy playing a ghetto hustler who inadvertently is forced to trade places with Dan Akroyd, a wealthy commodities trader. Each has to adjust to a radically different world and lifestyle, which clashes with the one they know. They ultimately team up to turn the tables on those who put them in that situation in the first place.

Beverly Hills Cop has Eddie Murphy as a Detroit cop, whose friend is murdered. It prompts him to temporarily relocate to the manicured streets of Beverly Hills. There he solves the crime by dispensing Detroit-style street justice to a shocked local police department.

Brainstorming techniques in general are shortcut methods of creating stories that can be applied to many mediums, including literature, film and television. Brainstorm some Fish Out of Water concepts, and see if they find their way into your next screenplay.


Read Steve on Screenwriting by Steve Kaire once a month on Write On! Online. Kaire is a screenwriter/pitchman who’s sold eight projects to the major studios on spec without representation. For more from Steve Kaire, check out his CD: “High Concept-How to Create, Pitch & Sell to Hollywood and website.



We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, ASAP. Thanks!


Copyright © 2020 Debra Eckerling, Write On Online, All Rights Reserved.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?