Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Writing the Science Fiction Film by Robert Grant
Robert Grant. Writing the Science Fiction Film. Saline, MI.: McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., 2013.
Science fiction requires that science be in the story. The science does not have to be real. Fantasy films are different as they do not rely on science.
Some types of science fiction films involve time travel, space travel, post-apocalyptic worlds, alternative histories, alien beings, alien worlds, robots, superpowers, transformation, and mutation
Cyberpunk stories are about future, high tech societies, with evil corporations and corrupt governments in control with a hero or groups of heroes rising to help the “have nots” of society.
Steampunk are circa Victorian era stories with far advanced innovations.
Alien stories include first contact stories, alien invasions, and monsters.
Apocalyptic event stories, or disaster movies, have Earth falling apart. Some are set in a post-apocalyptic future, after global disaster divides people into “haves” and “have nots”. Dystopian future stories are grim Utopian future sotires often appear happy but with grim undertones.
Space Westerns and Space Operas often have good and bad guys similar to Westerns. It is advised to avoid re-telling old tales and avoid relying on Western movie cliches.
The Military Science Fiction stories are like most other combat stories except wiwth aliens, robots, and high tech weapons.
Superhero and Superpower stories have a hero fighting for justice using supernatural powers.
Mundane Science Fiction deals with real science.
When considering story ideas consider “What if...?”. Consider what is taking place, including new future, with shows things with which people may identify, or the far future which allows greater creativity. Consider known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown un-knows
Know your story’s hero and what the hero brings to the story.
The author believes sidekicks are duplicative and not necessary. What is useful in a story is a hero’s buddy, best friend, or assistant. This second character can provide Muscle to the hero’s intelligence, or can provide comic relief. This second character should have a reason for being there, should not distract, have knowledge or a skill the hero lacks, and should have a contrasting personality.
Consider character to character relations to each other and what to which factions they belong, what factions exist, and whether they are friends or foes.
Consider why a villain exists, what made the villain villainous, how the villain related to the hero, what drives the villain, and what does the villain fear.
Characters with human characteristics and should not be stereotyped. Common hunan heroes are Alpha Males, the Nerdy Guy, the Al Action Girl, the Best FriendGirl, the Sassy Best Friend, and the Nice Normal Guy
Character names should reflect their personalities and roles, be age (era) appropriate, be usual and unusual, not be similar, and if alien, should not be Earth names. Avoid names that end with an “s” as they are difficult to read.
Consider how similar and dissimilar to humans are the alien characters. GIve them a purpose for being in the story. Consider the universal laws of physics and of organic bodies where each structure of their bodies have purposes.
Consider whose point of view is telling the story.
Develop an exciting plot. It should have rising conflict. The ending should be satisfying. The story should be strong, have lots of conflicts, should aoid being delayed with too many characters, and should constantly move foward.
The story should have a central question or establishing theme. Do not use cliches.
Choose a setting for the story. Consider how the setting changes as the story advances.
The author advises having alien worlds with multiple cultures. An alien world should have consistency, be natural, obey the laws of physics, and should be authentic.
A good technological advance should look like magic. Thus write the magic to make the viewer believe the science fiction. Don’t write contradictory facts. Try for the Right Science. Avoid the Lazy Science of unbelievable plots.
Robot stories are actually about what we identify in being human.
Traveling through space affects the human body in numerous ways. Realism will note these changes.
In reality, one sees where a laser beam hits but not the beam itself.
There is no air pressure outside a spacecraft, There also is no sound in space.
Dialogue should be how people speak. Most people speak informally. Where appropriate, street slang can be used.
When creating an alien language, consider how ti should sound. Use the same lexicon throughout.
Exposition can be hidden Exposition can also be disguised and Exposition can be made into Dramatic Turns.
Flashback s a cheat for lazy exposition is bad. Yet flashback can work when telling an important part of the story.
Montage can use flashes through time, either flashbacks or flashforwards.
Avoid using adverbs that end in -ly.
A script can began in numerous ways, including a normal day, the starting point, with a foreshadowing event, with a dramatic irony, with a montage, or least preferable but still sometimes useful, a voiceover.
The first 10 pages of the script should inform of the the genre, create the setting, establish the tone, present the main and key characters, often present the villain, show the status quo benchmarks, present the main character;s flaws, show the themes, and establish the drama.
In re-writing, eliminate unnecessary words, create a style, don’t overdo details, eep the story interesting by having the main character active and moving the story forward. The motivations and stakes must be clear. The character must be interesting and original rather than obvious. The pace should vary.
The viewer should not be baffled with little known jargon, being expected to be experts in what is presented, not able to understand what they need to know, and not being deluged with technical aspects.
A character voice should consider the character’s personalities, attitudes, pre-occupations, intelligence, profession, and lifestyle.
Avoid expositional writing. Use subtext in dialogue.
Voiceover can add to a movie if done carefully.