What are the keys to creating your own cinematic sci-fi epic? Join guest writer Roger Wolfson and ScienceFiction.com as we explore this topic from concept to script. In a series of articles, Wolfson will mentor, guide, and hopefully inspire you on “How to write your own ‘Avatar.’
I’ve been a Television Writer for seventeen years. I started off as a lawyer, however, so I’ve often ended up writing for shows that have “law” in the title – like ‘Law and Order: SVU,’ ‘Fairly Legal,’ etc. I’ve also managed to sell ten TV pilots of my own creation, and so I believe I have sufficient experience to make the following statement:
Many experienced writers find science fiction to be a most exciting and creatively expansive form of writing – but we still don’t venture into it.
Reason being is, most of us came to writing with an area of expertise, and in order to succeed in this industry, we have learned to lean on the experience we have. Doctors-turned-writers write medical shows, political types, political shows; standups write comedies. Who really has “experience” in the area of science fiction?
Sure, there are scientists and futurists. The first TV show I wrote for, on CBS, was actually a science fiction legal show set 25 years in the future – it was called “Century City,” and it starred Viola Davis, and we commenced writing for the show by hearing from most of the top futurist/consultants in town. Yes, these people had “experience.” But honestly, most of them predicted incorrectly about what was coming down the pike.
The point is, none of us actually have experience with the future itself. So the only real relevant experience necessary to write science fiction is what the readers of ScienceFiction.com already have: love of the genre. Passion. Intelligence. Devotion.
And I’m here to tell all of you that these qualifications are most of what you need in order to try your hand at writing your own work.
But some guidance helps, too, and I’d like to provide some, if you’ll indulge me. Why do I want to do this? Because I feel that science fiction, of all genres, has the greatest potential to get society to look at itself, and perhaps change. And since you, the person reading this, cares about this genre, I believe you care about the future, and I want to empower you to put your voice and your talent into the mix.
I’m going to cover one piece of advice per article. Let’s see how far we get, over time.
What is it you most want to say?
This is one of the hardest things for a writer to do, but it doesn’t have to be. Here is what I ask the writers I mentor: “what is your favorite subject to talk about? When you are out with friends, what issue do you look forward to coming up in conversation, and expound the most aggressively about?” There is something that you – and only you – love most to discuss. It can be a complaint about society, it can be a political issue that sticks in your craw, it can be something wonderful that moves you to tears (if you allow it). But it’s something, and it belongs to you.
That is where to start. Step one: What do I want to say.
Step two, which we will cover carefully next, is what to say about what you want to say. What is the point. What is the reflection on that matter that you can offer that no one else can.
Step three is, finding the metaphor that turns this into science fiction.
Stay tuned for more. I hope you join me on this journey. I can’t wait to see what you end up creating.
Roger Wolfson is a TV and screenwriter most notable for writing for the TV series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ ’Saving Grace,’ ‘Fairly Legal,’ ‘Century City,’ and “The Closer,’ where one of his episodes earned Kyra Sedgwick her first Emmy nomination. You can follow Roger on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.