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.’
You can read Chapter One here.
In my last article, I explained that I’ve been a Television Writer for seventeen years, and because of my legal background, I’ve often ended up writing for legal shows. But my heart, and the heart of many working writers like me, lies in Science Fiction. From ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ to ‘Avatar,’ it feels as though my growth as a person can be charted and measured by these masterpieces. As such, I’m invested in encouraging people who have an interest in Science Fiction to follow their bliss and create a masterpiece of their own.
Through these articles, I want to encourage and empower you to write your own landmark script.
The first step is to decide what is it you most want to say.
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?”
Step two is to decide what to say about what you want to say.
For example, let’s look at ‘Avatar.’ I think it’s pretty clear that a subject on James Cameron’s mind is the environment. I think he’s interested in spirituality. I think he also seems to be interested in America’s imperial tendencies and willingness to make enemies out of people who have natural resources we desire. I’m fairly confident he’s expounded on these topics endlessly at dinners, long conversations with friends.
But ‘Avatar’ didn’t end up simply as a list of the issues on Cameron’s heart. He had something to say about what he wanted to say. It wasn’t as simple as: environment = important; spirituality = good; imperialism = bad. He had actual wisdom to offer.
The environment and humanity are profoundly connected, the two entities cannot escape one other. (So, I’ll create a world where these connections are more literal and visceral and inescapable than they appear to be on Earth). Our essence is not physical, our essence is soulful – we are much, much more than simply bodies. (So, I’ll create a situation where humans can leave their own bodies for other bodies almost interchangeably). Imperialism eats away at the fabric of our shared humanity. (So, I’ll create a situation where American audiences will end up rooting for the equivalent of terrorists, instead of rooting for corporate/military forces).
Today, I ask you to please decide what you most want to comment on. Then, come up with what you want to say about that subject. What is the furthermost wisdom you have to offer? What do you know that I don’t know? What do you want to leave me with?
Another question I ask of the writers I mentor is: If you could only write one project for the rest of your life, why does it HAVE to be this one? And the next question is: If all of America, if not the world, could watch only one project for an entire year – why does it HAVE to be yours?
These are separate questions. One makes sure that you’re tuned in to why this is important to you, to write this project. The other is to make sure you’re tuned in to why it’s important to the rest of us for you to write this project.
And the keyword in both sentences is: “HAVE.” Too many new writers enter the field writing about something that is almost important to them. I ask that you save yourself a year or two of your life and start right off the bat with something that is vital to you. Something you simply HAVE to write about.
I look forward to the answers you come up with!
Next article: Turning Your Concepts Into Metaphors
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.