Roger Wolfson‘s series about how to write your own science fiction masterpiece took a bit of a hiatus recently because, well, all of us now are pretty much on hiatus, thanks to COVID-19.
But the crisis dovetails fairly well with what I wanted my next installment to be about. We’ve talked about how to pick a subject that matters to you; how to come up with something to say about what matters to you; and how to pick a metaphor that illustrates your point.
Now, we need to talk about something even more important:
The importance of saving the world.
I’m sure you want to ask, “But Roger, doesn’t Hollywood hate messages? I want to sell my project. I want an audience. I don’t want to preach.”
To that, I would respond: Not only does almost every science fiction writer have, as their ultimate intention, the goal of using words to save humanity, but so do more Hollywood executives than I can count.
That said, yes, they don’t want it to look that way. But that’s why science fiction uses metaphor.
As for the importance of these ambitions, could there be any better example, right now, than this crisis? How many of you are now looking at your existing projects and thinking maybe I should be aiming higher? With schools and restaurants and public gatherings closed, with every elderly person in our families at risk, with all of us sequestered in our homes and our health care system already aggressively cut thin, shouldn’t we as writers be looking for the next coronavirus; the next calamity, the next great existential threat to our survival and bringing it to the attention of society?
In that sense, writers are the Paul Revere’s of modern society. Look at your streaming feed these days. I’m pretty much willing to bet that my friend Scott Z. Burns’s film “Contagion” is appearing on your suggested watch list. It came out in 2011 and wasn’t the biggest hit. But it was Scott’s way of trying to wake us up. And, had we listened, we might have been better prepared for what is happening now.
So, what do you see in your crystal ball? What is society missing? What is your area of expertise? What do you know that I don’t know?
If you don’t have an area of expertise, you certainly have an area of fascination. What can you look into that makes you curious? What do you want to study that is meaningful to you? What keeps YOU up at night? What inspires you? What frustrates you? What do you see as a societal blind spot that only you have the angle to catch?
Dear writer, take this time. Take this as a challenge and a cause: What do we need to know? We need you to ask these questions. Writers are shamans. We go into the mountains and we come back with visions for our tribes. Never forget that this is your holy assignment, if you choose to write.
Come up with your vision.
Then, save us with your words.
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.