I have started drafting (actually that’s too precise a word…more like mapping) my sci-fi pilot, and as much as I love research mode (that’s not sarcasm, I really do!) at what point do you know enough to start writing?
As a screenwriter, there is often much that is left in the hands of others. Our screenplays are blueprints from which all other departments create our vision – this new world. Obviously in the case of historical time periods there is plenty of opportunity to do research and find the “right” look or aesthetic, but in the case of science fiction and fantasy, where much of the idea is in the writer’s head, how much information are you supposed to give in order to allow the reader to see the story as you do?
I’ve been doing research on show bibles and how to create one (Bang2Write has a great article), and much of that information can be included in that, but as a screenwriter, you need the script to engage your reader with all those details, but be easy to understand so that they can visualize the story, and yet not get burdened down by too much description. And therein lies the fine line.
Tentatively titled, The Demeter, my story is about two sisters who are picked up by the cliché version of aliens (you know the ones), experimented on, and then readied for sale within the galactic slave trade. The younger is sold and the elder escapes to try to get her back, but upon nearly getting recaptured, the elder sister finds herself aboard a ship with a crew of interesting characters that will teach her a variety of things and help her try to get her sister back. Of course there will be romance, because that was one of the first scenes I had in my mind when I decided to write this story.
Not a convoluted tale, a sort of fish out of water-search & rescue kind of thing, but here is where it starts to get tricky. In my head I have all these great scenes and moments, and I thought writing a pilot wouldn’t be too difficult, until I sat down to start plotting the story. I thought it would be, not to sound ignorant, but easier because it’s just a snippet of the overall story. A teaser. I’ve written five full-length features, so writing a beginning to a greater story arc seemed like a simpler endeavor. Not quite.
First off, there are a ton of questions I can’t answer yet, such as why these girls? Why are these different characters on this ship? Secondly, I have no idea what I want the aliens to look like, Pinterest has been my friend – see here – or even what they should be called. Like this little guy. How cute is he?! Whoever created him…well done!*
There are a number of space themed films, TV shows, and video games, and anything I come up with that even remotely sounds like something I’ve heard elsewhere goes right into the bin. There’s that phrase of, “there are no original stories”, so I’m trying to stay clear of any similarities, even if it’s something I like the sound of.
There have been a number of influences for this particular idea, some may even seem odd. I don’t want all my aliens to be a variant on human physiology – two arms, two legs, etc. Obviously there’s Star Wars, but shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed us a number of characters that didn’t all walk on two legs. Men in Black and Galaxy Quest were great for that too. I liked a lot of the ideas within the show Farscape, and they made great use of puppets from the Jim Henson Company. I liked that. There’s the video game Mass Effect 2 which is so much fun and has some great stories. And then there is Doctor Who. No explanation necessary.
There are many things to consider, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I will continue more specifically with some of the information I’ve found in another post soon. These are just a few things to consider, if you’re like me, in the beginning stages of writing a pilot as TV has reached a new golden age and you’d like to be a part of it.
I’m off to discover all the whos, whats, and whys.
Best of luck to you in your writing endeavors!
*If you have info on sites to visit, boards on Pinterest, etc. where I can find ideas for races, worlds, ships, and what have you, please share!