story Telling the essential elements of my story.

Hello everyone,

I'm writing out my science fiction opus (or so I call it), and I still hope, one day, to pitch it to investors so as to make it a streaming TV series or movie. Anyway, to me, the focus is the story, not the special effects or the visuals. I know many films are star vehicles, which centre around the movie star, and others focus on the awesome imagery of majestic visuals. My science fiction, however, would focus on the story and, in particular, the concept.

A good example would be Star Trek - I'm a die-hard Trekkie. One episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation involves Captain Picard trapped on a planet with the captain of another alien vessel. No one in the Federation can understand the alien's language, until Picard realizes that they talk in allegory, not conventional speech. In other words, that story focuses on the thought experiment of a species with a language built on metaphor and examples.

I can still remember when we first watched it - I was in college, at the TV room, with another person, and he said that's what he likes, not mindless action but the concept, the thought experiment.

The episode is "Darmok", in the fifth season of Next Gen. In my opinion, this story can be acted out without props, in a rehearsal. So, to me, the stories that I want to tell must be stories that can be done without big-name stars, without expensive special effects, and in a theatre involving actors who just act out the scenes. In other words, strip the story to its bare bones and see if it works.

I'd appreciate any feedback on this. Thanks.
 
Good point.

Let me elaborate. When I say, "strip down", I meant, "If you take away the big-name star, take away the fancy sets and costumes, take away the glitzy special effects, would the thought experiment still be interesting?"

"Darmok" would have remained an interesting concept.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
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I know exactly what you mean. It's like in music, metal for example. Can you take an elaborate song with all kinds of effects, distortion, etc... take away smoke machines and lights... and play it on piano or acoustic guitar? It's the same principle. When the bones are strong the song is there.
 
There are two separate questions:
1. Is it interesting?
2. Will it sell?
Hi Mara,

In terms of the first question, that would be the goal of all story tellers, not just (aspiring) science fiction writers. But I tested some drafts with some people, and they said the concept is interesting.

As for the second question, no one knows anything. :redgrin:
 
"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." Yes, one of the better episodes.

I want to tell ... stories that can be done without big-name stars, without expensive special effects.
As an example I would put forward the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951). IMHO, and to your point, they totally missed the meaning in the 2008 version, burying it in special effects. Okay, the original had a few big names attached in front of and behind the camera, but it told a story about real people involved in an extraordinary situation. (BTW, you should view the Behind the Scenes and listen to the audio commentary of the 1951 version; fascinating, to quote Mr. Spock.)

"The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a thought experiment based upon the premise of "what if aliens landed on earth?" Granted, that idea was around long before the film was made, and has been repeated ad nauseam ever since, but it was told from the point of how people react, more than what the aliens would do (until the very end, of course). So, your "thought experiments" should probably be centered/pitched more in the context of "people stories."
 
"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." Yes, one of the better episodes.



As an example I would put forward the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951). IMHO, and to your point, they totally missed the meaning in the 2008 version, burying it in special effects. Okay, the original had a few big names attached in front of and behind the camera, but it told a story about real people involved in an extraordinary situation. (BTW, you should view the Behind the Scenes and listen to the audio commentary of the 1951 version; fascinating, to quote Mr. Spock.)

"The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a thought experiment based upon the premise of "what if aliens landed on earth?" Granted, that idea was around long before the film was made, and has been repeated ad nauseam ever since, but it was told from the point of how people react, more than what the aliens would do (until the very end, of course). So, your "thought experiments" should probably be centered/pitched more in the context of "people stories."
Yes, you're right on, especially about "The Day the Earth Stood Still". I don't bother with modern remakes, which are as you said. But this 1951 classic remains that. Another one would be "Forbidden Planet", which is really "The Tempest" put in an outer space context.
 
As someone who grew up on a diet of radio plays, I have a preference (or prejudice? :bag: ) for productions with a good, properly structured story. When transferring these to the screen, some of them need good special effects to carry the story, and I'd say that sci-fi falls into this category more often than not. It'd be very hard for an awestruck character to be believable if the visual effects are rubbish! The polar opposite (for me) is the horror genre, where these days visual and sound/music effects seem to make up 90% of the effort, and the characters are little more than set decoration. The last good horror movie I've seen is Hitchcock's The Birds which works along the same lines as your example: placing emphasis on the (realistic) human reaction to a near-normal situation gone awry.

Whether a Big Name is cast or not is purely a marketing decision. A good story will stand on its own merits; sometimes throwing a Big Name into a bad script is the only way to recover production costs! 🤪
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
As you know, Mogul, one of the reasons Roddenberry chose science fiction
is because he could get away with social commentary that might not pass
S&P of the 1960's.

I agree with you; it's all about the story. But is seems many people don't care.
How many times have you talked with someone about a movie they "loved" and
said, "but the story is terrible" and they say, "I know, but those action scenes!"
 
Happy Veterans' Day.

CelticRambler, you're right about the special effects. As was told to me on this forum, we watch film and TV because of the nature of the medium, otherwise we would just be reading out the story. I agree that props and sfx are important, but they CANNOT replace the story.

Mara, my concern about the Big Name is, as William Goldman noted, the story could then begin to revolve around him. If Luke Skywalker had been played by Big Name, that Big Name may have demanded an additional scene where he told Obi-Wan that he could have won, but he just let his father win. That would have hurt the story badly, because the essence was that Luke had to lose totally to his father and escape. That is why I've decided NOT to have any Big Name, unless he would be in a role like Obi-Wan. I'm not saying any Big Name is clamouring to be in my movie, which has been pending for over a decade, but that's my decision.

Rik, I have never heard anyone in my circle say that, though I'm sure lots of people do. I have heard, however, that many hard-core sci-fi fans are now unhappy with Star Trek, and many also want the thought-experiments, the what-if?, that we have been discussing. I have made my bet that this is an underserved market, and, in any case, this is the story I want to write anyway.

So, yes, my magnum opus must have good props, good special effects, but the core of that story must be such that it can be told in a theatre stage.
 

indietalk

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Staff member
Admin
I think it's a great exercise to see if it can be pulled off stripped down. Like a local theater, etc. Then if so, that is great, and it can be built upon and as the director you will have the choice to go minimalist or max with fx and A-liters! But you will know your story is there, and making these decisions with confidence instead of out of necessity (thinking they are needed).
 
The polar opposite (for me) is the horror genre, where these days visual and sound/music effects seem to make up 90% of the effort, and the characters are little more than set decoration. The last good horror movie I've seen is Hitchcock's The Birds...
Check out "The Changeling" (1980) with George C Scott. It's a psychological horror film, the type that I vastly prefer. (BTW, it is on YouTube in its entirety, quality is fair.) What effects there are seem to be good old-fashioned practical effects. During most of the film whenever you are in "the house" the camera is almost always moving (slowly, subtly), giving the impression that Prof. Russel is being watched - really creepy.
 
I think it's a great exercise to see if it can be pulled off stripped down. Like a local theater, etc. Then if so, that is great, and it can be built upon and as the director you will have the choice to go minimalist or max with fx and A-liters! But you will know your story is there, and making these decisions with confidence instead of out of necessity (thinking they are needed).
Thanks. That said, I will need some special effects, because my story is, at its heart, military science fiction, which requires spaceships battling it out.

Another good example would be "Yesterday's Enterprise". The thought experiment was wonderful, the characterization was great, but the episode still needed good glitz and bright lights to make it a good story.
 
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To elaborate on "Yesterday's Enterprise", part of the story involved a battle with Klingon cruisers. If we did rehearsals, a character could say, "Captain, one enemy ship destroyed, and the other two have broken off ... for now."

While that would not be as dramatic, the story would still have worked with that tell not show.

Thanks, everyone, for your input, because I'm fleshing out my idea of the stories I want to tell.
 
we watch film and TV because of the nature of the medium, otherwise we would just be reading out the story.
I think it's a great exercise to see if it can be pulled off stripped down. Like a local theater, etc. Then if so, that is great, and it can be built upon
This discussion has reminded me of a stage performance I saw in Dublin, about ... oooooh ... thirty years ago (ish) of Fall of the House of Usher. It was (still is) memorable because it was acted without any props, and only token décor as scenery, but the Foley-esque soundtrack was incredible - the scraping of chairs that weren't there, the sound of cutlery on invisible plates, glasses being filled with drinks poured from bottles that didn't exist ...

I think, @Aspiring Mogul , that you've missed a step between "just ... reading" a story and a film adaptation: there's a lot to be said for fully acted audio performances (and it's a heck of a lot easier for radio to handle scripts with multiple locations too! 😉 )
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
I would say that in scifi, a concept or idea is the central core. Story is included to really just promote your scientific thesis.

Even in your example about that Star Trek episode, it really sounds like your friend was in love with the idea of the Aliens speaking that way, and he enjoyed the more laid back approach of demonstrating how aliens are different.

SciFi is looking at science in a way that effects things in a fictional world. It usually takes special FX to do this because this way of looking isn't the norm for real life. You are telling a story outside the realm of reality, and therefore need to rely on creating things from imagination.

I am working on a SciFi film right now, and the story really isn't strong because I wrote it... in addition its a short film, so incredibly difficult to fit high concepts into that container, BUT... I am doing my best to make it look and feel as majestic and beautiful as I can. But, when developing the script, the concept was my biggest hurdle to topple. Then the story was grown from that central concept.

For your script, what's the plot summary?
 
OBM,

SciFi is looking at science in a way that effects things in a fictional world. It usually takes special FX to do this because this way of looking isn't the norm for real life. You are telling a story outside the realm of reality, and therefore need to rely on creating things from imagination.
Agreed.


I am working on a SciFi film right now, and the story really isn't strong because I wrote it... in addition its a short film, so incredibly difficult to fit high concepts into that container, BUT... I am doing my best to make it look and feel as majestic and beautiful as I can. But, when developing the script, the concept was my biggest hurdle to topple. Then the story was grown from that central concept.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. And, if that's your passion, you'll be driven to do so.


For your script, what's the plot summary?
I've changed my approach - instead of directing a movie, I will be a writer, publishing books and short stories, then pitching it. I now realize my passion is science fiction, not film or TV per se, and I have to thank the regulars here for helping me find my way. As for the plot, I would like to write a space opera, which would be a series of books spanning generations. A good example, in print, would be the Lensman series by EE Doc Smith. In animation, "Robotech" would be another one, and, of course, Star Trek does span generations.

Added to this, however, would be the supporting documentation. Hard-core fans like me like to analyze the background of what's going on. If you google, "The Battle of Hoth", you will see the battlefield analyses of that fight in "The Empire Strikes Back". And, as any hard-core Trekkie can tell you, there are many books published on the ships in Star Fleet. This would seem a drudgery to others, but, to us, that's part of the joy, to build the background or, as we say, world building.

So my magnum opus would involve publishing the novels and short stories, and, at the same time, write the background. Once that is done, and, once they are published, I will start pitching to make the film and TV adaptations.

Thanks, my friend, for letting me write out my plan. :)
 

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