Sci-Fi, a genre that has been a part of cinema since the early 1900s, is arguably one of the most challenging film genres to create. There have been countless great Sci-Fi films and shows over the years, with classics such as Alien (1979) to the modern adaptation of Dune (2021).
The great scripts in the genre showcase that it’s possible to make a superb Sci-Fi script. Still, how does your vision of the next Sci-Fi epic turn into paper? If you’re stuck writing your Sci-Fi script and need a few tips to get you going, look no further. Below will highlight a few key points on writing a Sci-Fi script. Let’s take a look!
Still from 'Arrival'. Photo credit: MUBI
Create an Original Vision
The most prominent issue novice screenwriters and writers as a whole have with Sci-Fi is finding a sense of originality for their story. Like many other genres, just about everything has been done. Want to write an alien movie? Everyone will compare it to the 1979 classic. Spaceship galactic quest story? Star Wars will indeed be brought up.
Still, don’t let the constant comparison of your story idea sway you from creating your story. It’s practically impossible to create an original idea. All that matters is you find some way of separating your story from all of the cliches and classics in the genre.
For example, take a look at the film Sputnik (2020). Many compared the film to Alien (1979) before it was even released, and although there are some similarities, it holds enough as its own. There are plenty of great Sci-Fi stories today; examine what makes them great and implement that mindset into your story.
Don’t Over Describe
Once you have an original idea laid out and ready to rip, the next most significant challenge is describing your story. Sci-Fi can be complicated, especially when trying to sell it to a mainstream audience. Still, there is a fine line between describing what your world is and spoon-feeding.
The best way you can showcase your world and story is through your characters. Have an essential aspect of the world that needs to be explained? Have your character be involved with that action without them looking at the screen and explaining it. Some Sci-Fi films also rely on opening crawls to explain the world (Blade Runner, Star Wars).
Try to Simplify It
When it comes to any Sci-Fi story, writers tend to think they will write the next Star Wars or Terminator. Overenvisioning isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it’s always great to have huge inspirations. What’s vital is to simplify the story enough, so it’s about the characters and the world around them, not the other way around.
Simplify the story as much as you can so it’s about the plot itself, not hours of explaining every finite detail of the world. People don’t know everything about Blade Runner or Alien; all we know are the essential plot points of what’s going. Deckard is a blade runner after replicants, and the crew on the Nostromo are dealing with an Alien.
Don’t Forget the Human Element
Going off the notion of simplifying the story, that simplification should have a focus on the characters. Take a look at the magnitude of a story such as Dune. As much as Denis Villeneuve had to explain the world early on, every character had loads of characterization surrounding them.
The human element is what allows the audience to relate to and appreciate a story. That human element should be displayed through action and dialogue. Try not to rely too heavily on description unless it’s early in the film and you just need it to be quickly explained.
Realize Storytelling Drives the Script, Not The World
Like the human element of a Sci-Fi script, it can’t be said enough that the story itself should drive the script, not the world. As great as a fascinating world can benefit a story, it can’t be the only reason for the script. Take a look at films like The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017); exciting worlds but awful storytelling.
Dialogue (Realistic or True to World)
Like any other genre, dialogue is imperative to the success of a Sci-Fi script. How that dialogue is conveyed can go with two main routes. It can either be realistic such as iRobot or Terminator (outside of the terminator), or it can be faithful to the world it’s in, such as Star Wars or Dune.
Great Sci-Fi Scripts
Now that you know some essential tips on writing a Sci-Fi script, be sure to analyze some of the available great scripts. Analyzing other scripts is a great way to see what makes them unique and what you can take from them as an influence. Some examples to start with include:
● Alien (1979)
● Arrival (2016)
● Back to the Future (1985)
● Blade Runner (1982)
● Solaris (1972)
● Stalker (1979)
● The Terminator (1984)
● The Thing (1982)