Inspiration for your Sci-Fi Screenplays

I work less than I want in the sci-fi genre, but if I had to pick one, then it would definitely be it. And this January, I did direct a sci-fi short I wrote for the Sci-Fi Anthology Scifive, which is coming soon to a galaxy near you... Until then I am working on some other sci-fi scripts in development, and have sci-fi constantly on my mind. So I am always looking for more inspiration and solutions to how to solve some aspects of a story that I am currently working on realistically and based in science. The article below list some great resources for finding inspiration and those answers.

Four Blogs That Will Improve Your Sci-Fi Screenplay

By admin via screencraft.org

Perhaps more than any other genre, sci-fi writers can benefit from keeping up with the latest science and technology news and research, as well as Futurist thought leaders.. Whether you’re looking for the real-world discoveries that will spark a new story, or need sharper insights to bring authenticity to an existing script, here are some of the best blogs to add to your reading list.

1. Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer writes blog posts on technology, media, marketing and politics. Recent posts that seem especially intriguing for sci-fi writers include The Five Jobs Robots Will Take First and The Five Jobs Robots Will Take Last.

Compare #3 on each of those lists: Journalists and Politicians. Can you guess which job the robots are predicted to replace first, and which they won’t be able to take over for?

2. Futurism

The Futurism blog provides the latest news, infographics, and videos on the science and technology that are shaping the future of humanity, including AI, robotics and virtual reality.

Take this recent article: Tech May Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor

When we think of new technologies and the future, we often imagine everyone having equal access to advances that make life easier, faster, more exciting. But what if that’s not the case?

The author points out: “New technologies have always cost some people their livelihood while helping many others.” Imagine the story possibilities in a world where this has occurred.

3. Evolution Shift

David Houle writes about future trends in healthcare, education, energy, technology, and the global economy.

Houle’s post about the discovery of red dwarf sun Trappist-1 takes an interesting angle on this “major step forward in answering the question about whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Cosmos.” Specifically, why haven’t we heard more about it? Quoting Marshall McLuhan, “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

What story ideas do these observations spark for you?

4. Future Conscience

Future Conscience is a futurist ethics blog that explore all avenues of human progress through the eyes of a future conscience. There’s a huge archive of articles that will surely get your story wheels turning. But just for a change of pace, I’ll point out another way the site can help:

Here’s their round up of the Top 10 Futurist Websites.

That’s right – a fascinating rabbit hole that will likely steal away your writing time today, but it may be well worth it!


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Writing the Action Sequence: “Rule of Three”

Rules, rules, rules! Isn't art all about being free?! No actually to create good art an artist follows rules, some obvious, some subliminal, but all tested and universal. Of course, an artist can choose to break them, but he or she should only do so if it there is a good reason for it. Otherwise, it will become a gimmick, and I think we can all agree that gimmicks should be avoided. 

Below is an interesting breakdown of how the "Rule of Three" applies to action sequences. 

Anatomy of a Scene: Using the “Rule of Three” in Action Sequences

via screencraft.org by admin

Three is a very satisfying number. In the world of drama especially, the number three is king when it comes to just about anything. After all, there are three actions in a film. The first act sets up the drama, the second has everything go to hell, and the third sports the story’s resolution. But if you look at any single sequence with a dramatic set up in an action film, we’re guessing you can probably see three iterations of something.

The idea here is the same as an act structure — if the good guys have to do a thing three times it allows you to show it done regularly the first time, have the second attempt be a complete mess, and then feature a dramatic resolution for the third.

A really strong example of this rule of three can be found in 1996’s franchise standout Star Trek: First Contact. The second act features a really inventive action sequence that clearly didn’t have much budget to work with, so they employed the rule of three to squeeze as much suspense they could out of its seven minutes of runtime.

What’s the set up?

The Enterprise is in the past and slowly being taken over by techno-zombies called the Borg. Captain Picard, Worf, and Lt. Hawk have to spacewalk to the ship’s main deflector and prevent the Borg from building a communication array that would send an SOS to their past selves, leading to horrific invasion that would mean the end of humanity.

How do the good guys plan to accomplish their goal?

They have to detach the deflector dish, which means disengaging three maglocks without being taken out by Borg drones.

What disadvantages do the good guys have?

Well, they can fire one shot at the bad guys before their weapons become useless as The Borg adapt. The Borg also don’t need space suits to survive in a vacuum, so there’s that.

Where does the rule of three come in?

As each crewmember tries to use the maglocks, they find their access is denied because of the changes the Borg have made to the ship.

Picard’s attempt to access the maglock doesn’t draw much attention.

Worf’s gets a significant glance… but a drone goes after Hawk, who uses their one shot to defend himself.

So far, so good. That’s your first round of threes.

What’s the next round of three?

We’ve reached the main event. Now that the maglocks are all accessible thanks to some manual overrides, it’s time for our heroes to turn heavy switches.

Unfortunately, now the Borg are on to their plan.

Just as Worf engages his lock — it’s easy for him so we can see how it’s done — a drone comes after him. Worf manages to kill it with a Klingon blade…

… but his suit is punctured and the decompression takes him out of the fight. They just lost their best guy.

What about the other two good guys?

While Hawk is trying to turn his switch, a drone overtakes him. That right there is a textbook second objective complication.

Picard manages to disengage his lock and evade a drone just in the nick of time by turning off his gravity boots and floating to the other side of the dish.

What what’s the situation of the drama now?

Two of our good guys have been taken out. There’s one more lock left to disengage, but the Borg have completed their array and are about to transmit. Picard has to get to it and destroy the array before it’s too late.

Do things get worse? They sure do! Picard manages to disengage the last maglock, and just as he’s about to deliver the final shot with his rifle he gets attacked by Hawk… who is now a Borg!

Hawk beats Picard up and is about to kill him when —

I sense a resolution coming…

Yup! Borgified Hawk is shot by Worf, who tied off the decompressed part of his suit with a dead Borg’s wiring.

Picard severs the array off from the ship, and Worf destroys with the one-liner, “Assimilate this.”

He fires and destroys the array.

Everyone — excerpt poor Hawk — goes home happy.

What’s the take away here?

Action sequences should be treated the same as the larger story they inhabit. They have a beginning, middle, and end. One of the easiest ways to frame that structure is to give your characters three things to accomplish. It could be three different tasks, but most of the time — for simplicity’s sake — it’s the same objective that must be accomplished three times.

Another great example of this structure is Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s third act. If you recall, their objective in that action sequence is to reprogram three helicarriers. The first carrier goes fine, the second one is difficult, and for the third they have to find out a creative solution which involves destroying it with the hero still inside.

Don’t be afraid of the number three. It may seem like a troupe, but it’s one of the most effective ways to structure your drama.

Ashley Scott Meyers is a screenwriter and podcaster over at SellingYourScreenplay.com. He has sold and optioned dozens of scripts over the last two decades. Through SYS he runs a screenplay analysis service, provides paid job leads to screenwriters, and helps screenwriters connect with producers who are looking for material.