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8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Sci Fi Screenplay DEAD


I get a LOT of Science Fiction at B2W … It’s a genre that’s been cool for a good while now, especially in spec TV pilots. In addition, it’s a fab genre for writers to really show off how BIG they can think in their feature scripts, especially as samples but also for those writers wanting to crack the US studio system. Also, just because  Science Fiction is high concept doesn’t mean it *can’t* be low budget either, so it can work for short film too.

In short, Sci Fi has got plenty going for it for spec writers. Yet I’ll see the same-old problems rearing their ugly heads in this genre … Set your phasers to STUN and shoot these outta your spec SF screenplays, boyz & gals:

1) Forgetting your worldbuilding

This is the thing. Your Sci Fi storyworld doesn’t exist, so you need to anchor the reader in it … but at the SAME TIME you gotta hit the ground running, too! You don’t want to do an extended introduction so much that you end up making us wait for the story to start, either! Yes, it’s difficult. But who said screenwriting was easy?? MORE: 7 Tips On Sci Fi Arenas / World Building In Your Screenplay Or Novel

2) Not making exposition clear

Exposition is background information a reader needs to be able to understand what is going on in your story. Now, that may include your storyworld (as in point 1), but also stuff like character motivation and backstory. The clarity of exposition is important in ALL stories, but especially science fiction, because we’re often dealing with – you guessed it – stuff that doesn’t actually exist. Which is why it’s so difficult! MORE: How Does Exposition Work? AKA 9 Common Exposition Qs Answered

3) Character clichés

Some of the most iconic characters have come from science fiction – Ripley, Sarah Connor, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, The Doctor, Captain Kirk, Spock, you name it. However, because of this, it can be really hard to break new ground. So make sure you’re not just copying what’s gone before! MORE: A Tale Of 2 (Mad) Scientists: How Contrast In Characterisation Works

4) Clichéd concept

Science Fiction turns up in my pile ALL THE TIME … yet too often, those spec screenplays are simply rehashing stories that have already been told. We want some new and groundbreaking, it’s NOT the execution that counts! Harsh but true. MORE: 4 Ways Samey Stories Happen … And 1 Thing You Can Do To Beat Them


5) On The Nose Dialogue

Very often writers worry we won’t understand their Sci Fi world, so they will explain every little thing with dialogue or remind us of things we’ve alreayd seen by recapping in full a scene or two later. No, just no!!! MORE5 Reasons Dialogue Is Overrated

6) Not balancing visuals & dialogue

Sometimes scribes are so afraid of point 5, they forget one of the primary purposes of dialogue is also to ILLUMINATE what’s going on in the action, too. This is why sometimes filmmakers might say, “Can I have a line for that?” as it can help anchor the audience in either what’s actually happening, or what they’re supposed to take from the scene (or both). MORE: How dialogue & action work together in GRAVITY when debris hits Explorer

7) Not combining the Sci Fi with another genre

This is the thing: Sci Fi is rarely on its own. It might be combined with Horror, Action, Adventure, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, even Comedy. But it’s usually a combo of something, with Science Fiction more the arena than a genre in its own right. MORE: Genre Films: Don’t Overthink It

8) Novelistic Scene Description

This is probably the most problematic area of Sci Fi spec screenplays – especially in the first instance. Scribes will fall in love with the “look” of the scenes … They’ll be so intent on painting every single detail with words, so they’ll write SWATHES of the black stuff to “set up” that all-important storyworld. Yet as the old adage goes, less really is more! MOREA Little Less Description, A Little More Action Please

Also in this series:

8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Thriller Screenplay DEAD

8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Drama Screenplay DEAD

8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Horror Screenplay DEAD

8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Comedy Screenplay DEAD

Want some Thriller with your Sci Fi?


Then buy my book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays! Praise for the book:

Not merely a great read for those wanting to write a thriller, but anyone with a serious interest in screenwriting”.

“The SELLING SECTION is an absolute tour de force and could be a book in its own right.”  Available in ebook & paperback. BUY IT NOW.

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