The Mystical Nature of Screenwriting

I was in New York this past July, my annual summer trek to see family and friends.  Usually, I never discuss screenwriting, or rather, no one ever asks. Until now.

At a get together, a friend of friend, curious about Hollywood in general, and screenwriting in particular asked me how I come up with ideas.

Answer: I don’t know.  They seem to be lurking in the background of consciousness, and then every couple of days or weeks, if I’m not feeling “creative,” they make themselves known.  And once an idea breaks into what I call the “forward awareness,” it takes on a life of its own.

Another way of saying, I think about it. And it grows and grows, until I have to write a screenplay. Well, that’s how I explained it anyway.

The truth is ideas seem to stream from a source. The characters certainly do.  In fact, I hear voices as the idea develops.  Snippets of dialogue, images of scenes playing.  Where do they come from? It’s like tuning a radio and hitting on a station and staying there.

Of course that the initial steps – grinding out the structure and developing scenes is anything but mystical.


Parasites and Hosts

In an earlier draft of our script, one of our readers was quite confused by how a parasite can infect a host.  Not a good sign when the basis of your script, the driving hidden purpose, is lost on the reader.  If you have to explain your writing, basically, you have to rewrite it.  And we did.  And he was still confused.

So then, what was the source of the confusion?  Other readers didn’t have an issue or at least they had a sense of what was going on.  Part of the problem was related to how we as humans view parasites:  nasty worms or such, causing diseases, simply, to be avoided. I asked if that was the issue.

“No, not that. I can’t see how this works.”  Fair enough. Biology is a visual science.  I know, my background is biology and I taught the subject for twenty years. I don’t teach it anymore because those in charge seem to have forgotten that simple premise. And it’s getting worse, but I digress…

Parasites are actually simple critters, with complex life cycles and highly specialized adaptations to infect their host. They occur across every Kingdom and and when I taught the subject, I even  discussed with my students how viruses behave like genetic parasites.

But enough of that. I pondered the question, “How does this work?”  The idea of an alien species implanting a parasite into a human came to me when I thought about parasitoid wasps, which are alluded to in the script.  Basically, several species of parasitoid wasps lay their egg on an unsuspecting host, usually another insect, often a caterpillar.  The egg hatches, burrows into the insect and feeds on it until wasp larvae is fully grown.  The science is fascinating: the caterpillar goes about its business gorging on food, not realizing it’s just feeding a young wasp.

“Oh, okay,” said the reader.  “Then why two parasites for one host?” Well, I thought about an answer. “It’ll be explained in the sequel. Promise.”


Math, Fractals, and Nature’s Code

Back in the day when I taught elementary school science and computers, I decided to teach a unit on Fractals.  Mind you, this was a private school, so I was free to choose curriculum.  What I discovered, as did the students, was crystal clear about the true nature of reality: we live in a fractal world. Or, perhaps better said, the code of nature is fractals.

So, what is a fractal?

Let’s back up.  I remember in high school learning about the Fibonacci series which basically works like this:  Start with 1 and it to itself, 1 +1 = 2, then add result to the previous number so it becomes a pattern like this:  1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… I remember learning how seashells and sunflowers patterned themselves with Fibonacci.  Curious, I wondered if all of nature was organized like this. Simple answer: It’s not.  Mountains, tree branches, crystals, weather patterns, in fact, just about everything in Nature do not follow any such pattern. In fact Nature rarely is so “organized” according to the logic of math.

Fast forward to the 1980s (yeah, I went to high school in the 70s) and along comes Benoit Mandelbrot who thought of Nature as certainly having a code, or as he described it with “a rough geometry.”  So he set out to prove his notion in what became known as the Mandelbrot series and his description as “fractals.”  Coupled with computers that could compute the complex math and generate visual images, fractals made their debut.  They’ve proven themselves so much like nature in form and design, computer games have adopted fractals to generate their landscapes.  In fact the incredible simulations we see in games today wouldn’t be possible without fractals.

Once you understand how to generate fractals, and there’s lots of great FREE software to  help, you’ll see fractals in everything.

Here’s a short list:

So it seems we now understand the code of Nature.  Now, if we could understand “time.”  Next blog…

Aliens and Honey Bees

Actually, this post is more inclusive, I should retitle it “Alien and Insects” but the first title seemed more catchy.

On to the matter. I often wonder why we haven’t encountered aliens, akin to invasive species that everyone sees. Yes, we hear the reports, the always grainy images or lights in the sky. But where’s that NY Times headline with an actual picture? I can’t imagine there isn’t life throughout the Universe, or our galaxy. But why don’t we have undeniable proof?

So I was thinking about honey bees. Or any pollinating insect, for that matter.

Honey bees you might ask?

We see in “visible” spectrum of light. Bees and other insect pollinators however, see colors and beyond – into the ultra violet range. They can do this because they have compound eyes which are tuned to higher frequencies. So a pretty yellow flower to us actually looks white with a red or orange center to a bee.

Why? Makes it easier for the bee to find the nectar, almost always found at the center of a flower. No doubt this is an evolutionary relationship between pollinators and flowers.

So what does this have to do with aliens? Perhaps aliens operate and exist in a higher frequency. We can’t “see” them though they might already be here. It’s interesting to note that Alien abduction testimonies often occur during the dream state, when the brain generates delta waves, the second slowest EEG wavelength of the brain.

Perhaps delta waves of human sleep are a “perfect octave” of an alien operating frequency.

Writing the Horror Film…

About three years ago, a producer approached me to write a horror film for his production company.

“Horror?” Was my response. He knew me as a sci-fi writer. “Well, let me tell you, I just did a horror film and it already made it’s money back in pre-sales overseas,” he replied, confident I would get on board.

I told him I don’t write slasher films or screaming teens running through the woods kinda films. He laughed at my ignorance. “That’s so 80s. Why don’t you check out some of the more recent films in the genre.”

So I did, and I still was not impressed. But I did note, they were smarter films than the stuff of my youth. So I considered, talked to Judy about it and we agreed we’d give it a try.

What’s so interesting about writing a horror film is the structure. Now all scripts are structured, infamously known as the “3 acts” which most films do follow. But horror is unique in that the structure is weaved together with violence and fear levels. There’s certain beats that must be matched with the level of fear. You can see it any horror film. What amused me the most were the bad films: All of a sudden, the lead characters make just stupid decisions or start screaming uncontrollably because that’s the level of fear and violence they had to achieve.

We kept that in mind when we wrote Blood Pledge. Every action had to be justified and follow logically from the story. It’s challenging for sure. As the writer, your choices are narrow because you must maintain the fear and then elevate it.

Hopefully, we achieved that.