James Cameron is not only an amazing director, he’s a brilliant screenwriter. He’s given us some of the most iconic sci-fi films of all time – Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, T2 and of course Avatar. But what makes these films so great? Sure the groundbreaking special effects are impressive, but they don’t make a great film by themselves (sorry Battleship). It’s the same thing that makes Titanic (his most successful non sci-fi film) work – EMOTION! J. Michael Straczynski recently held a screenwriting workshop at WonderCon – (which I’ll be posting the link to the audio shortly) and shared a story about James Cameron. JMS was talking to James Cameron, who said to him “I used to think that writing science fiction was about familiar characters in unfamiliar settings. It took me ten years to realize I was wrong. It was about familiar relationships in unfamiliar settings.” All relationships are started, built, grounded, sustained, fueled by and sometimes ended by emotions. Because we recognize the relationships, we relate to and connect to the characters through the emotions. Re-watch some of James Cameron’s films and you’ll see just how brilliant he is at infusing emotions into his characters and their “familiar” relationships. Think about the script you’re working on right now – Sci-fi or not – are the characters and the relationships between them as emotional true as they should be?
Insight into Writing Science Fiction James Cameron Style