Commitment to Story

I love a good disaster movie. And some bad ones. The Core is a sci-fi disaster movie that practices really bad science. The 60% of critics who hated it, though, admitted to having a soft spot for the movie.

I’ve watched The Core half-a-dozen times.

There’s a good reason for that soft spot and it is commitment. Every actor, every beat, is committed to the believability of the science. Sure the science was bogus, so much so, that it was almost fantasy.

A novel is similar to this. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has horrible symbology and Christology, but the characters believe it, the internal consistency is rock solid even though the reality is completely off.

Oddly, there are people, such as Dustin Hoffman, who are championing scientific accuracy in sci-fi movies. That would write off Star Trek, Star Wars, and just about every other sci-fi film.

Story is about being believable, even when it’s not remotely believable. It’s why fantasy, which has no rules, must have consistent rules impressed upon it. One of the reasons Harry Potter is so successful is that the magic rules aren’t broken (or so I’m told; I haven’t read it).

The most common trope is the unheard, unknown scientist with crackpot theories that are borne out to be accurate. Then The Man, normally the military or politicians, tries to squash the “truth” before being persuaded. This is a welcome trope because the maverick scientist is always a unique, conflicted character. Anyone who disagrees with the scientist is the bad guy, which reinforces of the story truth. Then again, when they have to accept the story truth.

The scientist may question himself, but he/she is proven correct in systematic fashion. Then, with all of science in question, the odd-ball team is assembled, and the planet is saved.

Star Trek works because the characters took it seriously. It wasn’t campy (like Lost in Space), or tongue in cheek (like Orville), the actors believed they lived in that world, and all choices were made to reinforce that world, first with the tech of the ’60s, then with better and better effects.

Even if your story isn’t sci-fi or fantasy, we have to believe in your world, and that takes commitment, clear rules, and consistency.

Are you committed to your story?