I was having dinner with a co-worker and fellow writer last night who has a pretty cool sci-fi concept they want to get produced. The problem is that when they pitched it to an agency in order to acquire representation, the agents’ notes called the project ‘too ambitious’ and for it to be watered down to the basic procedural elements (think CSI but in outerspace) and scale back on the serial high concept arcs. In short, dumb this great concept down for mass consumption. Of course, this writer was frustrated as they want to showcase this elaborate story in its purest form. So would would be the solution?
I suggested a few alternatives.
1.) Turn the show into a web series. This way they can get it on screen on their terms and control the content. Look at the show Sanctuary, which started off as a web series and is now in its 4th season on SyFy.
2.) Turn it into a comic book or novel. Again, this way you control the rollout, plus you own the copyrights and can trademark the series.
But the one aspect I hammered home was how to roll out the larger mythos. One of the things that makes the ‘A Song of Fire & Ice” book series so great is how they approach the magic and fantasy. It does not dominate the stories and it is rarely used. In fact, the land of Westeros could almost be seeing as an alternate history United Kingdom (which George R.R. Martin based it on). Any magic or fantasy is dark, mysterious and something to be feared. Even the talk of dragons is dismissed by most characters as a myth. Yet as the stories go on, we hear more and more about magic and the fantasy elements like dragon skulls. When magic does occur for the first time, it bares a horrible cost for one of the main characters. And when we see the three dragons that hatched at the end of the first book in the series (A Game of Thrones), we are so invested in the characters and their stories, the dragons don’t feel totally out of place.
So I used the Game of Thrones as an example to my co-worker when approaching how to tweak her story. Use the procedural element to draw fans in, but little by little add more layers of the larger serial mythos you want to introduce. Its that slow burn in a narrative that really draws people in, as opposed to throwing everything at their face and overwhelming them.