Jun 04

Create believable environments

Category: Linux,Screenwriting   — Published by tengo on June 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I am convinced that it is equally important to create believable environments as it is to model 3-dimensional characters. While watching a rerun of Crimson Tide (imdb), I noticed the piece's accuracy in terms of military hierarchy, speak, the submarine's equipment and especially the realistic use of the 1MC, a ship's intercom system. A bit of research brought me along some pages and finally to this great site which holds a collection of authentic Navy alarm sounds.

The tension and immediacy in Crimson Tide is heavily supported by the level of realistic detail. The audience needs to buy what you are telling them.

Especially in science-fiction this is a critical factor. In SF it is not so much the level of realism, but the level of believability you create. If you are able to create believability that looks like reality, you've managed a homerun. Have a look at Alien (imdb) if you don't agree - it's the perfect marriage between believability and (mock-up) realism.

Again: First, you need to establish yourself as a credible storyteller (by presenting logic details, for example). This is the basis for a believable story, a believable environment. Once it seems reasonable that your story could happen (credibility) and your audience came to believe it did happen (through realism and believability) you pulled it off to totally immerse your audience by creating authenticity.

Of course, authenticity is easier if your story is based on a real event, like Apollo 13 (imdb). A fake documentary style (in parts) and a meticulous level of detail on set design and procedures easily creates the illusion of "being there" (believability). And nobody would think that Ron Howard isn't telling the truth (credibility).

It's a bit more difficult if you try to breathe life into a completely imaginary world. I think it is best to do extensive research, trying to base the made-up parts as good as possible on common sense or what we know from our daily life experience and logics. One good start if you plan on writing a spaceship-laden sci-fi epic, is this interesting page. "So You Wanna Build A Rocket?" will guide you through any aspect of how to realisticly flesh out the tech gadgets in your piece - and fill your geeky heart with delight. It's an interesting read and gathers a wide array of sources to make its point. Helpful for SF authors!