Today I finished the second act of my latest script, the tale of ocean horror, Abyssus. I must say, it’s my most cruel writing exercise yet.
This tale tells of the eleven man skeleton crew of Antonio Bay Atlantic Oil Platform 31 and an EPA inspector who has come to take one final look at the rig before it becomes operational. While en route, the inspector and the helicopter pilot spot an abandoned yacht that has been missing for two weeks. On the rig, the geologist reveals some strange stones found on the ocean floor. With a storm bearing down and several of the crew going missing, it soon becomes clear something has snuck on board. Something not human.
Further details on the project can be read in this link.
Writing of this script has been much easier than I anticipated, partially due to this being a second draft. The first one was completed two years ago now. Since then, my skill has improved greatly, having a better eye for character, dialogue and brevity.
There are a few touches here that I am most happy with, little character moments that give the characters much more life. For instance, during the helicopter light to Platform 31, Samuels the pilot offers Faheed the inspector a cup of coffee from a pot plugged into the dashboard. Samuels pours the inspector a cup, and rather than take a cup for himself, he takes one big swig right out of the pot.
Little moments and small touches like that take only a few words or seconds, but they tell you so much more than if Samuels monologued for 30 minutes about his childhood in Nantucket. That brings me to why this is my most cruel writing. These characters are so enjoyable.
That was the strength of movies like Alien, The Thing and Predator. The cast were more than bags of meat for the monster to kill off. They were individuals you cared about, so when they died, their deaths carried weight. If you don’t like the characters, it is harder to relate to them, so it’s harder to get afraid when whatever malevolent force bears down on them.
I tried to do the same thing with Abyssus. The characters are all working men who have known and worked together for years, with their own little in jokes and habits. Hudson, Keith and Stew chill out for games of Pinochle, Cook works in the cafeteria enjoying the nickname the others have given him (Cook the cook), Cundy stays in his room and looks over rocks he collected from the ocean floor. They’re real.
More cruel yet, I actually have the character’s triumph over adversity, at least early on. At one point in the script, they do band together, form a plan, and successfully execute it, managing to defeat their foe for a time. It is only after that they begin to really get killed off in horrible undeserved ways. It’s like watching a movie end with all your favorite characters surviving, then you tune in to the sequel and see them all die.
In the end though, that is what horror is supposed to be. It is when a writer or any other kind of artists sets out to attack and frighten their audience. If you’re willing to take up that sword, you may as well go for the jugular.