What if a new genre of Film/Literature could solve global problems? Shouldn’t we pursue this?
On August 20, 2022, I climbed out of my comfort zone, took a huge chance, and wrote to a
filmmaking luminary, asking what he thought of “The Force of Life” as a new genre in literature
and film. He has not responded.
I’m hoping he will eventually write back. Yes, I’m an eternal optimist.
In my letter, I asked the following questions:
“Do you believe in:
2. Life-Altering Love? (When encountering someone you’ve known/loved
before in a past life.)
3. The interconnectivity of everyone/everything in the Universe?”
I said if he answered "YES" to any of these questions, would he be interested in starting a
new genre of storytelling which focuses on the above elements. I let him know that I’ve
tentatively named this new genre, "Slice of the Force of Life." I arrived at this idea after years of
receiving feedback and rejections from editors, contest judges, or potential literary agents. I’ve
summarized their most consistent comments below:
1. Your writing has a unique and intricately developed emotional core. It’s fast
paced, easy to follow, with an engaging literary style, well-developed
characters, but an overall lack of conflict.
2. Your writing demonstrates refined talent, imagination, and thought-provoking
nuances such as the possibility of reincarnation as a viable, scientific
possibility. But your story does not follow the typical paradigm where the
protagonist has a goal, want, need, or desire. This goal should force the hero
to go on a literal, figurative, or symbolic journey where they overcome
obstacles to achieve their goal— ultimately helping them grow, arc, or learn a
In response, I must reject the notion that successful storytelling requires the formulaic
paradigm described above. That’s not the only way to tell a story.
I find immense value in writing stories that show a "slice" of life, a moment in time, or a
series of related events where my characters experience intense emotions which elicit growth.
These AH-HA moments, or epiphanies— which themselves are enough of a Goal, Need, Want
or Desire for anyone to strive to attain— are also, in my humble opinion, far more valid, more
poignant, and more necessary as elements of storytelling than conflict, because they are literally
the "point" of writing stories or making films. They allow people to connect with universal
truths, then in turn to grow and evolve both individually and as a society.
In my opinion, this type of societal growth may well be what our American Founding
Fathers envisioned when writing the Declaration of Independence. If these Founding Fathers had
not been driven to seek drastic societal change, they would never have rebelled against the
monarchy, and declared their independence, stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights... Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Monumental societal change is also what I imagine Lincoln envisioned when choosing to
devote his presidency to preserving the union and ending slavery. He could no longer accept the
“rules” that allowed one human being to own another human being. He believed in a better way
of life for all people, regardless of their skin color. Today, this belief seems obvious. But just 157
years ago, this type of thinking was groundbreaking. Revolutionary. Certainly “way outside the
box,” for millions of Americans.
Our society is still evolving from the push to end slavery and promote racial equality for
all people everywhere. In fact, over the past few decades, the American public has evolved to the
point of becoming considerably more socially conscious, diversity driven, and LGBTQ+
accepting, by legalizing same-sex marriages among other milestones. Likewise, our society has
become more open to women's rights as a direct result of the Suffragettes in the early 19th and
20th centuries. The feminist movement starting in the 1960's has evolved into the recent
#MeTooMovement, giving credence to women’s rights with a louder roar than ever before,
notwithstanding the occasional setback such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Incidentally, I
believe this will not be allowed to stand, since the majority of Americans do not support this
This makes me believe modern day storytelling is on the verge of evolving as well. This
is my main point, my thesis—which evolved while considering the following two quotes:
1. "People who don't know anything tend to make up fake rules, the real rules being
considerably more difficult to learn." ~~ Aaron Sorkin
2. "The rules are all in a 64-page pamphlet by Aristotle called "Poetics." It was written
about 3,000 years ago, but I promise you, if something is wrong with what you're writing, you've
probably broken one of Aristotle's rules." ~~Aaron Sorkin
As you may have guessed, I disagree with Mr. Sorkin.
I've often wondered why some writers today blindly follow 3,000-year-old rules. I’m not
saying Aristotle was wrong. I’m saying that people evolve. Societies evolve. Ideas evolve. When
faced with a choice of following rules that have stopped evolving— or following my instincts in
a manner more relevant to our times— I'd choose the freedom to write my own rules and my
own truth. That is the height of authenticity. Therefore, I reject Mr. Sorkin's quotes about "fake
In fact, the second part of my thesis is this: I posit a new genre which does not require
CONFLICT, created by OBSTACLES, leading to a journey, an arc, and a life lesson. Instead, I
propose a character driven genre which includes the elements of Reincarnation, Life-altering
Love (induced by meeting souls you've known and loved in past lives), and the connectivity of
everything in the Universe, all of which can cause ah-ha moments of profound "knowing" and
"evolving" as humans. These elements are far more relevant in today's world, than CONFLICT.
The US political turmoil found in the 2016 and 2020 elections, the January 6th
insurrection, and all the Black Lives Matter protests of recent years are proof that conflict is
broiling in our society. Conflict has infiltrated every aspect of modern life. It’s too much, and it
is NOT healthy. I believe conflict is outdated as the optimal mode of storytelling. It is also
outdated as way of living life. It’s no longer the be all, end all, ultimate point of storytelling, or
more importantly, it’s not the point of "life in general."
What would life look like if conflict could be replaced by love and peace? I’m certainly
not the first thinker to voice this opinion. Consider this:
“Love and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to overcome the problems
that life hands us. They teach us to survive...to live now...to have the courage to
confront each day.” ~ Bernie Sanders
What would it take to replace our conflict-driven, strife-oriented, warlike mindset with
the timeless wisdom of treating everyone (including nature, animals, and the environment) only
the way you’d wish to be treated yourself? Can you imagine a world like this? If you can
imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it. This is not a new
Consider John Lennon’s IMAGINE:
“Imagine all the people
Livin' life in peace
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...”
I asked the aforementioned filmmaker these questions in my letter:
“Is the kind of love and peace John Lennon described in “Imagine” even possible?
Don’t we need this genre now more than ever?”
The jury is still out on whether he will respond.
So, while waiting for his response, I wrote another letter to a different superstar whom
I’ve also never met. This time, it was a “Thank You” note to Serena Williams, whose recent
article in VOGUE magazine hit home for me. It is titled “Serena Williams Says Farewell to
Tennis On Her Own Terms—And In Her Own Words.” Her writing resonated so strongly with
me because she gives herself permission to break the rules and do something unexpected. She
says in so many words,
“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that
are important to me.”
She goes on to say in VOGUE, that she didn’t reach her goals, but she’s okay with that:
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles... I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously, I do. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have.
But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s extraordinary. But these
days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my
family, I choose the latter.”
Because I’m nearing retirement age myself, I take comfort in her thoughtful writing about
her retirement from tennis. I’m also reminded that I have failed to reach my goal of earning my
living as a writer. I’ve also failed to realize my dream of becoming a parent, which is something
I wrestled with when younger but gave up in favor of pursuing my writing goals. But at what
cost? I’m too old to start a family. Maybe I’ll never be a Pulitzer winning author. However, my
writing is evolving. Improving. What I have to say is valid. It has merit. It may even be valuable
to others. Especially if successfully starting this new genre. I don’t need accolades. Waking up
early and putting my thoughts down on paper gives my life meaning and purpose. And that is
It’s enough because someone as phenomenally successful as Serena Williams has done
the very same thing. Learn. Grow. Evolve. Accept her limits. And live by her own rules. But
what I love most about her is that she kept on. She persevered against many challenges, and she
The quote below from her VOGUE article contains some of her most poignant
“I want to be great. I want to be perfect. I know perfect doesn’t exist, but
whatever my perfect was, I never wanted to stop until I got it right.
To me that’s kind of the essence of being Serena: expecting the best from myself
and proving people wrong. There were so many matches I won because
something made me angry, or someone counted me out. That drove me. I’ve built
a career on channeling anger and negativity and turning it into something good.
My sister Venus once said that when someone out there says you can’t do
something, it is because they can’t do it. But I did do it. And so can you.”
Then she goes on to say:
I’d like to think that thanks to me, women athletes can be themselves. They can
play with aggression and pump their fists. They can wear what they want and say
what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all In essence, she realized that through her “rule-breaking,” she could emerge as a leader—not only in tennis and fashion, but also in her investment firm which champions women of color as entrepreneurs.
In response, I can only say: “Thank you, Serena Williams...for making it okay— even
admirable— to dream big, accept your limits, but above all, recognize and embrace your own
value. And if someone says it can’t be done, do it anyway.”
Melissa L. White is a screenwriter, novelist, and short story writer. Her LGBTQ+ film, “Catch the Light,” premiered in June 2019. Melissa's biopic script, “WHITENESS OF BONES,” about female artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, was a FINALIST in four different Screenplay Contests in 2021. Melissa is currently in Pre-Production for her latest film, “Sunrise Hollywood,” which she will write, produce, and direct. Latest Publications: Litbreak Magazine – Summer 2021, August 22, 2021 – “The Road Back” (Novel Excerpt) https://litbreak.com/the-road-back-novel-excerpt/ Litbreak Magazine – Summer 2021, August 22, 2021 – “To See a Huge World Outside Us” (Essay) https://litbreak.com/i-radiate-love/ Oyster River Pages - Special Issue 5.2, January 4, 2022 "Breaking Bread." See short story, “Small Victories,” here: https://www.oysterriverpages.com/fiction-52/small-victories See entire issue here: https://www.oysterriverpages.com/fiction-52 UCLA Literary Journal: THE BEAT 2021-2022 – March 9, 2022 – Photograph “Twilight Between” page 17. https://medschool.ucla.edu/workfiles/Site-Current/The%20BEAT%202021-2022%20Final.pdf UCLA Literary Journal: THE BEAT 2021-2022 – March 9, 2022 - Short Fiction “Our Dear Friend and Colleague,” page 20-21. https://medschool.ucla.edu/workfiles/Site-Current/The%20BEAT%202021-2022%20Final.pdf