The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

I Really Do Have a Plan. Honest.

Posted by BigWords on February 27, 2020

As I’m being completely transparent as to my short and medium term goals – well aware that they are likely to draw criticism – it is only fair that I also let you in on some of the difficulties and opportinuties which are complicating matters. Full disclosure is probably unwise, but this is cathartic as much as anything. Do you have any idea how stressful it is to attempt to keep things on the quiet? I’ve been downplaying things, and… I’m not sure how successful – if at all successful – any reassurances given out have been.

The new laptop isn’t ideal. It isn’t the fault of the laptop itself, but rather the overall design choices which are dominating the current generation of laptops. I’m probably going to have to buy a more substantial external keyboard at some point, as writing around a hundred thousand words a day on this is going to wear out the keys in no time at all. I’m also slightly concerned about the tracker pad, which was never designed for such extensive use.

The only reason I’m able to do so much right now is the insomnia flaring up – with only around four hours sleep a night at the moment, and not good sleep either, I’m somehow increasing my workflow substantially. There should be a knock-on effect of exhaustion, but I’m concentrating hard on Blender and getting excited at the notion of getting a film made. The current situation does afford me more time than I would otherwise have, so I’m portioning out that time as well as I can. I’m keeping – more or less – on schedule, with the only limiting factor being my comfort with Blender.

The rest of the time…

Well, there are short stories, scripts, and designs to figure out. While I’m not sure quite how much material I’m going to have to create in order to fund all the steps along the way to the previously mentioned projects, there’s likely enough wiggle room to play in if I keep on budget. I’m not going to borrow money, or go into debt, in achieving any of this, and I don’t want to ask anyone for help – that would probably be the smart thing to do, but I want my fingerprints on everything. It is ego, pure and simple. I can do all this if I put my mind to it.

The funding, as far as financing is concerned, has always been intended to spring from me, and me alone, as asking anyone to chip in seems too much like begging.

Actually there’s another reason why I have to do everything on my own, and that is for what comes next.

Building on what I’m working on now, moving forward with concepts which intrigue me, has to follow certain specific constraints. It would be both arrogant and unrealistic to expect others to adhere to such limitations, so there really isn’t any point in frustrating anyone with them – and as I have no interest whatsoever in creating franchises, and little interest in playing within the worlds others have created, I’m largely stuck doing the best I can with what I have.

There has to be a certain sensibility in all these things. Not that I want to impose a look on things, or that everything has to be willfully clever (there are enough stoner gags in the film script to keep everyone happy), but that they come from a certain place – the understanding that they all originate from one source. Despite the complications which tackling everything creates, having one hand behind all aspects involved is the best way to maintain that sense of auteurship.

Like I said – rampant ego.

I’m not tackling everything completely alone, as there are people who are absolutely vital to get on board. There’s a certain director – semipro, with a great visual style – who seems as if he could cope with the level of interference I would bring, and I’ve been on the look-out for people to fill other key positions. There’s no cast in mind yet, which is going to make me really, really nervous when thing move forwards, but I figure that there’s plenty of time to deal with that yet.

And before anyone asks, yes – I did all the storyboards myself. Any opportunity to cut down on the overall cost is to be grabbed with both hands, especially when there are so many specific things to keep in focus. As soon as I can figure out how to get the animation properly rendered, I also have a vanity plate ready, for which the letters were specially done. Everything has to be mine, otherwise I’m going to look back on the finished article and regret not spending the time to do it right.

Whatever else, this should be interesting. Hell, even if things go completely mad and I end up stuck in the desert for longer than anticipated, at least it will make for great blog posts, right? There’s no way I would leave you hanging while I’m doing something so ambitious.

There is one small, yet crucial, aspect of this that I’m not even going to attempt to tackle solo – the soundtrack has to be completely right for the story. That means, unfortunately, that there can’t be any synths used. Nor pianos, or guitars, or anything remotely familiar. When I was working out the story, and trying to find as much information as possible on artifacts which originated in the right place, at the right time, I found a few possibilities – and there are at least three instruments I want to track down replicas of, if any have actually been created.

Putting the sounds together, and mixing them in a way which doesn’t detract from the visuals, is a whole world of technical nightmare. I wrote a few scenes to specifically play out in a manner in which the audio leads narrative development, so the pacing, mood, and intent has to be right as well. Soundscapes have to possess so many factors that it would really stretch my abilities, and I’m not comfortable tackling so demanding a role when there are people around who not only do this stuff for a living, but are far, far more talented than me when it comes to sound.

There’s one thing that really tipped the balance for me when it came to the decision I would make this film: there aren’t really any combat sequences. Yes, there is some action involved, adhering to the original concept “Conan meets Cheech and Chong,” but no bloodshed. For that matter, the computer game will be mostly free of physical violence as well.

I told you that I wasn’t thinking with my commercial brain.

There really isn’t a need to add violence for the sake of it, nor is there any need for nudity. Well… I may throw in a naked background cameo if nobody objects, but mostly because it would be extremely amusing to do so, and not for any artistic reasoning. Don’t worry, I’ve been working out. I’m not saying that I’m gonna look like Chris Evans anytime soon, but at least there’s muscle definition.

Changing the nature of the discourse between standard fantasy fare and audience is something that has been bugging me a lot, and as nobody else is willing (or able) to step back from the popular concepts to examine more important aspects, then it is largely down to those who need to do so. In this case, yeah, me. That there is such a broad canvas from which to draw fantasy from, but so little making its way from the archetypes to what is presented on screen, means that there is an audience which has never really been exposed to some of the fundamental ideas.

While I’m always going to love the Conan films, and even films such as the Ator sequence (especially Iron Warrior), I can’t help feeling that there is room for something greater than that which we are so often presented with. There’s little exploration of the spiritual, or even just the social structure, of these societies, and stepping back to look at how life might have been forty-something thousand years ago – well, forty-something thousand years ago with added weirdness – is far more interesting than seeing guys chop each other to bits with swords.

Something I mentioned on the digital blog keeps being repeated in what I want to do – to break out of the way which everyone else seems to be thinking and do something new. I’ve tried my best to write whatever might be beloved by all, and to fashion characters which can be made into toys, and cartoons, and all the rest of the noise, but there’s always something soulless about such work. It doesn’t speak to me the same way that crafting an entire little world, self-contained, and living, does.

There’s a lot to do over the next few months, and I desperately want to be shooting in August or September – when the desert is going to be cool enough to film in during the day. By that time I can have the animatic up somewhere, then start figuring out the effects which are needed. I was smart enough to include a couple of scenes which could be filmed anywhere, and those are the ones I want to get done and dusted first (although these are also heavy on magic) to have at least a little headway before venturing forth into the wilderness.

And I’m going to have to paint a poster, because all films should have proper posters and not horrible Photoshop monstrosities. Gouache is probably better than oils for this, as I’m pretty certain that a lot of 70s and 80s posters used them for their art. It will need to be something slightly in the style of Frazetta, though not so much a parody as it is inspired by his style. While this may sound like the easiest of the things needed for the preparation, it is going to have to look like the characters – something that will have to wait until I’ve gone through the casting process.

As far as art is concerned, I’m also going to do the comic adaptation – script, art, lettering, and possibly the coloring. That last one is still questionable, as I don’t want it to look too rough and ready, and I can’t help but fill in detail where I can. My tendency has always been to put in more details than are really required, and it would probably work better with a looser, more traditional, style. That’s way, way into the process, though, and something which I’m not even going to ponder until I get other things done.

Before I get too far into all that, there’s a test shoot required on a beach somewhere.

I’m not sure that I’m going to post a full schedule, as having people arrive unannounced wherever I decide to use might be annoying, but all other information is likely to end up here.

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Pick A Genre, Any Genre…

Posted by BigWords on October 16, 2009

NaNo is approaching fast, and I still haven’t even decided which genre I’ll be using for my entry. That’s right, I’m completely and totally out in the wind on this. I should decide soon, but there are so many crazy things that seem like they would be fun to try. If November rolls around and I still haven’t decided on a specific genre I’ll be forced to sit down and type the first thing that comes in to my head, which won’t be pretty…

The options are endless, though somehow intimidatingly small. A western? Nope. Still tinkering with the mess I’ve got the last one into. A thriller? Too plot-heavy to wing it, and there wouldn’t be enough time to come up with an amazing twist or three. A detective story? Maybe. I like the work-backwards’s way (mangling the English language here, bear with me) in which they work, but the one month rule is a bit tight to do one justice.

Fantasy? Very possibly the genre which will save my ass. I like the strangeness I’ll be able to play with. SF? Tied with fantasy, though perhaps too much to deal with in one month. Horror, then? Oooh, yeah, a very real possibility, but it won’t be zombies. The zombie novel I dusted off and checked through looks too good to waste energy on aping, and I will be coming back to it after November.

So I’m left with… Erotica? Sheesh, trying one for the first time with the whole pressure of NaNo would be insanity, and I’m not sure what new insight I would be able to offer that genre. Comedy, possibly? Aaah, yes, my old friend comedy. Though my taste in humor is very, very dark, the prospect of trying to remain in a funny mood for a whole month will probably result in one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever written. Parody might be do-able.

Maybe autobiography would be too self-indulgent, unless I decided to drag up a lot of old shit that is unresolved. I’ve been witness to some incredible, and some very illegal, things over the years, so settling old scores by telling the world where the bodies are buried (metaphorically) would also be therapeutic. It might get me greenlit by an unhappy reader, but at least it would be interesting and a unique angle.

And I have yet to work out if it will even be a novel. I’ve always wanted to write a musical along the lines of the Morrison-era Doom Patrol comic. A giant ball of light in the middle of a stage singing how having sex with one’s self is so grand… Heh heh, that’ll probably be my Christmas pantomime idea, so I better leave it till later. A comic-book script will be tough to hit 50k with, unless I come over all Alan Moore with the descriptions.

A computer game? Which brings up an interesting question I hadn’t thought of until now… Does computer code count towards the final word count? Hell, I could hit 500k (maybe more) if I was allowed to go wild with code, and I could turn in an actual finished (if kinda small) game if I was left alone for a month. Maybe I’ll bolt myself away and unplug the ‘phone so I have no distractions…

Wow. So much choice, and so little time left to make up my mind.

I want to keep clear of anything anyone else is doing as well, just to add to my problems. That’s one of the reasons I’m so picky about my work – I can see so many similarities to the works of others. I’ll check the SYW area of Absolute Write every now and again, and nearly every time I do so – or closer to every time – I end up scrapping a handful of ideas because they have been covered so well by others.

Nathan Bransford said that originality was impossible over in his blog, but I still want to strive for something that feels unique. Something that rings with a sensibility that could not have come from the mind of any other writer. I want, to put it bluntly, to be so fucking original that it hurts. Yeah, that’s the ranting of a spoiled child, but I’m not gonna apologize. I’m in crisis mode here.

Two weeks and counting. This is probably gonna be a very long two weeks, filled with possible storylines emerging, bad ideas being mocked and an unhealthy amount of liquor being drank. Two weeks of worrying – because worry is good – and frantic scribbles to see if I’m able to come up with a unique idea, told in a unique way, with unique characters. Hell, I might as well give up right now…

Maybe nobody will notice if I just re-write my favorite myths as extended superheroes-by-way-of-horror film mash. A drunken, mean Heracles bitch-slapping people for no real reason. I could even write it so it reads exactly like early Image comics. Hmmm… There’s an idea.

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Need A Bit Of Assistance With The Story, Huh?

Posted by BigWords on August 8, 2009

There’s as many ways to write a book as there are writers, possibly more. I’m not the kind of person who slavishly devotes time to following How To books, mostly because there is often as much bullshit as there is good advice tucked in the pages of that “best-selling author who want YOU to achieve the same success” and who has outlined their methods in painstaking detail. It always strikes me as fanciful that a person picked off the street at random could be turned into a chart-topping success after reading one of those books.

But that is the belief which How To books exploit, in the hope you will part with your money. Put the cash back in your pocket, and wait a minute before you give your credit card details to the webpage which promises to get you millions of sales. I’ll point you in the direction of a few places which are distilled and undiluted help for the ideas rattling around your brain. They aren’t pretty, and they aren’t particularly long, but they work for me. That’s the important thing, right?

If you have read The Da Vinci Code and thought “How the fuck did that piece of shit get so many readers,” then The Da Vinci Formula: The Da Vinci Code’s Formula For Success is what you need to check out. It was originally published in a writing magazine, but the webpage is easier to find than a back-issue, so I’m directing your attention there.

Please, for the love of Cthulhu, don’t write like Dan Brown, even if you’re just in it for the money… It is more of a brief outline of how it managed to break through popular consciousness than a step-by-step guide to the process of writing such a book. Some parts of the article have been useful in figuring out what I should avoid, rather than copy, but take from it what you will. You could tell that I hated The Dumb Venetian Crud from what I’ve just written, right?

I’ve been a big fan of old pulp magazines for as long as I can remember, possibly due to seeing the Doc Savage movie at an impressionable age, but I digress… The Lester Dent technique for writing pulp stories is a fine tool for short stories and novellas. It is an excellent resource, and one which should be savored for the brevity and intelligence of advice.

An Effective Writing Formula For Unsure Writers is useful, and Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Emmons, Jr., the author of the piece, has a good grasp of the requirements of a riveting story. The numbered outline idea has plenty of followers, but I can’t honestly say that it has ever worked entirely well for me. Things get moved around too much, and I like twisting the story to fill in the blanks when I come to natural pauses, though it might give your story shape.

There’s a special world of How To devoted to getting kids to write, such as Formula Writing originated by Jan Cosner, and anyone wanting to get back to basics should thing about using this to decide if every word is working properly in their stories. I got irritated with the tone after a few minutes, but more patient writers will probably receive some good advice from the work tools. While I’m on the subject of “back to basics” writing, I’ll explain where fairy tales come into the equation:

Most genre fiction (I’m using ‘genre’ even  though it is a moronic word) has a tendency to structure itself around some very basic and intuitive ideas which can be traced back to fairy tale and myth. Substitute magic cloaks of invisibility for chameleon nets, swords for phasers, princesses for diplomats and castles for starships, and that is basically what SF has been using since the creation of the form.

There is a How To article which spells out the writing of fairy tales better than I can, and it should be viewed through a distorted lens of modern ideas to get the most out of the ideas in fairy tales.

I’ve steered clear of some of the better know books on the subject of writing thus far into my meanderings, so it is only fair that I share with you a couple of the titles sitting on my bookshelf which have helped me manage ideas, just to clear up which books are actually useful and which you should take with a grain of salt. I’m starting with Stephen King’s exploration of the horror genre Danse Macabre,which has lots of ideas about the conventions and twists that horror stories use. His tone is, as always, reassuringly chatty, and he never gets too complex for the material he is using.

It might not be of use if you are planning trash like Twilight, but for horror it is one of the few indispensable books out there. On Writing is also up there with some of the best advice you can find.

Most real How To titles are useless for me, but Christopher Kenworthy’s Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror from (ugh…) How To Books is not completely irrelevant. Some of the advice is completely patronizing and redundant, and he has the troublesome knack of finding the most obvious choices in his examples, as if he is trying to show how not to follow an idea through to its’ most interesting angle.

I may come back to this book at a later point for a more detailed reason why I dislike it, but for now I’ll put this post aside for a while.

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Business As Normal

Posted by BigWords on July 25, 2009

The last couple of posts were kinda lazy, pulling up stuff from disk and fobbing you guys off (which sucks – I know), but the course, my writing and a commitment for the end of next month have eaten into my already-tight schedule. So it’s back to business as normal…

Which means that I’m off on another tangent, and thinking strange thoughts.

I spent a while yesterday afternoon looking at my western-not-a-western and trying to decide when to drop the bomb. The story has taken a leap into deep mythology without me even trying to be smart, and there are now references to Aztek curses, angry spirits and ‘ghost lights’ alongside the usual shootouts. There was a half-second when I considered using a little bit of Cthulhu mythos in there as well, but I don’t want to over-egg the weirdness factor. And I took out the zombies, ’cause that would be too much even for me.

This all built itself up from a couple of completely disconnected scenes which I couldn’t figure out. Now there is a couple of thousand years of back-story, two time frames and a massive monologue which (hopefully) ties everything together. I’m still patchworking in some facts, strange characters, references and sly call-backs, but at least it looks like something that I am not completely dissatisfied with.

It was only when I got to the beginning of the mid-section (a long and convoluted trek through the middle of nowhere to find lost gold) did I realize that I have managed to link it in to some of my other stories. This is where I should explain that my stories were never intended to share a single universe, but the cumulative effect of simultaneously writing different eras, genres and formats (short stories and novels) has manifested a few common points of reference:

  1. The Native American whose skeleton is discovered in a thriller short story is of the same tribe who appear in The Reverend. Might even be a character from the novel…
  2. There’s some loose threads from Faerwither which get tied up in the monologue, though it is presented as a myth in this instance. I may leave it as it is, but the coincidental use of a common legend is slightly jarring when surrounded by other elements.
  3. A similarly-described charm to the one the MC wears turns up (chronologically) a hundred or so years later in Ghost Bureau, and has an important plot surrounding it.

It isn’t as if I am deliberately creating a cohesive universe across my work, but it seems to be happening regardless.

I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of whathefuck moments passed by completely, when something extraordinary happens and none of the characters seems too put out. The tidying up of the absurdisms will get done soon, when I have time to edit properly. There are many people who use anything they like in a story, but I have always had a hard time censoring my own thoughts – That goes some way to explain one of the stranger concepts (which has been shunted to one side now), but was originally going to be my first novel…

The novel in question began life when I was probably six or seven years old. Yes, six or seven years old, because you’re never too young to start. I didn’t write anything, but that is when the idea came to me for a fantasy story which, looking back on it, is probably no sillier than many ideas which have made it into print.

The basic concept came to me – and stuck in my brain for the better part of a decade – when I was playing on the floor, my toys laid out in front of me. I remember sorting the action figures into ranks, standing them in rows according to how large they were. The giant Voltron robot (which may have been a Hong Kong knock-off come to think of it) was at the back, with all of the Action Man figures. In front of them were the slightly smaller figures from Super Powers, He-Man, ThunderCats and other mid-sized toys.

In front of those stood the Action Force, Star Wars and tiny little toys. I seem to recall a handful which had shiny silver 3D stickers for faces, or maybe on their chests… The very smallest toys stood in the front, little 5mm tall yellow figures (I have no idea of their origin, so they remain a question mark) and some Dinky cars. The basic thought which kept interrupting my already-logical little mind was one of scale, and I struggled to put them all in a single story. When I think about it, most of the other kids had no problem whatsoever accepting the varying sizes of their playthings…

The story unfolded itself over the course of my school days, when I discovered lots of little facts that could help me orchestrate the idea of a planet with characters ranging in height from a few inches to dozens of feet tall. I also came up with a massive cast of characters at this point – somewhere in the region of two thousand main characters and many, many secondary ones. I threw everything and the kitchen sink into the epic, with werepeople, robots, the ghosts of dinosaurs, talking monkeys (just because) and other strangeness.

The original story now exists as a series of tales (300-500 pages handwritten) in the bottom left hand drawer of my desk. I’ll eventually look through them to see what I can salvage, but I have a feeling that I will be disappointed. So there you have it… The roots of my writing addiction, and a disturbing glimpse into the mind of a child who was plotting out an epic when he should have been playing in the sun.

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