The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘original ideas’


Posted by BigWords on April 15, 2016

There are compelling reasons to seek out an original title for a book – a clear title – rather than slipping into the habit of a clever quotation or a well-used phrase. While many, many more people might search for the more familiar phrase, how many of them are going to find their way to a publication rather than sites explaining the origins of the phrase. A clear title isn’t just something no-one else is using, it should be immediately transparent from looking at the name what genre and tone the book is going to have.

Which all goes against me writing something which has a name dripping with history. Yes the book called Red Cough-cough-cough.

Yes, I suck at taking my own advice. Then again, if I was all that smart I would be living in Maui.

The notion of the Big Six making copycat covers amuses me – people acting like it is a surprise that they don’t have the budget to go and do some amazingly original things. It has prompted me to look at what I hunt for when I go to purchase a book. I’m not sure there is ever going to be a consensus on what counts as original, but I like that such conversations can be mooted.

And then there’s this…

For a song called Originality, there is a distinct lack of it. Does familiarity in the materials being utilized towards a goal lessen the impact, even when then are put together in a new and unusual way? It plays into what I have been considering, and I like the idea that there are only a finite number of ways to present a title to readers – the individual elements coming together each time in a (hopefully) new way.

Everyone knows what Lego is, so it is a perfect analogy for the basic building blocks of cover design. You can switch the colors around, pull out an eight-stud block for two square four-stud blocks, or dare to live dangerously and fill the space with single-stud blocks. The best part of Lego is the lack of rules when it comes to design and structure. Sure, you make sure that there are overlapping elements to keep it from falling apart, but other than that the only limiting factor is imagination.

Of course, there is no such thing as truly original, is there?

No, really. We can go ahead with that as a real question.


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The Path

Posted by BigWords on April 8, 2016

When I was offline (not that I am technically back online) there was a lot of time to contemplate the way things had turned out – choices, decisions, strategies. The constant reminder that so many of my plans had gone sideways was mitigated by a line which I’m still, all this time later, not sure if I came up with. There was a circuit which turned a large circle round the three small villages I took to examining. A long straight road, a rather erratic road, a few paths which led nowhere… Walking and thinking helped concentrate ideas from loose concepts into something usable.

It was during a particularly nasty day – howling winds and sleet rain – I found myself on a different road, walking into the rain, with the knowledge that I was going in slightly the wrong direction. I knew where I ought to be heading, but there wasn’t a way to get back to the correct area. To my left, in the general heading I needed to be moving in, there was trees. Biting back the feeling that venturing off the well-known into the unknown, and aware that I didn’t want to appear in a headline a decade hence reading “unidentified skeletal remains found in woods” I pressed on.

And here’s where the line, the phrase which has been rattling around my skull for the last year, came into play. I was moving carefully, over fallen trees, pushing back branches to move past thick growth, leaping over a small stream that wound lazily past the trees… My footing always one mis-step away from a bad ending, something occurred to me – this was a lesson. Something to be learned from, and something to remember. And it is where the line came from – popping into my head perfectly formed, and feeling like I hadn’t earned it.

Some people walk the well-worn path, while others make their own path.

I looked it up in a couple of quotation books and came up with nothing. Am I smart enough to pull that out of thin air? I still don’t know, and there’s a part of me which is quite happy to run with it as a gift. I don’t need to press my ego by stating that it is mine, because it really isn’t. It’s something larger than me, and I’m not sure I would lay claim to it anyway. It’s something which we should all think – something which should push us. We can do what others have done, the same successes and the same failures. Repeating what others have done isn’t difficult. It is copypasta life to go with the safe options.

The clock ticks on. Old ideas, put together to deal with specific problems which no longer matter, merge with the modern complexities which demand new methods of attack. A suggestion made twenty years ago, a brusque off-the-cuff dismissal of what was then the done thing, came back to me – a way of bringing together a lot of people to do something which mattered. More and more, I find myself wanting to leave a legacy which isn’t about me, or about what I can do. I want to see people take something and go their own way with it, to build and adapt to their own requirements and show the kind of imagination I find remarkable.

And the final note today:

We should blaze our own paths, irrespective of history, tradition, orthodoxy and arbitrary rules. I’m bringing that to what I am doing, taking careful steps to keep in mind the ways others are operating – making choices (sometimes very difficult ones) which are going to separate opinion. That’s cool. I don’t expect everyone to be on board with some of the things that I’m going to be instituting, but there’s no knock-on to the people who aren’t playing along. I’m balancing things so that people aren’t going to be adversely affected.

But that’s skipping ahead. Spoilers.

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A Blog-Chain Isn’t An Excuse For Herd Mentality

Posted by BigWords on July 1, 2009

The funny (i.e. strange) thing about writing, which may not apply to everyone, is the convergence of ideas at certain times. Sometimes there will be a whole bunch of books about savage barbarians in a futuristic setting, or vampire detectives, or whatthefuckever… I don’t care about the specifics for the purposes of this post, and I’m just using those examples because they are widely-used tropes. The nature of these bottle-necked ideas (or at the very least, the seeming rationale) is one of opportunity – if so-and-so is popular, then X will be popular as well. It is more complicated than that, due to the length of time a novel remains in gestation, but sometimes you will find twenty or so books of a similar nature hitting the shelves together, all containing a basic idea.

The hardest part of writing is remaining outside of the herd mentality as often as possible, throwing the occasional literary hand grenade across your fellow authors heads. Original ideas are, sadly, too often little more than variations on a theme – how many times (answer honestly) can you read about a melancholy vampire who must save the world? Four times? Eight? Maybe you have more patience than I, but the books which don’t grab me immediately are the ones I have the hardest time returning to. I have yet to read the full back catalogue of Angel novels due to the similarities I find with other works.

Blogging – in my case – is primarily a safety valve for the crazy to be released in an orderly fashion, lest it explode in other arenas. It is a personal, and very complex, set of thought processes which map out a path through both hemispheres of my brain, often fighting the analytical need for lists, definitions and the number 4. I would have a hard time following where all the other blogs are going, yet some people are willing to take their cue from a fellow blogger and run with an idea. The AW blog-chain has shown me that the ability to use another writer’s idea is possible, but I still doubt that I would ever be able to play in another person’s sandbox for long…

Consider these blog posts for a moment:

Fokker Aeroplanbau – I’m Always Right: Blog Chain
Rosemerry – Beyond Tourism: Two Hurricanes

It’s the same instruments, but a completely different tune. I know (absolutely, for a fact, one hundred percent) that I couldn’t have played along. The not-a-theme theme could have gone a million different ways, but the end result was one of concern for the world we live in. The writers involved played the tune they needed to play, adding to the ideas of the person before them in the chain, creating a multiple-perspective analysis. It’s really astonishing that everyone adapted so well and managed to avoid following group dynamics, and I have enjoyed reading their viewpoints, but it begs the question:
What could I have added?

Lets play along for a moment, pretending that I might have played nice with others on this. So, here goes:

Humanity is fucked. Face it, if we don’t drop a nuke, then we’re gonna be hit by a pandemic which wipes mankind off the face of the planet. We might face a meteor in the not-too-distant future, so why worry if sea-levels rise? Who cares about famine, when-

No. It doesn’t work, even when I try to follow the threads running through other AWers ideas, I’m not cut out for the chaining of ideas. I like tangents, and the unexpected places I find myself when I give in to the rush of ideas. I like the danger of not knowing how the next paragraph will come out, and being just as surprised as everyone else when an unusual or downright contrary thought manages to wrap itself into a coherent whole. There are a few forms of writing which still make me shudder – haiku, Iambic pentameter, journalism (for the very brief prior experience), ten-line stories and “community writing”.

Haiku is hard for me because I want to add and add and add to the words. Forming larger thoughts comes easy, but paring things down to the bone somehow screws up my ideas. Iambic pentameter is just downright annoying to try and write, but I love the manner in which the words somehow sound so much more important when laid down in a rigid format. My three weeks on a local newspaper went downhill faster than Michael Jackson. Ten-line stories fatten through re-writes, wanting the opportunity to become novellas of their own distinction. My attempts at writing with others, though…

Being a control-freak, verging on becoming a borderline dictator as far as some projects have gone, I know that working with others to develop a cohesive world is difficult. I don’t like following others, so I tend to use abstractions instead of concrete ideas as a means to throw people off their game. I’ll bring up topics, then move onto other concepts before anyone has had the chance to absorb the previous statement. Which, when trying to maintain a blog-chain, isn’t the kind of mind-set that automatically springs to mind.

I raise my hat to everyone who participated…

…But I still say humanity is fucked, no matter what we do.

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