The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘western’

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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I Don’t Know What I’m Doing, But When I Find Out I’ll Tell You

Posted by BigWords on August 22, 2009

Having written a substantial amount on several WIPs, I find myself jotting down the odd (and I mean ODD) line which throws my brain off course. The use of particular phrases and ideas out of context seems to be counter intuitive, but there’s a long tradition in writing of coming up with new uses for stale bones. The lines which are currently bothering me were written within an hour of each other, and both push my western – strange as it is – into a different place altogether.

I never thought about writing a western before I came up with the imagery of a man in a preacher’s outfit, shot to ribbons, riding into the desert. I added in a shoot-out, where he spouts lines from the bible as he blows a bunch of bounty-hunters away, then discovered that the story had cursed gold as well. It’s a mix of at least a dozen sub-genres as it is, but the addition of my latest lines makes me think that there might be further twists in store.

There’s no set plan, and I’m throwing everything in the mix. It ain’t pretty at the moment, but I’m sure that the idea has legs. My problems lie with this:

She had a body to kill for, which The Reverend had done. Repeatedly.

It’s like something out of a film noir, and I really like the line, but does it feel like it comes from a western? Hell no. It’s only marginally better than the other line which follows in quick succession:

She was as throaty and chesty as a bad cold.

What the fuck? I’m suddenly channeling the spirit of Spillane… I’m not easily influenced by outside sources, mostly because my ideas are never cookie-cutter, genre-safe stories, but rather they tend to sprawl over several areas which don’t quite have a common ‘voice’. I like throwing people off in the wrong direction before tightening the focus back to a single point. I’m a little worried that this particular tale might be getting away from me.

It wouldn’t be the first time I have sent a story reeling off course with an out-of-place word or sentence, and this is what I may be doing. Again. The ‘music’ of language is too interesting to listen to while I am playing messing around with character, and the two aforementioned lines were what the story pointed to. Do I let the story dictate the style, or are those lines too far from a traditional western? Hmmm…

A couple of comedy moments are slightly out of place amongst the endless catalogue of violence and pain, but those I can live with as ‘artistic statements’ or… something. A character who has been set on fire is used to light the MC’s cigarette at one point, and at another point a heroic rescue is foiled by the injured character being eaten alive by coyotes. Lovingly described, as the character wonders why he can’t wiggle his toes any more.

In a bid to straighten out what I wanted to do, because relaxation works wonders, I played Call Of Juarez for a while. It’s near enough to a old 70s western movie to fuel my imagination, but I began noticing all of the minor irritations which the game has. Even trying to watch Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – a brilliant film – isn’t appeasing the little gray cells. Gah! My brain is completely fried.

I’m blaming exhaustion on the current writing mash, and I’m sure the tone will settle when I can spend a few days relaxing at the end of my course. Of course, when I relax I tend to drink, and there’s always the worry that I’ll end my western with the MC being kidnapped by aliens. When I work out what the hell I’m doing, I’ll keep everyone informed.

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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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