Imitation is Suicide

Stolen from the Dark, But Shining blog:

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
Hard to say. We were a big Disney family and any time a Disney cartoon was re-released in the theaters (back when that was the only way to see additional showings of old movies), we’d go. But probably my earliest memory of a specific movie was begging, with tears, my parents to take me to see the first release of Disney’s version of Robin Hood.

TWO (2) favourite lines from movies:
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
“She’s alive! Alive!”

THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:
This meme was started in a screenwriters’ group, so I’ll broaden “biz” to mean writing in general. So, what would I like to do if that wasn’t a possibility? Musician, actor, or visual artist.

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside of the industry:
I’ll broaden this question too and say: grocery store bag boy, video rental dude, sound guy for theatrical productions, and lumberyard flunkie.

THREE (3) book authors you like:
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
S.J. Rozan
F. Paul Wilson

TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Night of the Demon

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:
Steve Martin

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Bride of Art Envy

Really, it’s not my intention to turn this into Drawn! (not that I could), but sometimes I run into art that just really really inspires me to write.

Tony Semedo posted about his art blog in the Comic World News forum and I’m in love. Too bad his blog’s in French, but fortunately I don’t have to read to enjoy it. Maybe I should learn French though. I’m starting to discover some of the awesomely wonderful comics they have coming out of France, but they’re not being translated into English fast enough for me.

Have a Jelly Baby!

Doctor Who is finally returning to the States! In March, the SciFi Channel will begin airing the thirteen recent episodes of the show that feature Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. The episodes will be running in Battlestar Galactica‘s timeslot, meaning — I assume — that Season Two of Galactica will be all done by then. That’ll be a very nice antidote to the post-Galactica depression.

If I understand the press release right, SciFi’s also bought the option to the David Tennant episodes that follow Eccleston’s. Presumably, if the Eccleston episodes do well, we’ll also get to see the Tennant ones.

I can’t tell you how stoked I am about this. Like a lot of nerds my age, I discovered the Tom Baker version of Doctor Who in high school when they used to run those episodes on PBS. The cheesy special effects and British production values were easily overlooked in light of the charmingly quirky personality of the Doctor and his ability to change from being scatterbrained to deadly efficient as the situation dictated. Once Baker’s run was over, it took me a while to warm up to Peter Davison as his successor, but I did and faithfully continued to follow the show until PBS stopped running it. I lost track of the show during the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy years, but you better believe I caught the unfortunately disappointing TV movie (ten years ago!) with Paul McGann.

I’ve been frustrated for a long time at the BBC’s reluctance to release a comprehensive, season-by-season collection of the entire series. They do it in bits and pieces: a Tom Baker story here, a Patrick Troughton story there. I’m hoping that a resurgence in the Doctor’s popularity makes them rethink that strategy. Fortunately, this gives me hope.

She’s Alive! Alive!

My favorite part of role-playing games is character creation. Yeah, the storytelling and the hacking-and-slashing is fun too, but there’s something about creating a person out of nothing. “Today, I think I’ll create a cowboy.” “Now, I’m going to make a mermaid.” It’s Godlike, isn’t it?

In role-playing games, depending on the particular game, character creation can be as simple as rolling some dice to randomly figure out how strong, smart, and skilled your character is. Or it can be as detailed as figuring out exactly what he’s been doing every year of his life up to the point that the game begins. Where all new role-playing characters are alike is that they’re all just numbers and notes on a piece of paper until the game — the story — begins. But that’s what I love about them. They’re so full of potential, of the promise of adventures and stories to come.

It’s the same with writing. I usually start with a character. Sometimes I start with a plot element or a concept, but even then I can’t get excited about it until I start to figure out who’s going to be affected by those things. The characters are the fascinating part and creating them is one of my favorite things to do.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get sloppy with this part of storytelling, even if you like doing it. Like in the more simple role-playing games, it’s tempting to just throw some information together and think you have a character. Unless you spend some real time on it though, most of the time all you’ve got is a cliché: a Conan rip-off or (if you’re writing comics) the umpteenth version of Wolverine. I fall into this trap all the time. It’s easy to just imagine “brooding loner” and because you’ve seen that character done so many times, think you’ve got a character. You don’t realize that just because this brooding loner was written by you, it doesn’t make him better than the countless brooding loners who’ve come before. No one’s going to care about this guy unless you do something different with him. And that takes work.

Angela Booth has an interesting process for creating characters that I’d like to try. She looks over magazine ads and starts imagining what the people in them are like. She suggests doing the same thing with paintings, and it occurs to me that paintings (especially landscapes) are also good tools for developing settings.

She also links to a helpful tool for digging deeper into who your character is. Yeah, you know your brooding loner has long, black hair and a perpetual scowl, but do you know what kind of music he likes or what his most treasured memory is? ‘Cause you kinda should.

The Lost Colony

There’s a new graphic novel series coming out that looks like one part Lost, one part The Village, and one part The Iron Giant. All set in the 1800s.

It’s called The Lost Colony. I can’t tell from the website when it’s coming out, but it has mystery and steampunk aspects as well as some great, whimsical art, so it’s something I’m going to keep an eye out for.

“A MYSTERIOUS ISLAND unknown to the rest of the world, in nineteenth century America.

ITS CITIZENS: a colorful and outrageous band of capitalists, inventors, hucksters and freemen, who jealously guard the island’s fantastic wealth from the prying fingers of the outside world, even as they attempt to conceal its captivating secrets from one another.”

Art Envy

Sometimes, I wish that I could chuck all this writing nonsense and draw instead. I used to be an okay visual artist in high school, but I didn’t keep up with it. I’d love to be able to perfectly show what’s in my head on paper. Writing is cool because the reader’s such an active part in the visualization process, but it would be wonderful to just show what I want instead of having to describe it.

These thoughts come to you courtesy of the new love of my life: the art of Clio Chiang. (They’re made even worse by the art of the rest of the Flight crew.)