Writing in the Film Generation

If I’m to be brutally honest, I don’t really read that much – particularly not as much as I think I should, as a writer. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t always been this way – in my youth and young adulthood, I used to read voraciously, devouring book after book with gusto. In fact, I would argue that I stopped reading so much around when I started writing (an odd coincidence, to be sure), but it also occurs to me that I stopped reading quite so much when I started watching.

I’ve always loved movies, film and TV, and there was a time when I would be excited about all the newest movies in theaters, or the latest TV show to grace cable networks (I’ve also come to realize that, as I get older, I kind of just want to watch the same stuff over and over again, a kind of comfort in familiarity). And if I’ve never said as much outright, I find that film and literature are really two sides of the same coin – namely, storytelling.

I think that’s what I really enjoy more than anything – a good story. Something that triggers the imagination, that gets the creative juices flowing, or simply makes you feel. And I don’t particularly think that any given story ‘needs’ to be told through any particular medium; the core essence of the story can be just as valid as a book, a poem, a photograph or a full-length movie. However, the way in which the story is told is more important to the medium, and this is where I think that, as I write more and more, I’m slowly realizing the influences that are guiding my storytelling.

You see, reading in the past – wonderful books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Great Expectations, or even Salem’s Lot – got me feeling in a way that, in my experience, only a book could. When Scout and her brother are being stalked through the dark, or when Magwitch is waiting in the staircase for Pip, I remember feeling a deep unease, a fright and terror that no movie could ever instill in me – something that came from a deep caring of lovingly crafted characters, and the words on the page painted emotion as much as they did images.

Film, on the other hand, is (obviously) a heavily visual medium. And whilst some films don’t necessarily explore this in depth, others manage to convey the story in a way only visual imagery could. The Lord of the Rings, Lawrence of Arabia, or even the manufactured but highly enjoyable Marvel movies … these are all prime examples of stories that, I feel, are absolutely best told through film. The grandeur, spectacle, and beautiful blending of sound and light simply wouldn’t work as words on paper (ironic, that all of these would have started life as scripts – or in some cases, actual books).

But as I delve deeper into writing my own novels, I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more influenced by these visual stories even as I put digital ink onto screen. When I write The Redemption of Erâth, I see the story in my head, almost as a film playing before my eyes; I write it as if I were describing a movie. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m really writing movies – 400-page movies, to be sure, but movies nonetheless. My inspirations aren’t the books of my past, but the films I’ve watched and adored.

It’s interesting, because in some of the reviews I’ve read, people have actually said that they would make great movies – perhaps because of the visual element I’m trying to instill into black and white text (not always successfully, of course). And it makes me wonder – is there room for a different kind of story in me? Can I even write a book that toys with emotions and thoughts in a way that film can’t do justice to?

In any case, I enjoy writing these stories – whether they’re primarily visual in my head or not – and I suppose I’ll carry on for now in the way I always have; after all, I don’t particularly want to see a great change of style halfway through the Redemption of Erâth series. But as I continue through my literary journey, perhaps I can try to include a little more of the written story in my books, as well.

What do you think? What books have made you feel things that you couldn’t imagine from a film? Or vice versa?

Welcome to Sci-Fi and Fantasy Wednesdays

As I wrote on Monday, one of my commitments for this year to is to start writing on here on a more frequent, regular basis. Given that I literally write fantasy (in the form of my ongoing series, The Redemption of Erâth), and I have a deep love for all things science-fiction, I thought it might be an idea to start a section on this blog dedicated to discussions of all things sci-fi and fantasy-related! I’ll be putting up a new post each Wednesday with something related to these topics, and we’ll see if it catches on!

To start with some background, I owe my love of sci-fi almost wholly to Gene Roddenberry, growing up as I did on a full-fat diet of Star Trek: The Next Generation (I’m not quite old enough to have experienced the original series as it aired, though I certainly watched plenty of re-runs). I absolutely adored the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and co. as they traveled the galaxy, exploring new worlds and fighting off Romulans and the Borg. I would re-enact episodes constantly in our back yard, and my very first ever original story was actually Star Trek fan fiction!

As I grew older, I had an uncle who also loved science fiction, and introduced me to some of the harder sci-fi stories out there, including Dune (to this day, remaining one of my favorite science-fiction franchises), and countless other books about aliens, spaceships and intergalactic travel. Oddly enough, Star Wars never really took over too much for me – although I remember the old VHS tapes of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader fondly, Star Trek was always my go-to – perhaps because it handled the ‘science’ portion of sci-fi somewhat more accurately.

I was never as much into fantasy, oddly, as a child; I don’t know if this is because there wasn’t any good fantasy on TV, or if it’s because fantasy tends to deal with the past (or fictional past, anyway) whilst I was always dreaming of the future, but it wasn’t really until Peter Jackson’s magnificent rendition of The Lord of the Rings that fantasy truly came to cross my radar as something not only enjoyable, but absolutely worth my time. I hadn’t even read the books by the time I saw the films, although I have since and enjoyed them immensely (dense as they are).

I think that, in some ways, sci-fi and fantasy are two sides of the same coin, which is perhaps why they are so often thrown together on the bookshelves. I don’t think that they necessarily mix terribly well (I suppose there are some examples, such as A Wrinkle in Time), but both – at their best – deal with human conflict in unimaginable settings. For me, the key distinction is really that sci-fi deals with what might one day be possible, whereas fantasy deals more with what might once have been. Whether it’s stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia, set in entirely alternate universes, or Harry Potter, set in an alternate version of modern-day society, fantasy often uses magic as a way of explaining things that are, to our current understanding, impossible; science fiction uses science to do exactly the same thing. And to many, magic is simply a way of describing that which we don’t yet understand – leaving science fiction to simply be rationalized magic.

Of course, the world in which the stories take place – be it galaxies far, far away or the house next door – must serve as the setting for human-driven tales. In Star Wars, despite the often-unrealistic portrayals of space travel and what essentially amounts to magic in the explanations of ‘the force’, we are really seeing a very human story of emotional manipulation, love, death, triumph and tragedy. In Harry Potter, we see … well, almost exactly the same thing.

For me, the best stories are human ones, and the removal of reality from the setting – whether by setting it in space or in Middle-Earth – in some ways simply allows us to focus more strongly on those human traits, characteristics and conflicts, detaching it from reality and giving us an opportunity to wonder – what would I do, in a similar situation?

What are your favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories, books and films? What makes them so great to you? Is it the setting, or is it the human connection? Let me know in the comments!

New Years, Commitments, and Fantasy

In years past, I’ve often tried to commit to blogging on a more regular basis come January first. (I mean, technically there’s no reason I have to use the passing of a year to define when I should start writing again, but it’s a useful starting point.) I always start out with the best of intentions, and usually end up faltering and ceasing within a month or so. And whilst I can certainly try to do better this year, there’s really no reason for me to expect that 2021 will be any different than 2020, or 2019, or any year before that. I would love for this blog to reach the heights of its early days in 2011 and 2012, but it probably won’t happen.

That being said, I still have marked out in my calendar a regular post schedule (Thought of the Week on Mondays, Movie Night on Fridays, etc.), and I’d like to use it as a reminder of that fact that, at the end of the day, I really do enjoy writing and communicating ideas – asinine as they may sometimes be.

I already wrote a Movie Night and Music I Love post on Saturday to grace the start of the New Year, but today’s post really marks the beginning, as it’s the start of the week, and I want to see if I can outline some of what I’d like to accomplish over the coming year.

I know well enough that getting readership is highly dependent on both quality of posts and quantity – a post a month is hardly going to garner interest – so a commitment to regular writing is important. But I don’t want to simply reduce myself to posting arbitrary thoughts of nothingness just for the sake of it, so I want to outline a schedule that I can at least try to adhere to. So here goes:

  • Monday: Thought of the Week – this is my opportunity to discuss anything that happens to cross my radar – whether it be political, literary, musical, or anything else that seems of interest.
  • Wednesday: Sci-Fi & Fantasy – here is where I will post about things with a focus on science-fiction and fantasy – whether it be updates on my own series, The Redemption of Erâth, or thoughts on other fantasy and sci-fi stories and franchises.
  • Friday: Movie Night – discussions of film, cinema, and movie reviews.

Additionally:

  • First day of the month: Music I Love – this will be an opportunity to discuss all things music-related, wether it be album reviews, discussions of classical music, or anything else.

This will allow for around 12-15 posts each month, which I hope will be manageable and not overwhelming. I think one of the biggest challenges I face when it comes to writing is the fact that I often feel lethargic, depressed or simply overwhelmed, and writing ends up taking a back seat to simply trying to make it through the day. I also hope that, with a planned schedule, I can take advantage of my quasi-random days off from work to write out several posts in advance, so that I don’t feel as though I’m down to the wire when it comes to getting posts written.

Finally, I would also love for 2021 to be the year that the fourth Redemption of Erâth book comes out; I started working on it over a year ago, and took a break to wrap up my second Young Adult novel (under my real name), but I’d very much like to see where the story of Brandyé, Elven and their companions is going. This is going to take a lot of time and commitment, but with no other books in the pipeline, I might just have an opportunity to really tackle this story once and for all.

So here’s to a new year of writing – and hopefully one that will see my word count skyrocket!