A Superhero Start

I’ve pretty much screwed up my New Year’s Resolution. I just finished cleaning up my submissions list and realized that although I got one in, I missed three windows in the process, one of which I had an idea for.

But I have to say that, given the projects I’ve been working on, it’s proven worth it.

With Far Worlds finished, I turned my eye back to story writing. My buddy Jonathan Ward shared a tale he was working on for a super hero publication. Andrew liked it a lot. I sat on it for as I wrapped up my novel synopsis for a certain indie game. But once I finished it, I gave Ward’s story an eye over. For whatever reason, the story excited us enough that Andrew and I decided to pitch stories as well.

What happened next was somewhat unexpected, but very awesome. After watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I had a conversation with Andrew, who had seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2. We talked about what Marvel was doing right versus Sony’s difficulties in story telling. The discussion got me thinking about our own short stories. So I went back to the publisher and Ward and asked permission to gently tie our stories together in the same universe, using distant details.

Ward gave it his blessing. The publisher was not only cool with it, but shot us a more interesting offer on top of it: Apparently, interest in the anthology was so high, he decided to try a quarterly. If we put together at least four authors doing at least four novellas, he’ll take a look with an eye to publish.

What happened next was very rapid. Two more buddies joined us, Robbie and Alec. Robbie had a test to take so couldn’t submit to this anthology. (Today as a matter of fact. If you’re reading this, good luck Rob.) Alec found time and after rolling over his initial idea, penned a strong short story that he submitted (bringing us up to four stories). Once done, we started swapping ideas and fleshing details out for these novellas and tying our heroes together.

Let me tell you. There is nothing quite so refreshing as having fellow authors you can bounce ideas off of.

Writers have a constant problem of half baked ideas. We’re plagued by them. Most of the time, the answer is to just jot the idea down and put it on the shelf to revisit later. Sometimes two halves combine to make a solid good one. Other times, we accumulate details to make that half-idea full.

But when you have a team and an open mind, a thought from one of your buddies can turn that unfiltered concept into something perfect. All of a sudden, those “near complete story” ideas are suddenly packed to the brim with rich details, subplots and fleshed our characters.

The other half of the good news is that it’s a group of novellas. Andrew and I tend to have a problem where our worlds grow. We don’t mean for them to, but short stories tend to become novelettes. Our work for Far Worlds, for example, became a little longer than it should have. Hanna teased us about that and she was right.

A novella is great practice in bridging the gap between short stories and novels. You have more elbow room to develop more characters. You can take your plot up a notch and have the word count to better explore the world. The other benefit is that it’s easier to find beta readers for. Finding friends to review a short story is not a big deal, as a short story should only take 15 to 30 minutes to read. Novels often take more than a reading and usually a few hours. But a novella might be just an hour or two.

So I’m really looking forward to the project, hanging with the guys and carefully tying our novellas together.

A Viral Idea

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Leonardo DiCaprio as Walter Cobb, Inception

A classic.

A classic.

About a month ago, I was wandering the new and used DVD bins of FYE and came across a sci-fi classic. Yesterday night, I threw it in the player and enjoyed one of my favorite movies from my childhood. There were differences of course, as this was the director’s cut version. But the film was still rewarding to see, especially after a long absence from my mind.

That movie was Dark City.

I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. Its opening weekend competed with another flick called Titanic. When you think about the shadow that movie cast, you’d realize how ironically appropriate the name Dark City really is.

But you would have to live in a cave not to have heard of The Matrix or Inception. In an interview with the Los Angelos Time, Christopher Nolan was asked about Inceptions connection to movies like Avatar or Surrogates. He responded:

“The whole concept of avatars and living life as someone else, there’s a relationship to what we’re doing, but I think when I first started trying to make this film happen it was very much pulled from that era of movies where you had ‘The Matrix,’ you had ‘Dark City,’ you had ‘The Thirteenth Floor‘ and, to a certain extent, you had ‘Memento’ too. They were based in the principles that the world around you might not be real.”

I have to make a note to check out The Thirteenth Floor.

Dark City financially failed. But it planted the seed of an idea in our minds. Inspiration and creativity come from places we sometimes forget. Stories we used to hear, the movies we watch, all are sources of ideas. Sometimes the greatest ideas just aren’t well told the first time, like a draft in need of improvement. And sometimes, even the worst ideas make for great stories. Like Don Quixote. Sometimes, a terrible idea is the start of a great story to write. Whether or not you throw in a character who opposes that idea is up to you.