Lessons: A New Hope

Now that my newest book has launched (and is available in paperback!) and the promos are finished, I’m finally diving into a passion project/writing exercise that has been on my mind for years.

Only this time, I mean it. I’m not starting my next CYP book until I Reboot the Prequels.

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As part of the project, I’m rewatching all four Star Wars movies with a higher scrutiny than ever before. Trying to make myself see them for the first time. Really, focusing on the world and writing, and divorcing that from the existing prequels.

It should be noted that I’m essentially starting from scratch; going with what the prequels should have been. This is not “Episode I with less Jar-Jar.”

Feel free to follow along, maybe even tell me when I’m wrong; I’m going to try to do a lot of blogging during the process (relative to my normal hardly-ever blogging). And, of course, the scripts will be available for download once I’m finished.

Here are my notes from yesterday’s screening of Episode IV: A New Hope. I wrote these out stream-of-consciousness, so bear with me.

-Starts in the middle of the “civil war.” Start the prequels with the clone wars already underway.
-Vader lets his troops do the fighting, he interrogates
-What is Leia doing? Mystery!
-Have a consul ship “with an ambassador”
-Use stun settings somewhere
-Droid banter is fun
-Empire is overconfident/hubris. Give a reason why…
-It’s fun to see new worlds and aliens
-Literally every scene has conflict in it and this informs us of character
-Seems like C-3P0 doesn’t really know R2D2. Doesn’t even like him until the end of the movie. Don’t put them in the prequels.
-Owen Lars knows Obi Wan and Luke’s father, but doesn’t want to talk about it
-What if Beru is Anakin’s sister? A literal Aunt and Uncle.
-These worlds are dangerous. People die.
-Jedi trick: Vocal mimicry? Obi Wan made a ridiculous screech to scare off the sand people.
-Jedi healing: Hand over face.
-“Obi Wan” is his official, Republic name. He’s Ben to friends.
-Ben didn’t own a droid.
-Owen thought “your father should have stayed here and not gotten involved.” So Anakin really is from Tatooine. But instead of the exact same start…Maybe have Anakin “fresh off the bus” on Coruscant. Bright eyed and idealistic. The Republic doesn’t need him, they have plenty of people.  Gets swindled by locals and ends up homeless. Until he crosses paths with Major Kenobi…
-Response to “you fought in the clone wars?” Is “Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight. Same as your father.”
-Anakin was the best Star Pilot in the galaxy.
-Wanted his son to have his lightsaber, when he was old enough. Maybe said in the abstract to Ben? In a life or death situation? “I imagined a family,” etc…
-Jedi Knights were gentlemen.
-General Kenobi served Bail Organa in the Clone Wars
-“We’re being deployed. To Alderaan.”
-Maybe a “If you ever need me” moment from Kenobi to Organa.
-Imperial Senate must exist the whole time. It gets officially disbanded in this movie.
-The robes. Jesus, do Jawas wear tiny Jedi robes? No. Those aren’t a thing. Obi Wan is wearing a desert hermit’s outfit, not the official uniform of a League of Badasses.
-Random droid racism in the cantina
-Clone War Idea: Clones take a while to “bake” but they come out identical. If you rush the process, they deform like monsters and are mentally unstable. As the clone wars progress, there are more and more of the latter kind. In keeping with “starting in the middle” most of the clone troops we see in the opening have some sort of deformity and a quick temper.
-Outer systems are the Wild West, Imperial systems are colonial Britain
-Big trooper rifles need backpacks
-Han’s skepticism implies that the Jedi were secret. More powerful if people don’t know your tricks. Obi Wan was a General who was also a Knight in a secret society.
-The first rebel base is on Dantooine. Leave it there so audiences think Leia really did give away the location if they were to watch these in numerical order.
-“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”
-Tractor beams are things.
-Give Prince Bail Organa a sweet cape. Anakin likes the look of it.
-Remember, this is a high tech analog world. Nothing is wireless.
-None of our heroes agree on anything.
-Most of the imperial officers are old. Maybe the “new” Empire is run by 20-somethings? Hitler-youthesque.
-“Not as clumsy or random as a blaster” no kidding. Those things can’t hit anything.
-“spirited droids” are great. Maybe a little flying one who helps Anakin?
-Same Jedi “sound trick” used on stormtroopers
-Jedi avoid engagement. Outsmart their opponents
-Humor, humor, humor!
-Vader is genuinely surprised when Obi Wan disappears
-The Republic should use new, shiny X and Y wings. The Empire tech later replaces it all. The rebellion uses the junk.
-Surprises and twists!

That’s it for now. Time for Empire!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Are the prequels in need of a reboot? Excited to check out this side-project?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Happy Star Wars Day!

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It’s Star Wars day! A day when fans celebrate the greatest film trilogy ever made and fanatics do so slightly more than on any other day.

For me, I wanted to say that my Reboot The Prequels project is still alive and well.

Since last year, we were introduced to a new Star Wars film that I quite enjoyed, but wasn’t without its detractors. People complained (somewhat validly) that The Force Awakens was just a soft reboot of the Original Trilogy. A Star Wars “Greatest Hits” if you will.

I can definitely see where this criticism comes from; I just don’t see it as a bad thing.

As an audience member, I was extremely skeptical of a new Star Wars movie. I’m sure many of us were. So, giving us something that “felt” like Star Wars was a big step towards regaining that audience trust. Now I’m incredibly excited for the next installments in the saga.

But for my reboot? It’s a great thing! The Prequel Trilogy was all but written off in the new film, leaving a wide berth for the Reboot Trilogy to fit within the confines of the saga overall.

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I know it’s been a while since I announced my intent to rewrite these movies, but here’s a solid commitment: After I finish my next Click Your Poison book (this summer), I’m going to dive into these Star Wars scripts full time.

So…it’s coming. I just need to buckle down and remember, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

PS — I also had my fist taste of a “reboot hater” on the internet this year. I get that you might think I’m wasting my time, or hell, you might even like the prequels. But if you don’t think rebooting the prequels is a good idea, let’s just each go our own way on this issue, okay? Especially on Star Wars day, I think we can agree to disagree.

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What do YOU think? Still waiting patiently? Don’t care and hope I don’t take too long of a sabbatical between books? 

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

So…there are four Star Wars movies now.

So, I just got back from Brazil (blog posts incoming!) and I had to go see The Force Awakens before I could log onto the internet.

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There is quite a bit I’m glad I didn’t read online. Whew!

Walking to the theater, I determined there were four possible outcomes:

  1. The movie would make me angry (like the prequels).
  2. It would be better than the prequels, but not great.
  3. It would be a really fun movie, but without reaching instant classic status.
  4. It would somehow achieve the impossible task of being as good as the Original Trilogy.

And I must say, I really, really enjoyed the film. Much more than I thought I would. Here I was, prepared to call the director Jar Jar Abrams should he fail me, and all my doubts were unfounded. The movie easily hits #3. Not sure yet if it’s #4-worthy, but I’m already planning on seeing it again. Brian, my collaborator on the Reboot the Prequels project, has already declared the movie his favorite Star Wars movie. Ever.

I’m not sure I’m ready for such declarations, but I can say that I’m genuinely excited to see the next film. By contrast, waiting for Episode III felt like waiting for a dental appointment.

Sure, I have a few gripes. (Spoilers) I still don’t like the crossguard saber. Rey using force-based skills without any training felt rushed, the Skywalker saber seeming to have a will of its own didn’t sit well, and I’m not sure how I feel about Giant Smeagol as the new Big Bad (end spoilers). But I can let those slide, for one particularly wonderful reason:

It felt like a Star Wars movie. Great banter and chemistry. A real sense of fun. Almost no prequel references. No over-explaining everything. No politics. Hell, they blew up the senate!

Which leads to one awesome point: Our prequel reboot is still a go, and now has a stronger case than ever. Especially with a Mandalorian-centered plot.

Did you catch this Easter Egg?

What did YOU think? Love the movie? Hate it? Meh? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share, like, and subscribe!

Scripts vs Novels

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional, and nothing found on this site should be taken as legal advice.  Always consult an attorney.

I’ve already written about the differences of Screenwriting vs Prose from a writer’s perspective.  Now I’d like to touch a little on the differences between the finished products: Scripts (screenplays) and Novels (books).  Physically, here you go:

The Script: Three-hole-punched 8 1/2″ x 11″ computer printed paper, bound with two brads.
A Book: Bound pages, professionally printed, in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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As for the format?  There’s plenty of nuts and bolts books written on formatting screenplays and you can google manuscript specifications for agents or publishers (or ebook format), so if you’re looking for that, keep looking.

What I’d really like to talk about in this post is what the rights a writer keeps if they sell a script versus selling a novel.

Here’s what it boils down to: when you sell a screenplay, you are (generally) selling the whole thing.  It’s no longer yours.  Other writers can (and probably will) make changes to your story without your permission.  When you sell a novel, you’re still the copyright holder and it’s still your writing, you’ve just given the publishing house the rights to print and sell it.

As a writer in the US, you have far more rights as a novelist than as a screenwriter.  In Europe, screenwriters have more rights, but for this purpose–I’m talking only about American writers making deals with American production companies.

There are ways to keep certain rights to a screenplay, such as the extremely complicated Theatrical Separated Rights.  On the flipside, there’s also terrifying loopholes like Hollywood Accounting, where you might never even get paid.  For the most part, though, screenwriters aren’t even allowed to distribute the very scripts they wrote once they’re sold.

But as a novelist, you keep your copyright.  Even if your book is getting adapted to film–in which case you only license the material to the studio, allowing them to make the film, much like you allowed a publisher to print the book.

Really, we can chase this rabbit down the hole as far as we want, but I think if we go much further we’ll need a pack of lawyers to read the map.  So… that’s it for now.

Lesson learned: write the book first.  Sell it twice, keep the rights!

Film Review: THE HUNTER (2011)

Disclaimer: I don’t plan on making film reviews the norm on this site but because I already wrote about this movie, I’m willing to make an exception.  I also don’t like giving negative reviews, especially for independently financed projects, as I respect the difficulties of moviemaking and I don’t want to steer revenue away from these hard working artists.  However, my audience is intelligent enough to know that this is only my opinion and that their own millage may vary.  So we shall proceed.

Please be aware that SPOILERS will follow, so if you don’t want to ruin your Monet Experience then go watch the movie now (it’s currently playing VOD) and then come back and share your thoughts.

Here is the trailer for the movie:

The Hunter (2011) – Official Trailer HD

The trailer would have you believe it’s a tense thriller, right?  About a man with a rifle, put in jeopardy by a conspiracy of those all around him–plenty of intrigue and suspense, right?  Wrong.  This 1:38 might be the most exciting of the whole 100 minute movie.

Okay, so maybe the problem was with marketing.  Maybe if I knew I was getting into a slow, plodding drama more about unemployed loggers than a Tasmanian tiger hunt, I’d have enjoyed the experience more.  But probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie has its redeeming aspects.  The cast was stellar!  Defoe and O’Conner brought grace and strength.  Sam Neil perfectly blended as a native (IMDB tells me he grew up down-under, so it’s no surprise).  And what a beautiful film; the cinematographer expertly captured the breathtaking scenery.

I actually wish I liked this movie more.  The topic is obviously one that interests me.  But I just couldn’t get behind it.  It strikes me as another in a painfully long line of films that tries to be profound by having nothing happen.  It’s like someone who wants to write a great work of literature, so they decide step one is “don’t have a plot”.

A fellow friend and filmmaker once shared a bit of wisdom with me he learned while making a documentary on the Air Force Academy.  He said, you can’t show the audience that an event is boring by boring them for ninety minutes.  By the same token, I find that if you spend too much time building the atmosphere, you’re left with nothing but that.

So did I miss something?  Or did the filmmakers?

In defense of the werewolf

Another installment of “Underworld” is coming out, and I’m obligated to hope it does well.  Not as a fan of the series, but as a fan of werewolves.  Why?  Because Hollywood won’t see its success or failure as Here’s what people think about Underworld.  Instead, it will be viewed as Here’s what people think about werewolves.  So, if I want to see more lycanthropy up on screen, I must hope for the success of this film.

I’ve written a novel which will redefine the werewolf from its origins, that I’ve only begun to show to agents.  But a constant question I receive from friends, family and colleagues  is “Why werewolves?”


Werewolf Comments & Graphics
~Magickal Graphics~

Allow me to explain.

As a writer, the concept of the werewolf fascinates me.  It is man’s feral nature, bursting forth and coming to a clash with the civilized world.  In short, the werewolf is the id.  The concept is nearly limitless, and still has much room for exploration.

As a fan, the werewolf story is essentially a superhero tale.  It’s the same story as Spiderman.  Bitten by an otherworldly force, a nobody is suddenly thrust to find if they are either gifted or cursed.  It’s the story of someone who has something missing within them, suddenly being given more than they can handle.  Indeed, in one timeline of Spiderman, he even begins turning into a werespider, if you will.

Man Spider, source: cdn.obsidianport.com

The werewolf has yet to have its day.  Vampires are in vogue and idealized, but I think the comparison is an irrelevant invention of pop culture.  It’d be like if Frankenstein vs The Mummy had taken off, and now all mentions of Frankenstein’s Monster must be held up against King Tut.


Werewolf Comments & Graphics
~Magickal Graphics~

Having said that, I think I’ve written something that will do for werewolves what Anne Rice did for vampires.

I hope to share it with you soon.

Hollywood Imperialism: Make the World Britain!

This is the first actual “weekend” I’ve had in a long time. I write every day, or at least edit/proofread. For those of you who may have missed it on Twitter, I finished editing my novel and sent it off for review yesterday.  So this weekend is completely off!  Except for this blog…enjoy.

The subject of the blog entry, is something I’ve noticed for a long time:

To Americans, all foreigners are British.

This is specifically true, if the movie is highlighting an ancient civilization.  Go watch any movie or TV show made in the last 15 years, and if the foreigners are speaking English, I guarantee it’s the King’s.

Now onto the “why”:

-Sometimes the actors actually are British.  Sometimes.  People cite the HBO show “Rome” as an example of this.  You point out that all the Romans have British accents, and they’ll inform you it’s simply because that’s how they speak.  Not exactly.  Many of the actors on that show were Irish, and needed voice coaches to become posh-sounding Imperialists.  Which leads us to the next point….

The English were Imperialist.  That’s why it makes sense to us as a modern audience.  The hoity-toighty English accent makes more sense to our American minds for the portrayal of members of a grand empire, than a cheese-ball Italian accent would (even if it’s more accurate).  You wouldn’t want Mario and Luigi giving epic speeches, would you?  Even Star Wars recognizes this effect, as almost all their Imperial officers have a British accent.

-It makes distinguishing class easier.  Perhaps the most subconscious-based reason.  As many people don’t know much about ancient political structure, giving the nobility an “educated” accent (mmmmmyes, quite right) and giving the footsoldiers a “common” accent (‘ello govna!) allows us to easily distinguish social hierarchy without having it explained to us.

These all make a certain amount of sense, to me at least.  But sometimes it goes a bit far.  I recently watched the movie “Hugo”, which takes place in 1930s France.  All the books, menus, signs, etc were in French.  They even went so far as to shoot it in Paris.  Yet the actors all had British accents!  Perhaps English-speaking actors with French accents are hard to find, while Britains are abundant.  Or perhaps…

-That’s just the way we do it.  Because of actor availability on foreign locations, classical films used English actors.  So the tradition continues.  That, and we don’t want to start confusing the audience this late in the game.

Can you imagine a Roman General with a Tennessee accent? But it’s just as realistic as British tones.