Lessons: The Force Awakens

My final posting on lessons from Star Wars before I start the reboot. What a great week it has been!

v4evw

In case you missed it, I read and analyzed the Original Trilogy (OT):

Now, time for the fourth film. Stream-of-consciousness impressions follow:

-Opening crawl: Leia’s Resistance has the support of the Republic? Shouldn’t she…be the Republic?
-Apparently Jedi are prone to disappearing into Hermitage after a traumatic event.
-This movie cheats the “always open in space” conceit quite well
-Maybe the old man can be a little kid in the prequels? Hahaha, just kidding
-Plans given to a droid
-Finn being the first “person” stormtrooper is great. But don’t do this in your story.
-Humor!
-Phasma is cool. What a waste.
-By minute 11, we’ve met all our main characters. Nice! What was the timestamp when they meet Han and Chewie? [Went and checked…48 minutes before we see Han? Holy shit! Well, wind up between those two extremes.]
-Rey is a “kid” (dolls, wears helmet, etc) without actually being a kid. Well done.
-Speaking alien/robot language without subtitles, but we get it.
-Jakku is essentially Tatooine. Environments can be reused successfully
-TIE escape: nothing goes according to plan
-This movie sure has action!
-As far as the physics of these movies are concerned, space is just an extension of the sky
-Everyone has their own goals and motivation, but gets pulled into something larger
-Han Solo… goosebumps. These movies are about characters
-Why would the Reptar carry Finn around when it immediately devoured everyone else? Guess it was going to tuck him away for later…be consistent.
-So… what was the Awakening?
-The remote, the chess board, this film is full of member berries
-Cantinas are an important part of the underworld
-Orphans, man…
-That vision scene suggests some strange things about the nature of the Force
-The only thing in this movie from the prequels is Coruscant, nice!
-Stormtrooper energy staff thing is cool. It would make sense if there were other “energy barrier” weapons to combat lightsabers
-How the hell does Rey even know what a mind trick is? Much less how to do it
-The “let’s plan a mission to blow up the big thing” scene. This movie “feels” like Star Wars…and that’s the most important part
-I hate to say it, but Rey is too good at too many things. Mainly, at the Force
-Is it possible for the good guys to have a win without blowing up a superweapon?
-No medal, no hug…what does Leia have against Chewbacca? Haha
-Why did R2 suddenly awaken? Where did he get the rest of the map? Why is there even a map? Who made it? Luke? Abrams sure is good at asking questions. Hope the next guy is up to the task.

That’s it! What’s next? Am I going to analyze the prequels?

Nope.

That’s been done many times over. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d recommend watching RedLetterMedia’s prequel reviews or BelatedMedia’s if the prequels were good videos.

Instead, I’m going to Reboot the Prequels. The ultimate writing exercise. I’ve spent plenty of time groaning about the prequels, and now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

I’m going to write three screenplays that do justice to the series and make the OT stronger, rather than weakening it. Craft a series that’s essentially what the prequels should have been. 


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Will you join me on this journey?

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

Advertisements

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.

giphy

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!

May the 4th Be With You!

Writer/Director/Producer J.J Abrams (top center right) at the cast read-through of Star Wars Episode VII at Pinewood Studios with (clockwise from right) Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Writer Lawrence Kasdan. Copyright and Photo Credit: David James.

With this week’s cast announcement (pictured above) for Star Wars: Episode VII, and today being Star Wars Day, I thought it a fitting time for my own announcement from a galaxy far, far away… It’s been almost a decade now that I’ve been complaining about the Star Wars prequels. How they could have been great, should have been great. Well, now I’m going to put my powers to good and finally stop talking. I’m re-writing the prequels. I’m giving us, the fans, the Episodes I, II, and III we deserve. No Jar-Jar, no poop jokes, no politics and trade disputes, no Yoda lightsaber fights, no seeing our favorite characters as plucky children, no so-many-lightsabers-your-eyes-bleed fights. I’m not starting from scratch, I’m taking Lucas’ ideas and reforging them into What the Prequels Should Have Been. I’ve outlined Episodes I and II. Stay tuned for more details, and enjoy this small teaser. The Opening Crawl to Star Wars, Episode I: A New Menace: http://starwars.com/play/online-activities/crawl-creator/?cs=g6qakvkhua (click to view or to create your own floating text!)

A long time ago,
[Click to view full scroll]
 PS — Those eagerly awaiting CYP#3, don’t worry, SUPERPOWERED is still on it’s way!

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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!

Screenwriting vs Prose

As a writer who finds himself at home in both forms, I’m often asked what it’s like transitioning between the two.

Personally, I love it.  They’re both very different, and switching from one to the other is like taking a break, but without the lost productivity.  And my number one goal?  Be prolific.  So if nothing else, it helps me accomplish that.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me outline the fundamental differences between the two.  As most people are familiar with prose (you’re reading prose right now!), I’ll just speak to how screenwriting differs.

In prose, the writing is the finished product. In a screenplay, the movie is it’s final form.  So there’s no thoughts, no emotions, no asides–just action and dialogue. In a script, you’re only writing what will be SEEN or HEARD by the eventual audience.  And guess what?  No description either.  You want your lead in a blue dress?  Oh well.  UNLESS it directly influences the plot, but if you just envisioned her that way–too bad.  Why?  Because at this point you’re doing someone else’s job.  A movie is a collaboration.  There’s someone whose entire job is picking out what color dress your lead will be in.

The result leaves you the bare minimum of words with which to tell the story.  But that’s expected, because there’s one other very important job as a screenwriter: you dictate the pacing.  The general rule, is that one page in a script is equal to one minute of film time.  So much hinges on this (budget, blah blah blah) that a minute goes by quicker than you think.

So in a nutshell:  Writing a novel, your goal is to completely immerse your reader into your story, by whatever means possible.  There are almost no rules.  Writing a screenplay, your goal is to not get in the way of everyone else on the project, so they can immerse the audience into your story.  And there are lots of rules (I’m not going to touch on formatting), but they can be broken if you know what you’re doing and have a good reason.

Now to cover the initial question: what’s it like to switch?  It makes my writing, in both forms, that much richer.  I’ve learned to make my words count, to use subtext, to let a moment speak for itself.

As an exercise, I re-wrote a story that was originally a short script, The Tunnel, as a short story.  You can read the script here and the short story here.

Want more on the differences?  Check out the next post in the series, Scripts vs Novels.