Archive for February, 2017

Fan Fiction

Posted: February 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Should writers employ fan fiction as part of their overall package? Short answer, yes…or no. I currently say yes, I’m having a blast writing a Wonder Woman story where she marries Batman and he dies suddenly (a distinct possibility when your raison d’etre is running around Gotham dressed like Dracula and breaking criminals’ arms). And therein is the whole reason to say yes. I had fun. I kept in practice for my own projects, when I’m blocked. It’s aspirational to write such beloved characters in the hope of being hired to write similar stories in the future. 

The No camp usually falls into these refrains. You’re wasting your time because nobody takes fan fiction seriously. No one has ever been hired for a professional job based off fan fiction for that character. Write your own work. All mostly true. Don’t care.

And then you get certain stories that can’t be told with original characters because savvy readers will know immediately that ah, a Wonder Woman clone or ah, a Batman clone, why didn’t you just write a Batman Elseworlds fan fiction? Put more simply, my dormant original core spandex characters who mimic certain aspects of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Hulk, Iron Man and the like can’t die anymore than Main Continuity Batman can die, without building resurrection into the fabric of the universe. I can’t kill off Dark Warrior until just before I give up the whole mythos, permanently. I’ll just write stuff thank you very much. There is no Mother May I in what we do. And I can toss off a few projects for free as long as I keep writing.

How does a writer go about getting into the fan fiction game? A writer has three choices that I know about: Wattpad, FanFiction.net and post it yourself on one of many free or cheap blogs available. Put a gun to my head, go with Option Three. At least, for the near future.

I’ve been on Wattpad.com for a while though my output runs in spurts when my own feelings about fan fiction run towards the No camp. Wattpad is supposed to work as both a fan fiction site and as a last ditch publishing venue for short stories that circumvents the nerve wracking process of send submissions, wait three to six months for them to say No that writers way better than all of us have gone through since the invention of the literary or genre magazine (they still exist even if most are digital only). By contrast, FanFiction.net is fan fiction only, the founders created FictionPress.com for the non-fan fiction stories.

Regardless of how each of these sites splits up their content, each site or family of sites functions as a peer-reviewed community where you read other people’s work leave comments and they do the same for you. This might be why I haven’t gotten much readership off my Wattpad account, I have trouble keeping up with reading all kinds of writing thrust under my nose for me to get off my ass and write more literary criticism, coverage and thoughtful essays. Anything more substantial than a Facebook reaction. And I just haven’t had the time to post anything to FanFiction.net.

Until the day writing this post, I was okay with I’ll post it and get to the social aspects of the community later. I understand reciprocity, but I just needed to get the story up where somebody would read it after I told them to on Twitter and Facebook. Again, I’m tossing off some work for free as part of an overall package of keeping busy until I rake in J.K. Rowling money for finally doing something that hits its audience just so. So what happened that I’ve now moved my current work The Widow Wayne on my WordPress site – http://www.smokinglizard.com?

Basically, the technology of each each of the two sites stopped working with my mobile tech in different ways, so Option Three, Baby! Publish it yourself. I could’ve rested the why on creative control or some such hifalutin reason, because WordPress and Blogspot usually trust I’m going to do my own editing and curating. But really, the software broke at an inconvenient time and I’m out the door, Man.

With Wattpad, I discovered just this morning that suddenly apps that are supposed to mesh together across my iPhone and iPad stopped doing that. I kept getting a Device Conflict Error message that the version of The Widow Wayne I had written on the iPad now conflicted with trying to update the same file on my iPhone.

No amount of tapping Keep this Version on the phone cleared up the conflict. Nor did deleting the iPad version of Wattpad and reinstalling it do anything. Yeah, this is something that an update will likely clear up, but I don’t have time for that wait. By contrast, my mobile WordPress app which has the same general capability of allowing editing and other updates from any mobile device to which the app knows my WordPress password.

In fact, my attempts to fix this made things worse because none of the previous work that I know should not be affected sometimes refused to display onscreen from the iPad. So I went to the iPhone Wattpad feed and Cut and Paste my current work into my Word app and then posted the work onto my site before making sure the links dropped onto Facebook and Twitter.

I had initially intended to move The Widow Wayne over to FanFiction.net, a site that loves to stick even the slightest bit of dormancy with a request to re-enter password and email, or just Sign in With Facebook. I went through the process where I Cut and Paste the password from my password list, despite already having done it about a week and a half earlier. And then, this site despite supposedly having the buttons wouldn’t let me publish the story in multiple parts.

Trust me, Wonder Woman marries Batman and takes over for him upon his death is likely to be a novel length adventure written a bit at a time, like an old serial. Gotham is such a richly drawn setting and the whole point for me is seeing Wonder Woman who has more in the way of overt superpowers interacting with Batman’s famous Rogue’s Gallery who are used to the guy with the utility belt. Yeah, it will take a while.

I’ve moved the writing over to my site. I might keep these apps for when I get around to browsing for other writers’ stories, but…I’m done.

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© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

My first thought reading Danica Shade: This Party’s Soo Dead written by my friend, Joe Burns – my most useful superpower must be what I call the Missing Scene Alert. I have generally been able to feel my way through structure at an intuitive level leading to “I noticed something that should be on the page and isn’t.” But, let’s discuss what this book is and the many things that are great about this short but vastly entertaining tale before letting pesky things like a question only slightly less impertinent than those that arise at or from a current year Presidential press conference spoil the soup. 

Danica Shade is a young lady, or she-drow (dark elf for those who didn’t play Dungeons & Dragons during their misspent youths) with a decided fondness for the modern Overworld city of Los Angeles. Ms. Shade once worked for the Federal Government in capacities best likened to – “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” – and has since retired to enjoy zombie-themed first person shooters with her best friend among the humans, the diminutive nurse/seamstress Kaylee. Danica has seemingly abandoned her subterranean homeland and formal speech patterns, despite the racism of surface dwellers, in favor of bloody crimson mayhem delivered with a smile, snark and pop culture references (to the extent that the three aren’t synonyms repeated for triple emphasis).

A word about the author arbitrarily inserted here between describing the character and getting to the meat of the story. Mister Burns and I share time at a comic book-centric creator group somewhere in the South Bay (for me it’s easier to use the comic book group for my midweek writing session than to drive to the Valley). And neither of us pencil, ink nor color being writers, thank you very much.

Despite being comic book fans who can wax craptological about our formative books, I certainly feel an unconscious and unintended bias towards people who draw. So Mr. Burns hit on a brilliant strategy to keep up with the product arms race among the creators: do illustrated prose to introduce a character and create fans for eventual Kickstarter campaigns for graphic novel sequels without breaking the bank paying an artist. Yes, I will copy this with my own work when I figure out how to find my own ass with a hunting dog and a map.

So back to the bone-crushing adventures of Danica Shade, she of periwinkle skin and pink hair, as she is continually interrupted one Halloween weekend by dark forces intent on keeping her from the first person shooter Zombie Dawn 7 (FYI, a quick type of the title into Wikipedia brings us to www.FunOrb.com an IRL mobile gaming site that probably wouldn’t go near the console versions depicted herein). Whether it’s two racist douchebags mugging a another she-drow from home or Danica’s past as Secret Government Agent walking uninvited through the door with a mission dossier in hand. And I do mean bone-crushing, counting up the broken knees, elbows and ribs in this gruesome dark tale is almost as fruitless as keeping track of the repetition of Brain and Spock’s Brain in the eponymous Star Trek:TOS episode.

Adventure walks in the door the night before Halloween in the form of Jackson, Danica’s former handler recently moved over to Homeland Security Arcane Threats Division. A necromancer, Malachi Gideon, is being imported by a corporation that stole the Obelisk Gate to open a portal for purposes of world domination. Danica has a day to organize an invitation to and costume for the corporation’s Halloween party.

Kaylee breaks out the pushpins to make a costume whining about the Plus One on the invitation until Danica cracks. They enter a castle allegedly built by witches in 1200 CE, despite Europeans not arriving anywhere near California before about 1600 CE. Danica parts with Kaylee in the bar amid the pulsing beat of loud House/Techno music and sets out to save the world…

I found reading this generally awesome story completely pleasurable. I’m a sucker for bone-crushing fistfights clearly inspired by roleplaying games where heroes and heroines come from unlikely places and beat back the Darkness one more time. And I couldn’t help enjoying Danica’s smile, snark and pop culture references as she personally depletes the Southern California contingent of foul Undead Beasts with quite a bit of humor.

But, you did hear me lead this review with missing scene? We now come to the faint whiff of liquorish flavor to go with the sugary taste of Red Vines. During the lead up to the Halloween party, Danica consults a local Arcanist (wizard), Cullen “Cole” Drake for the skinny on Big Bad Malachi Gideon learning the intel in the dossier is completely FUBAR because Necromancer Malachi Gideon should, in strict point of fact, be substituted by Lich (Undead and Extremely Powerful Former Necromancer) Malachi Gideon. Cole relates this information with such fear in his dust filled office that you expect him to blow Los Angeles immediately (or yesterday with a time travel spell).

However, Cole sticks around to take over as the mission support voice on the earbud (see Tom Arnold in True Lies) from Pixie, a gnome hacker sure to appear in future stories. The sharp reader simply asks the question – shouldn’t we see Danica and/or Kaylee’s attempts to persuade the reluctant Cole to join the fight on the page?

Yes, this is a short story/novella and most cool but extraneous things that would fill the novel, movie or Wagnerian opera versions of this story need excising. But, letting a moment where Danica would need to ask for help isn’t, to my eyes, one of them. One apparent flaw amid a gem of a head-breaking introduction tale to a character likely to thrill us for years? My friend is basically ahead of the game.

I will close repeating that I really enjoyed the read. And wax craptologically about the actress likely to wear purple makeup for the movie role…Scarlet Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence? Oh, and to tell you I paid Joe for my copy, which hopefully counteracts the friend conflict of interest reading this review, at least a little…

Player Pitch

Posted: February 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

“So, here it is, Mr. Mill, Gone With the Wind meets Of Human Bondage…in space,” says the unnamed screenwriter. 

This somewhat fictionalized scene from The Player highlights the average writer’s love-hate with what has come to be called the Player Pitch. We really don’t want to give said pitch, rather wanting to launch into the Real Pitch – “It’s about a girl who sells advertising space for radio…” But, we do have to live with the short form pitch, because it’s how we get permission to give the Real Pitch from people who believe their time more valuable than ours. There is, of course, at least one Real Pitch you never want coming out of anyone’s mouth – 2.0 Battlestar Galactica, Player Pitch “Exodus in Space,” Real Pitch…I can’t say it without blowing gray matter through your ears!

The inevitability of certain things eventually gets us to where we find things to like about things that define douche. We come to decide that the Player Pitch can actually be fun…I recommend smoke a bowl and go with it as a mental strategy.

My preferred version of the Player Pitch construction is a three part affair, “X meets Y filtered through the lens of Z.” The reason for this for me, the filtered through the lens part has a way of having a more creative way to tell someone “it’s a space movie” than Gone With the Wind meets Of Human Bondage…in space.

In this example that I basically pulled out my fart hole, (I have yet to either read, see or look Of Human Bondage up on Wikipedia) “in space” doesn’t tell you very much. As space movies go there are a wide range of choices. Filtered through the lens of Star Wars says long settled galaxy, civilization decaying from within and an almost magical faith that space wizards use to change the world. Filtered through the lens of Star Trek says the wide-eyed joy of the nonviolent ways to drop over the edge of the map just to see what lives there. Filtered through the lens of 2001 says a long arduous journey that reminds us that we bring our worst aspects with us as we explore. In space, becomes trite and not descriptive when you have other choices.

It follows that a writer better know all three elements of his or her pitch construction going into the room. See the movie. Read the book. We have library cards; use them or lose them.

And we are instructed in Save the Cat to only choose hits for our X, Y and Z. Since I think Blake Snyder represents good ideas about structure taken to the ridiculous (cookie cutter) extreme, may I suggest picking the three elements that best describes your story, even if one of the elements died in the marketplace?

I’ve seen Gone With the Wind, a story about resilience in the face of losing everything both personally and culturally due to sweeping changes to one’s world (what’s left when you boil away the rose-colored glasses about slavery). We’ll see what Of Human Bondage does for this hypothetical pitch when I actually dive in and read. Now, let’s go back to the Z element? Star Wars? Star Trek? 2001? Avatar? Does it have to be “in space?” How about underwater? Abyss?

I jest in this vein because we need to steal our fun where we can. That’s my point here, a speaking convention that The Player largely exposed as the height of Hollywood douchery can be fun. Yes, fun.

Picture, if you will, a post-apocalyptic wanderer armed with an ancient rapier looted from a museum… Oh, sorry, I’m lapsing into my recently derived Real Pitch for Homer the Barbarian: The Honey Queen and the Taxman’s Wife. So a story about a taciturn dude, the frisky witch hot for the dude and the Evil Witch/Queen Bee in the faraway castle? “Conan the Barbarian meets Wizard of Oz filtered through the lens of…”

Conan the Barbarian is obvious. A guy on the road with a sword with an almost monosyllabic vocabulary who finds high adventure. I have yet to decide if Homer will “steal a crown of his own to wear upon a troubled brow.”

Wizard of Oz speaks to the road quest story where the protagonist forms a team to defeat the witch in the dark castle. Certainly, the Honey Queen ain’t checking out because Dorothy splashes her with water. And despite my musical ambitions, we aren’t Off to See the Wizard.

Despite the assertion of this article that maybe my fellow writers should see the Player Pitch as a source of fun, I can’t claim to have started from the pitch. Desperate to maintain myself as a novelist keeping up with the comic book arms race in a key writing group, I’ve started and stopped several comic book projects. I freak out over the high bar of entry to comics if you don’t draw (the only thing ruder than please work for free among these people is I voted for insert name of orange President here). I stop and go back to the novels.

I hit on the idea of doing a photo manipulation book. Somehow, I hit on a barbarian I could play myself. Conan becomes obvious.

But, once I saw how boring the antagonist would be once he realized he had no reason to chase the Tax Wife, I added the Honey Queen. Evil queen in the castle. She casts a spell on the visible villain to keep him in the game. Wizard of Oz.

And now, we come to my Z element. It’s a post-apocalyptic story. In order to have the bad guy catch up to Homer and Hilary when everybody rides bicycles, I put the pissed off husband on a…motorcycle. Can you guess my full Player Pitch?

“Conan the Barbarian meets Wizard of Oz filtered through the lens of…Easy Rider,” sayeth the amused author. Of course, I could dive in deeper here. Have the guy on the road hog get loaded in a New Orleans cemetery and whine about his mother? Well, maybe the book will merely present the lyrics to Don’t Bogart that Joint, play it safe for now.

Basically like everybody else, I developed the pitch after starting to write. But in theory, have fun with the pitch then start writing.