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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Words from the Wizard World and an Interview

Young man wearing a costume resembling the character Doctor Octopus.
An attendee in a costume resembling the Spider-Man villain, Doctor Octopus, at the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.



Last week I talked a little about Wizard World Comic Con  and said it wasn’t all comics but other forms of popular media such as movies, television, video games and, to a certain degree even literary fiction. It ran the whole weekend, Friday through Sunday, but I only attended Sunday. But the one day alone still had more than enough to see. Because I wanted to look through the dealers’ room, which covered nearly the entire convention hall of the Sacramento Convention Center, I had to limit myself to three of the 14 panels scheduled for that day. All three were about storytelling to some extent, but I found one particularly helpful to writers such as myself. It was entitled “Where the Synergy of Video Games, Books and Films Collide”.


Wizard World Synergy

“Where the Synergy” was a panel of artists and writers, including screenwriter Adam G. Simon, photographer Denys Ilic and author Genese Davis who was panel hostess. The discussion was about how story is behind all media types, including books, comics, film, television and video games. There was a lot of talk about how these media types are coming together and influencing each other and how opportunities for fiction writing are opening up more in non-literary media such as video games and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

One of the most important points that were brought up was one by Simon who said that he normally does not write for other franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek because he believes a writer should create his or her own stories using original characters. To sum up his point, he said, “Write what you know and write from your heart.” This is something I’ve always believed in almost more than anything else about writing. There is so much franchise-based fiction out there which much of is written by really good writers but they are writing other people’s stories as far as over-arching storyline goes. One of the biggest examples is the Star Wars novels, in which, in many instances, the authors can’t even write their own stories within George Lucas’s story arc. That’s because under contract they have to develop the stories by certain standards that stay true to the franchise’s overall storyline. It’s almost like a form of fan fiction only at the professional level.

That’s why I never write fan fiction and never plan to regularly write for a movie or TV franchise. However, off and on, I’ve dreamed about writing an X-Files or Doctor Who episode. This was especially so with the former, especially when it was really big back in the ‘90s and I was in my X-Files phase. (But don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great series and wish one of the TV networks, such as SyFy, would air reruns.) A lot of well-known and really good speculative fiction authors have occasionally written for television episodes, authors such as Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and, more recently, Neil Gaiman  (for Doctor Who). But I’m more into writing my own stories with characters I create. So I like to tell my own stories inspired by my own experiences, beliefs and perceptions on life. Which is the other point that Simon brought up: each of us has our own unique story to tell based on our life experiences. If written well and sincerely, these stories will attract an audience.

Davis also brought up an important point which was that it’s not so important what you create as what your creation does for other people. This lead to the discussion of the affect art and storytelling has on an audience. Davis’s point was generally agreed upon by the other panelists, although two said that certain movies can get “too” close to reality to the point of affecting someone in too negative a manner. Personally, I’m not sure if there can be such a thing as any kind of art affecting a person too much, at least not as far as the technical function of art goes which that function is to emotionally connect with the audience. I believe that’s one of the most important points of any art whether it be writing, painting, film or even video games. It should affect the audience to some degree, giving them a new perspective on life. But what I think the two panelists were really saying was that movies can get too close to reality in that they don’t put an audience in a world other than their everyday one. This particularly goes for the speculative genres in which the panelists did say audiences turn to in order to escape everyday life.


But no matter what the genre is, whether speculative fiction or realistic, the best storytelling is that which will affect the audience emotionally regardless of those emotions being negative or positive, as long as it gives them a new perspective on life. Perhaps the minimum effect on the audience should be the age old pathos, which the panel also touched on, in which by the end of a story the audience realizes they don’t have their lives as bad as they often think they do when they see characters going through so much worse.

One of the other neat ideas talked about, particularly in light of today’s multimedia storytelling, was what Ilicit referred to as the immersiveness of story particularly in games and that because of this they are becoming more cinematic. He said that for this reason video games are “the future” and so there will be a lot of opportunity for writers to write for video game companies and startups. And because of the emergence of more cinematic video games and V.R., there’s going to be a need for more stories and creativity in storytelling for these media types. So the heart of the discussion was not just story as the basis of all media types, but how these media types are influencing each other in light of storytelling.

Some of these points I’ve heard before at past convention panels, both at last year’s Wizard World as well as other conventions, but the great thing is that they serve as good refreshers and motivators. They help you to ask yourself, “Am I doing these things in my stories? And if I am, how can I do them more and better?” Plus you have the opportunity to ask the panelists questions that elaborate on these points.


Interview

To go off topic a little, I just wanted to let everybody know that I was interviewed by HorrorAddicts.net’s David Watson, particularly in light of my contribution to The Horror Addict’s Guide To Life. The interview is up at the HorrorAddicts’ site now, so feel free to check it out.


Until next time . . . 

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