Dark Tower Redux

 

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You know, I’m almost sorry that I posted that I was conflicted about the failure of the Dark Tower movie to connect with fans.  I mean, this very blog takes its name from a line that Jake speaks in the first book (paraphrasing): “Go then, Gunslinger.  There are Other Worlds Beside this one).  My point being simply that Stephen King DID NOT invent the Dark Tower or the mythos that has grown up around it.  His story is but ONE of MANY out there–yes, it is the most popular, but it is NOT the only story that has been told or will be told about the Dark Tower.  He doesn’t own the Tower anymore than J.K. Rowling owns “Magic.”

However, some really ugly arguments and memes have sprung up around the failure of the movie and just want to take a moment to address some of the most problematic ones.

SCRIPT
So this is where most of the critics and fans have expressed most of their disappointment.  The movie is only approx. 90 minutes long, but tries to infuse 7-8 books worth of material (from my understanding–haven’t seen the movie yet) into this (very) short time-frame.  However, the element that really concerns is the fact the movie writers are essentially “work-for-hire” contractors and considered the lowest on the totem pole for the creative endeavor of the movie.  This is where the problem lies–a movie is a creative endeavor, true, and you need all parts to work, but the script (the story) is the most important part.  Without a solid script, even the best actors and directors are going to struggle.  Yet, writers of screenplays get no version of royalties if the movie does really well nor is their input sought (usually) for rewrites as in many cases they are replaced with other writers and movies become written essentially by committee.  Another thing that hurts writers is the fact that it is a closed system that privileges only a few.  Even in today’s internet connected world, you still have to move to Hollywood if you really want a serious chance at writing a screenplay–how is this even still a requirement in 2017?  If there’s an awesome screenwriter in Wisconsin, the internet is MORE than robust enough to allow that writer to write wherever works for them.

IDRIS ELBA AS ROLAND
This one is the most troubling.  Yes, King based Roland on the “gunslinger” archetype made popular by actors like Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner.  However, nothing precludes Roland from being portrayed by an actor of another race, even though King’s description may have indicated/favored another race.  There is a tendency on the Internet today to label a person, or group just to be able to belittle said person or group.  Everyone wants a winner, or wants to be associated with a winner.  However, in a capitalistic structure such as the American movie industry there HAVE be winners and losers–there’s no way around it.  You can do things to help swing the pendulum in either direction, but there are no guarantees in a creative endeavor.  If it doesn’t “win,” then there’s this need to find a scapegoat and the Internet is currently on this kick where a diverse person/group gets the blame irregardless of whether or not its fair (I direct your attention to the 2016 Ghostbusters movie as prime example of this).

SONY
Speaking of Sony, I should probably note that Sony also has taken blame in this from many circles.  Sony, as a huge faceless conglomerate, tends to get a lot of blame for things that are beyond their control.  We (probably wrongly) think of the director as the most important component of a movie (I would argue it is probably an equal weight between writer, director, and movie talent), but I haven’t seen or heard anyone criticizing the director, but the studio.

We all hope for our favorite properties to “hit it out of the park” (a la The Lord of the Rings), but at the end of the day–is it the studio that failed to deliever on the story you wanted or was it the script?  Which of the two is more intricately tied to “story” and “story” formation, ideation, and creation?  For me, opening up the system and allowing it to be based on merit (good writers) and not location (living in Hollywood) or more importantly, networking (good a “pitching” a story instead of good at “writing” the story) would be a far more equitable system that might result in a rise in quality in the stories being told, and as a result, increased satisfaction from fans who just want their stories “done right.”

 

 

Writing a new Screenplay

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The Black List Logo (Find Screenplays. Get Found.) http://blcklst.com Image Source: linkedin

I “accidentally” started a screenplay on Saturday night.  I say accidentally because I wasn’t planning on it.  However, a scene came to mind that seemed to be both a cool action scene at once as well as a way to visually tell the backstory of the character.  I’ve only started the scene, but I wanted to fix the image in my mind on paper before it got away.  I wrote several paragraphs and then went back and outlined what happens in that scene.  When I get through writing it, I’m hopeful that it will be completely self-contained with no dialogue from either the main character or any other characters.  It should be 3-5 minutes (pages) long, but in that time you should know who the protagonist is and why he is doing what he is doing.

This is for a project that I’ve already published a short-story for and this is part of that “working smarter, not harder” paradigm that I’ve been trying for since spring of this year.  This is the 2nd script that I’ve attempted–I finished my first script (FREEFALLING–a short script of about 6-8 pages).  That one also did not have any dialogue, but it does have a beginning, middle, and end.  I was going to put it on a website that features short scripts called The Black List, but balked as you’d have to join the Writer’s Guild of America.  Registration is cheap, but I don’t like being forced into things (if you can’t tell from my other blog posts). However, most agents won’t look at anything less than a feature length script, so if I want exposure for FREEFALLING, The Black List is my only real option.

I haven’t decided how long this new script will be.  If it turns out to be a feature length script (120 pages), then I’ll send it out to agents, but if it is a shorter script, then I’ll put it on the Black List and see what happens.  While it wasn’t what I was intending to write over the weekend (I have both school assignments and a Graphic novel script that I needed to work on), it was what demanded to be written at that moment.  I really hope something good comes out of it!

The Dark Tower

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The Childe (Apprentice Knight) Roland holding up a sword.  Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads.com

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The Man in Black vs The Gunslinger (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Movie Poster. Image Source: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A movie version based on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series releases this weekend and the reviews are not favorable.  It currently stands (Aug. 4) at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m actually ambivalent and conflicted about how I feel about this development.

On one hand, I’d like to see this movie be successful because it stars a Person of Color (Idris Elba) in a lead role playing someone other than a “drug dealer”/”gangster”/”any other stereotypical roles” that people of color are generally relegated to in movies.  Also, I’ve read quite a few books of this series and I know how the story ends, so even though this series isn’t one I’m invested in, I do have familiarity with the material, so I’d like to see a good adaptation of it just for that reason.

On the other hand, everyone seems to forget that Stephen King didn’t “invent” the “modern” conception of the Dark Tower.  That honor goes to Robert Browning in his poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”  And even he wasn’t the first as the title appeared as a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  And even though we don’t where it originated, we can assume that Shakespeare borrowed it from an even older source.  My point is that the Robert Browning poem is old enough to be in the public domain and ANYONE can write stories based on it.  Stephen King didn’t invent the Dark Tower, he only popularized it and moved it from the realm of English Literature classrooms out into the general public.

Yet, whenever someone mentions the Dark Tower, immediately the discussion turns to Stephen King’s universe.  For me, as a lover of the Dark Tower mythos (remember, I even had a board game called the Dark Tower as a child), this is more than aggravating.  It would be as if Disney’s Snow White was the ONLY version of Snow White being talked about, when we know that there are a multitude of versions out there.  Yes, Disney’s version gets the lion’s share of attention, but there is still space for other stories based on the fairy tale to exist and thrive, which is NOT the case with the Dark Tower.

I guess I’m writing all of this to say that a part of me is glad that the Dark Tower failed as a movie.  Not for any malicious intent or even to make Stephen King any less rich (it won’t), but rather that now, perhaps, other stories based on the “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” can find purchase in the public consciousness and that Stephen King’s version of the Dark Tower doesn’t become the only version of the Dark Tower that exists in the world.  “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a remarkably rich and varied poem–other writers should be allowed to formulate successful stories and worlds with the Dark Tower as a backdrop just as King was allowed to do by the publishing industry.

Not Enough Time

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Image Source: Lifehack.org

So this will be a (much) shorter than usual blog post, but readers may realize that I missed a blog post yesterday.  Simple answer: too much work for class.  I did all my readings, but I needed to post a response to the readings on the class discussion board.  That response (written at breakfast time) took up all my time and I had no time left for writing a blog entry.  Sorry about that.

Time just seems to get away much quicker than I realize on days that I have class.  I’ve tried alarms, notifications, even SIRI to help me be more productive, but sometimes the readings take longer than I anticipate or sometimes it takes longer to write the responses.

Perhaps if I dictate my blog entries as I’m preparing breakfast, then I won’t have to lose that “creation” time if I still have something else to work on in the morning (I try to only have the blog to work on in the morning, if possible) as I can only seem to complete one or two writing tasks while doing my morning routine.  Perhaps as I struggle through this summer course, I’ll find a process that works for me creatively and consistently.

 

What’s in a Name?

alternate-author-names_creative Indie

Image Source: Creative Indie

I was once told by a Creative Writing professor to just use your real name when you are trying to publish your work.  Her reasoning was thus: it is hard enough just getting published, why shouldn’t you get the credit instead of some made up, fictitious persona?  That reasoning sounded fair to me, so I chose my real name–Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

This is seems like a reasonable name–nothing to exotic, right?  A first and last name, or in the parlance of naming, a given name and a family name.  My father, for whom I’m named, is still living, so the suffix Jr. (for Junior, aka Sidney Blaylock “Junior”) is literally what my name translates to.

However, if you wanted have a complete bibliography of my work, you’d need to look under the following names: Sidney Blaylock, Sydney Blaylock, Sidney Blaylock Jr., Sidney Blaylock, Jr., Sydney C. Blaylock, and Sidney Blalock.  All of my published work, be they short-stories, comic books, or articles have been published under one of these variations on one simple name: Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

Normally, I wouldn’t care–when I see my name misspelled on letters and such, I don’t generally make a big issue out of it.  I simply raise my eyebrow and note that the person or entity doesn’t know me as well as they they should (esp. if they’re trying to solicit me for money) and move on.  In the days of computer assisted sites for bibliophiles (such as Goodreads or LibraryThing) it makes a difference as Sidney Blaylock Jr. (without the comma between the last name and suffix) is an entirely different author than Sidney Blaylock, Jr. (with the comma in between).

My later publications have been much better about the standardization of my name, but some still miss the comma and that means that I have fewer publications listed on Goodreads and LibraryThing than I actually have published, which in turn makes it hard to build up an audience/fanbase of readers.

So I urge you, next time a name comes across your consciousness–take a moment to look at, to really look at it, and make sure that your idea of what the person’s name is actually matches what they wrote.

Potpourri

Just a little bit of everything (don’t worry–it’ll be bite-sized)

AMC 18 Chattanooga: Not happy.  They add a 6:15pm Imax 3D showing Spider-Man: Homecoming, but that’s all.  They seemed determined to squeeze every dollar they can out of the movie-goer in the name of profits as 6:15 is not a matinee and they don’t have to charge matinee prices, but the full Prime cost.  Looks like I’m not going to see Homecoming, after all.  AMC 18 Chattanooga may have just lost a customer as I refuse to give them anymore money just because they are a monopoly (only Imax 3D theater for popular movies in the city).  Competition (i.e., other Imax 3D theaters in the area) wouldn’t allow them to pull this type of stunt as customers would just go elsewhere.

*Note to all politicians (current and future): THIS is why monopolies are bad.  Capitalism ONLY works when there’s CHOICE in the marketplace.

174 Days and Counting: That’s how long a story of mine has been under consideration with a particular market that I’ve not submitted to before.  I personally consider 90 days to be my limit, but I recently saw where this particular market had responded to someone else’s submission in about the same time-frame (although it was an outlier), so I waited, but that has passed and still no response.  Queried them about it today.  If no response by August 1st (perhaps sooner), I’m withdrawing and moving on to the next market.  Personal comment (it is a short-story, not a novel.  It shouldn’t take half a year to make a decision on it).

The Heart of What Was Lost: Close to finishing this book. Not sure if I’m going to review it yet.  If I do, I’ll post it here or at Goodreads.com (or both).

 

Writing Without Sleep

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I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep, my writing (& thinking) tends to suffer.  I feel as if there is a “blanket” (sorry for the stretched metaphor) between my brain and my fingers.  I can write, but it is much harder to think, to find the perfect word, to extend my vocabulary, or to make connections in a meaningful way.  This was brought home to me this morning as I tried to write a “response” to the reading for my class today.  I did not sleep well last night, so I got up early to finish my reading and to write my response.

I might as well have been a zombie for all the effectiveness that I had.  I finished my “response,” but I do not feel proud of it.  It seems like the connections that I would have made simply would not come. I have a study that I cut from my local newspaper that showed that research has shown that sleep is essential for creative thinking.

But what happens when circumstances do not allow you to get the sleep you need?  Life isn’t always going to cooperate with your need for sleep to enhance your creativity (or to keep you creative if you’re already creative).  I did the only thing that I could, I plowed through the best that I could, but I don’t really feel satisfied with the results.  This is a question that I’m going to have to work through as a writer, how to do my best work when life won’t allow me to be at my best?  I didn’t waste time and I scheduled my time as best I could, but even now, as I write this, I’m wondering (in the back of my mind) is there a better way of expressing this, am I being too pedantic, does this blog entry even make any sense at all?

Unfortunately, I won’t know until after I’ve rested and looked over it.  And what will I find when I do?