Monday, August 23, 2010

Ideas and Inspirations and "Dark Shadows"

I'd like to write, but I don't know what to write about.

Sound familiar?  When people talk to me about what I'm trying to do, I hear that same refrain over and over.  And I know where they're coming from.  I only decided to try my hand at writing about two years ago.  Why didn't I do it sooner?  Because I had nothing but fan-fic ideas.  Inserting myself or my friends into situations involving established well known characters like Dr. Who, Harry Potter, etc. Although my friends and I were involved, we'd just get to lend a hand and interact with these beloved characters who were still the star of the stories.  Or I'd create an original character/being who, happened to cross paths with The Doctor.  My creation was not superior to him, but they got to work together and went their separate ways.  This was fun because I was involved in fan clubs with their own newsletters where these tales would be published.  So I had both an outlet and an audience.  But when those clubs went away (about 15 years ago) I continued to play with story ideas in my head.

Then I found something from my childhood... DARK SHADOWS on DVD.  I first ran across this series when I was 3 years old.  I didn't fully understand what was going on, but I knew I liked Barnabas Collins the first good-guy vampire on TV.   I had come in during the Leviathan storyline and watched as faithfully as I could.  But, parents, school, etc. tore me away.  But I never forgot the show or Barnabas Collins.

Then my wife discovered the series in reruns, while attending Pomona College in Claremont California.  Like me, she too got hooked.  So we always kept an eye out hoping to find it in reruns in Sacramento or for sale.  Finally four years ago, we found it on Netflix and started watching from the beginning.  This refueled my desire to kick around story ideas not involving us or our friends.  I started to think about how I would update things and started to lay the groundwork for writing it, just for my own amusement.

Then we reached the end of the Barnabas storyline, and were introduced into a parallel timeline where he had never become a vampire and had a son, Bramwell. This storyline did not involve vampires or werewolves but a family curse that Bramwell, the unwanted poor relation, would help defeat.  I began kicking ideas around of how I would have approached that storyline which involved a ghost and a curse.  I found myself saying, "A ghost? Ah, I would've done this... And introduced such and such type of  character... Then I would've gone with a completely different threat like..." and before I knew it I had created a story idea that was completely different and original. 

Once this sank in I began writing the ideas down.  Changing the names, creating new characters and situations and thus began my first original writing project.  I was 2/3's of the way through the first draft, when my wife pointed out that setting the piece in 1807 may not be the best idea.  If I was serious about getting published, a story in a modern day setting might be easier to sell.

I thought about this long and hard, and decided she may be right.  So, I put that project aside and started a modern day piece.  But, I included a descendant of the family I had created for the 1807 story, as part of my cast.  While she wasn't the star of the new book, she would play a crucial role in it.  This would lead to her becoming the main focus of the next novel, which would have direct ties to the events that involved her ancestors back in  1807.  This of course would lead me to finally complete that particular story, and show my audience what led to the events of the 2nd book.

So here I am, two years later.  My first completed novel is still undergoing editing as I await to hear back from an agent I queried.  The 2nd one is partly written, while the 3rd book set in 1807 awaits completion.  All this because I was inspired by a TV series from the 60's.  But, I've also been getting inspiration from books by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and others.

So if you're wondering, "What can I write about?", look to the things you enjoy for ideas.  Such as movies, TV shows, books, hobbies, etc.  What kind of setting can you come up with for a story?  What events are happening in that setting?  What kind of personalities might we encounter there?  Once you figured out those questions, try running with it.   

Remember there's only so many stories out there.  Boy meets Girl.  Boy loses girl because she's an android or an alien.  Boy gets girl back after being cybernetically enhanced.  How many times have we seen that one?  But, it's what touches and twists you put on it that can make it new and original.

Happy writing all.

PS:  For all you Dark Shadow fans, in case you haven't heard, Tim Burton is bringing it back to the big screen with Johnny Depp as Barnabas.  They plan on making more than one film, if the first one is a success.  And we all know there's a lot of stories we'd like to see them do.  Keep your eyes and ears open and check it out when it arrives in I believe 2011.

PPS: Also, the original cast of Dark Shadows have been doing Audio-Dramas on CD.  These are new stories with the actors and actresses reprising their roles from the series, complete with the original opening music.  They are terrific.  You can find them on Amazon.com or through Big Finish Productions.