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All opinions on this site are those of Mike Jones and are not intended to represent his employers or associates.

 

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Monday
Sep222014

Screen 2030: Extended Interviews - Making my Content Pay

The Screen 2030 documentary event at this years Sydney Vivid Festival explored the professional future of creative producers. Now the extended interviews from that doco project are available online with episode 1 featuring yours truly. Here I rabbit on for 17mins on the future of creative media and why there’s never been a better time to be a writer…

Monday
Sep152014

The Adaptive Writer: process and platforms

The idea of ‘Authorship’ is a complicated one. In one sense it is the state of being the creator of something. But it also implies an idea of being the sole-source, the point of origin, that the Author creates a vision alone and puts it out to the world. 

From this we get the idea of being a ‘Writer’ as predicated on ‘Authorship’. And the image of the lone author toiling away behind a typewriter still pervades, with common expressions describing writing as a ‘lonely profession’. 

And yet the idea of singular authorship in writing is a myth. Nobody creates alone. All writing is collaboration and, moreover, every work of narrative fiction stands on the shoulders of the storytellers who have gone before. 

But I would take this a step further and suggest that in a digital multi-platform age, the ability to be a group-writer, to be able to build stories with others and extend the stories of others - dispensing with the idea of sole authorship - is the fundamental role of the Writer.

The singular author may not be dead, but they are certainly not very useful for becoming a professional writer.

This was the very topic I spoke on as a keynote at the Brisbane Writers Festival Story+ event earlier this month. The premise was simple - the digital age has added many new delivery mediums to the established ones and audiences are now distributed across all those forms. Traditional hierarchies and medium dominance has broken down. Hence, in such a world of distributed audiences a Writer cannot be defined by a medium. Words such as Novelist, Playwright, TV Writer, Screenwriter are simply not helpful as they are invariably restrictive and reductive with no ability to scale or adapt.

This is not to devalue the specific skills different mediums require, but rather to recognise that to be a professional writer in the 21st century means defining your craft in a platform-agnostic way. 

Of course this is easier said than done, but in my keynote I broke down 6 elements of process and thinking that help to create an ‘Adaptive Writer’, a writer who is not defined by a specific medium,  but by their skill set in building, extending, refining and articulating narratives that can flexibly move and adapt across platforms.

The diversity of narrative platforms certainly creates new opportunities but the mathematics of that diversification are really very simple - audiences are spread thinner. This directly effects the economics and business models of all traditional mediums which need to rethink their scale. Feature Films, for example, will never disappear but their share of the finite amount of audience eyeballs will continue to be reduced. Hence as a writer, if you’ve defined your craft solely by the medium of the feature film, your career is in serious trouble and trapped in a ghetto! But if Feature Films are just one of the story-forms your work and ideas can be adapted to, then you are empowered to be an Adaptive Writer - one who sees the diversity of mediums as part of a greater mix of experiences they are equiped to create.

To work in this way, Writers need to think differently about what their skills are and how they define the way they work. Story doesn’t change, nor do audience’s expectations of it, but creative processes do. And it’s on process that writers should be focused - What is the Process of Writing when the delivery medium can vary and may, in fact, not be pre-determined at all…? 

Below is the deck where I break down 6 Elements of Process across Platforms.

Monday
Sep012014

Interactive Gothic and the Brisbane Writers Festival 

In the digital age, a writer who defines their craft by a specific medium has a serious employment problem. 

It’s a multi-platform world. The old fashioned hierarchies of primary and secondary mediums have faded. Audiences distribute themselves across platforms, rather than conglomerating around one. To be a professional writer in the 21st century means flexibility. The ability to not only work across forms, but to conceive and develop ideas in a way that doesn’t pre-determine the medium. Storyworld before Story. 

This week I’ll be appearing at the prestigious Brisbane Writers Festival to talk about some of these ideas - the strategies and creative processes that allow writers to work with a kind of platform-agnostic flexibility without throwing away the fundamentals of good narrative storytelling.  

And the timing is good, as of late I’ve been putting these ideas into some very direct practice with my current endeavour ‘Transgressions’ - a supernatural gothic horror project with cross-platform execution.

In 2013 I signed a new 3-book deal with my publisher Simon and Schuster to write a series of gothic horror novels, due for release mid next year. Two of these books are complete, The Mothers and The Scrimshaw Marionette are now knee-deep in the editing process, and I will soon begin work on the final book (Amaranth), a collaboration with my creative partner Leonie Jones. 

So, whilst the labour of penning prose fiction ploughs on, I have signed on with eminent multi-platform production company The Project Factory to simultaneously develop the Transgressions series as an interactive production.

Working with producers Guy Gadney and Zoe Brown, along with director Enzo Tedeschi, we’ve been putting together a proof-of-concept for Transgressions as a live-action interactive production for tablet devices - an experience that is creepy, cinematic, sinister and personal. A series of driving narrative ghost stories that build on the long gothic tradition and which wrap the audience up in the fate of the characters, an experience that makes you complicit in their fate, a story that won’t happen without you…

It’s the most fun you can have in the dark with your pants on! Here’s a little taste of the whats to come…

I’ve been writing about the process of writing Transgressions:Transgressions: Imagery and probelm Solving and - Transgressions: Scripts, Games and Gothic Horror. So stay tuned - much more to come…

And if you’re in Brisbane for the Writers festival this weekend you can catch me at a few events over Friday and Saturday.  I’ll be giving a keynote at STORY+ on the future of ‘Authorship’. This will be followed by a panel session on ‘Writing in Collaborative Environments’ where I’ll talk about such things as my process for running writer’s rooms for TV, multi-platform and interactive productions. 

Then on Friday I’ll be delivering an intensive masterclass workshop on ‘Storyworld Design’, getting into some of the nitty gritty of the ideas mentioned above - that in the digital age, a writer who defines their craft by a specific medium has a serious employment problem.

Monday
Aug112014

Old Dramatic Principles in New Interactive Narratives

First published in ‘Storyline’, Journal of the Australian Writers Guild 2013

___

Book, Theatre, Radio, Cinema, Television… Each of these narrative forms entered the world by building and expanding on their predecessors. Each form added complexity or possibility or diversity to what was possible for the telling of stories. Each expanded the canvas for professional writers. Each one evolved and developed new audience expectations. And yet none of these forms ever disappeared because of the arrival of a new form. Book, radio and theatre are still very much alive, reports as to the death of cinema have been greatly exaggerated and TV seems to be among the most popular and vibrant narrative forms on the planet right now. Observing this fact of history tells us some important things about writing in the digital age and the principles that might underpin the vibrant world of Interactive Narrative Writing.

Interactive stories - those where the audience take part, effect, choose, control or play the narrative - are not only part and parcel of mainstream story-consumption but also increasingly, bread and butter professional work for writers. But does working in these forms mean entering a revolutionary new world where the language is foreign? Or is interactive narrative simply part of an ongoing, incremental evolution still grounded in ancient universal ideas?

It’s worth establishing the broad scope of interactive narrative. Very often such experiences are simply called ‘Games’ (prefixed by the words Video or Computer), but ‘Game’ is a problematic name. A Game does not need, nor have to have, a Story. ‘Tetris’ was a massively successful Game and there is no narrative to speak of. On the other hand ‘Bioshock’ is a Game with an extraordinary dystopian, and philosophically compelling, narrative, rich in character and allegory. To call both ‘Tetris’ and ‘Bioshock’ ‘games’ may be technically true but it is decidedly unhelpful if you wish to understand what makes either compelling. Hence the simple descriptive term, Interactive Narrative. A term which can encompass a broad range of experiences where the Audience is asked to play a role, to participate or to engage directly with character and plot through action. An experience that involves game-play but does so in the context and service of telling a story. 

It’s a broad church that, like filmmaking, spans from the mega-budget blockbuster to the indie production - from computers and tablets to mobile phones and real-world events. For writers the demands of these mediums can be both foreign and familiar. Too often the focus has been on the foreign; stressing what is new or different and subsequently ignoring or subverting what is familiar - a proverbial situation commonly conjured with images of babies flowing down sinks with dirty bathwater. Writers in the interactive space, I would argue, are better serviced by first engaging with what is consistent across narrative mediums in order to understand how the medium evolves that thinking. 

One way to consider this is to look at a mainstay idea often regarded as universal to storytelling - Character Transformation - that we are most engaged by a story’s characters when we bear witness to their transformation through struggle. There are numerous perspectives on this of course - inner and outer journeys, shifts from wants to needs, hero’s quests to fulfill destiny, and so on.

However it is expressed, the idea holds of a character changed by their experiences and transformed as a person by their actions (or as is often the case in TV, particularly SitCom, have the potential to change but are reset in an episodic pattern). The result of being an audience to such character arcs is catharsis; from the greek meaning a ‘purification or purging’, a renewal, restoration, and revitalisation. But there are other ways to think of change and transformation in narrative that have particular value in interactive storytelling.

Take a seminal film like Citizen Kane. The character of Charles Foster Kane himself doesn’t really change or transform at all. He’s a bombastic, self-absorbed arrogant man from very early in the film, and he’s much the same at the end. BUT, the audiences’ perspective on his character does transform dramatically over the course of the story’s telling. We grow to empathize with him and connect with him despite his lack of change - from a newsreel about a figure larger than life we, the viewer, are transformed in our perspective by a confounding and intimate portrait of child longing for a lost snow sled. The transformation in a story like Citizen Kane is much more in the audience’s change in understanding of character than it is of the character’s transformation itself; and the effect is none the less profound.

Of course, these two types of transformation - change of Character and change of Audience Perception of character - are not mutually exclusive; often sitting together or intertwined in complex narratives. However, recognising their differences is particularly useful for considering how such ideas apply to interactive narrative where engagement is most often found in the transformation of the way the player sees other characters, events or the Actions they themselves have performed.  

The successful and evocative game ‘Braid’, which tells the story of man looking for redemption and reconciliation with a lost love, is an excellent example. What is otherwise a clever puzzle-platformer with a rewinding-time game mechanic (think, philosophical Mario Bros in whimsical water-colour), becomes something much more effecting and profound in its cathartic transformation. In the finale the player realises that all the actions they have performed, which they thought were ‘good’ and ‘redemptive’, turn out to have been the opposite of that - the player realises that they were the Monster not the Hero.. The player’s transformation is in being forced to see their actions in a way that is fundamentally different at the end of the narrative than at the start. The character we are playing doesn’t change, but our understanding of both changes radically making for a very satisfying narrative experience.

This technique of generating transformation not directly in the Characters of an interactive narrative, but rather in the way the audience views the choices and actions they have performed, is remarkably consistent. ‘The Walking Dead’ game, that extends from the popular TV series, places a great deal of emphasis on moral dilemma choices the player is forced to make. The character the audience controls transforms little, but as the audience is compelled by the narrative to perform drastic actions without moral clarity, they are transformed in their perspective of the scenario and of themselves.

Such transformations in a narrative context require dramatic Stakes and this prompts us to consider broader possibilities for how such stakes can be enacted within an interactive narrative.

In a typical ‘video game’ like an first-person shooter, the stakes are largely clear and simple - life and death, survival or not. Run, jump, shoot, stay alive. But in the ever increasing diversity of interactive narratives there are infinitely wider possibilities.  A fascinating example is the hilarious ‘Malcolm Tucker’s Missing Phone’ - an interactive app from the storyworld of the British comedy TV series ‘The Thick Of It’.

Malcolm Tucker’s Missing Phone has a simple construct - a character from the show has lost his phone and You have found it. Your phone now acts and presents as that once owned by the character Malcolm Tucker; complete with all the comic farce of the British parliament.  

Within the experience, the audience’s actions are linked to real-world actions - Answering Emails, Reading SMS, Listening to voice mail, and so on. And in doing so the audience is not only witness to the hilarious ramifications of Malcolm Tucker losing his phone in an immediate and epistolary way, but they also have an active role to play; to piece together what happened and how Malcolm lost his phone, to work out what machinations are taking place behind Malcolm’s back and to be a part of the story’s complexity as the ‘possessor’ of the phone that everyone wants so badly - You are the holder of the Stakes.

The stakes in Malcolm Tucker’s Missing Phone are not on the audience as a character but rather on third-party characters who have something to loose and for which the audiences’ continued possession of the ‘phone’ away from its owner, deepens the dilemma and raises the stakes for those characters.

Whilst interactive narrative creates a distinctly immersive quality, we can also recognise that suspension of disbelief only goes so far. As much as audiences may play as an avatar, dramatic stakes imposed solely on them as player rarely contain a tangible emotional kick. The truth is it’s hard for audiences to worry or care about ‘themselves’. In an action game the audience may have self-preservation as key stakes but these kinds of mechanics don’t hold the same emotional weight as those that come from something narratively beyond the sport of player self preservation. 

However, players can be motivated to care deeply about other characters diegetic to the storyworld, compelled to be conscious of their gameplay choices as having ramifications and impact on those characters they have come to care about. 

Many interactive narratives for games often fail to recognise this idea and all the stakes in the world mounted onto the player’s avatar are worth but a fraction of the stakes mounted on characters the player must care about, protect, defend or save. A superb example of this balance is the game ‘Mass Effect’. Ostensibly a space opera with ‘end of the universe stakes’, Mass Effect writer, Mac Walters, understands that ‘End of the Universe’ holds no emotional weight unless it means losing something the player cares about outside of them self and more intimately than the abstract universe. Mass Effect subsequently spends enormous effort on building very complex characters and relationships around the player’s avatar - continually forcing the player into situations where they must make hard moral choices about the fate of these characters - whilst allowing the avatar itself to be effectively a tabula rasa, a blank slate with very little characterisation.  

This might seem an anathema to traditional writers whereby, in effect, the protagonist is a nondescript character with the least amount of defined characterisation, whilst the minor characters are richly detailed. But it comes from a central understanding of interactivity that allows space for the audience to inscribe their own character on the blank slate of the protagonist (which is fundamental to game play) whilst using deeply developed supporting characters to bring emotional weight and transformation (which is fundamental to storytelling).

There’s a lot of complexity in the idea of agency and the role of the audience as an active agent in a story, what they are made to care about and what compels them to interact. But recognising the potential vibrancy and diversity of what’s possible for interactive actions demands we consider the narrative implications for what makes the audience care and how they will be transformed by their experience of actively caring. 

Writing interactive narratives that embody the audience in role-play and active choices is no easy task but it’s also not a foreign land where nothing is the same. Interactive narrative is evolution not revolution and the fundamental tenets of good writing - Transformation and Stakes hold a profound universality across all narrative mediums, interactive or otherwise. 

Monday
Aug042014

Writing Process of 'Transgressions': Imagery and Problem-Solving

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss looks back at you.” - Fredrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 

When I was in the 5th grade I wrote a story for my school class about a Knight who goes into a dark Forrest to fight a demon. He narrates the story in the first person but at the end of the story he dies and it is revealed to the reader that the Knight was dead all along and that he is trapped in a nightmare watching himself fail to defeat the monster, and destined to repeat that failure over and over. 

My teacher made me re-write it. She said it was ‘wrong’… When I asked how a story I made up could be ‘wrong’ she replied - “how can someone who is dead tell their own story?

It was only in later life that I found myself bewildered at how a teacher, of all people, could be so detached from classical metaphoric mythology, or so ill-read in the classics of gothic literature..? Good thing my 10 year old ego was too big to let the first ignorant critic deter me.

Yet the truth was that I was very much afraid of the demons I felt compelled to write about. The monsters of Greek myth, fused with a healthy dose of western-Catholic guilt,  had formed themselves into very personal spectres that gave me shivers when I wrote them… And it was exactly that sensation that I lusted after every time I put pen to paper. Every writer should be afraid of their creations… 

Later, when a good, broad school education introduced me to history, philosophy and big narrative concepts, it felt much like I was matching substance up to the ideas I was already probing…. Redemption, transgression, metaphor and revelation.

Now, more than 25 years later I’m well into a writing project that feels very much like it began there in that 5th grade class.

TRANSGRESSIONS is 3-book series of supernatural horror. Each book is a self contained novel but the collection is linked tightly together by concept, imagery and shared themes of madness, mystery and redemption. People running from their sins, their personal demons and from themselves. Broken figures who must confront haunting spectres, monsters and manifestations of a dark past that compel them toward restoration. Characters caught in labyrinths of memory, shadow and regret manifesting as minotaurs to hunt them in the dark.

The above quote from Nietzsche really sets out the heart of all three stories - and perhaps for me as a writer. I’ve printed it and stuck it to the wall of my office as a creative linchpin. The monsters come from within…  the scariest demon is that which is personally tailored to You, that drives your own transgressions in hideous form and from which you cannot escape. Yet, like Pandora’s box, once all the chaos and evils are released Hope still remains at the bottom of the box. This is horror but it is not nihilism.

The first book, The Mothers, is complete and I am now neck deep in the second of the series The Scrimshaw Marionette…

After the death of his wife by his own failing, William flees the hardship of depression-era Sydney with his young daughter, Rosa. Battling his addictions and his sanity, William travels far south and finds work on a remote island Whaling station. But when Rosa finds a small scrimshaw marionette doll under the wharf, a restless spirit awakens to puppeteer the living and drag them into the sea. Grappling with his sanity and reason, William must confront the truth of the past and put the restless marionette ghost to rest to save his daughter and himself.

This distilled pitch-synopsis and the book that hopefully executes on the promise of that idea, began with a photograph of a doll.

For me as a writer imagery is almost always the key origin point. I can’t write a story until I know how it ends and knowing how it ends means knowing what the last image is - what is the final thing the audience ‘sees’ (be it literally in cinematic form, or conceptually in literary form).

The process of developing the story, breaking down its plot and characters into beat-sheets and outlines is a process for me of finding all the key images that build the story like keyframe storyboard cells.

The image that triggered The Scrimshaw Marionette was one shown to me by curator Penny Edwell of the Australian National Maritime Museum. I have been working with the ANMM on a immersive narrative exhibition experience - a naval thriller set in very real war ships anchored at the harbour side museum (which you can read about here).

image curtesy - Aus National maritime MuseumThe image Penny showed me was of a hand-made doll carved of whale bone ivory and made by whaling sailor more than a century ago. The doll was simply made but presented such emotional weight, a hand-made gift carved at sea by a sailor for his child. It was beautiful yet haunting. It’s darkly uncanny face and rough features made it tortured in some strange way, the pain of the whale being slaughtered somehow imbued into the dolls limbs. And most of all it was the physicality if it - delicate and brittle and yet carved from the bones of an ocean leviathan, a creature so massive is dwarfed the ships that hunted it. 

A doll must have an owner and such an owner would be a child… But a child who is a changeling - a child who knows more than they should know and who can sense and see more than they should see. A child who has been broken and wronged. The emotional weight of the whale bone somehow empowering the spirit of the little girl who treasures it as her only comfort in the darkness.

And from this comes the idea of a Marionette. It’s not just a type of puppet, it’s a wonderfully delicate and antiquated word and yet one that is loaded as metaphor for control and manipulation.

And finally there comes the idea of Scrimshaw - an ancient craft of carving designs, patterns and images into ivory. Most Scrimshaw from ocean whalers depicted images of whaling itself, of the hunt and the sea, the ships they sailed and the whales they fought.

All this imagery of carved whale bone marionette dolls intertwined with the spirit of a changeling child gives rise to a vision that scared me and gave me that shiver I was looking to evoke - a doll possessed by a broken child that puppeteers the living by invisible strings in their nightmares and drags them into the sea…

So, we now have a demon monster but this doesn’t make for a story until there is someone to struggle against the monster. Such a demon could haunt anyone, but randomness is the least effective horror story technique. The big question to ask is “who should be the most afraid of the scrimshaw marionette…?” Who deserves to be haunted? Who has transgressed in such a way that the Marionette appears to be a personally tailored demon?

This is how I found my protagonist - William. Guilt-ridden, depressed, addicted. A broken man, but not one out of reach of redemption… He’s just going to have to learn his lessons the hard way if he wants a chance to make up for them… ;-) 

The other key story development component for me is the physical space of the story - the environment, the location, the topography, climate and architecture. And of course When? What timeframe provides the right collision of forces for the story?

For The Scrimshaw Marionette the object itself dictated the place as much as the concept of the monster.  Hence the story is set on a remote southern whaling station, a craggy rock in the Tasman sea where the whalers hunt the migrating southern right whales from shore in longboats.

The decidedly cinematic imagery of such places - the scale of the ocean beasts hauled to slaughter and the brutal weather breeding hard men - was self evident.  But for the full effect of that sense of haunted remoteness to impact on an audience they need to experience it as an outsider, a new arrival, a stranger in a strange land who is cast upon a place they do not, and cannot, fully comprehend.

So it is that our protagonist of William needed to be an outsider - a man who knows nothing of whaling and from whom such a place is an anathema to everything they do know. Of course this presents a narrative problem-solving challenge with questions that need answering - What could compel a man to go to such a place? And Who is the opposite of a remote island whaler?

Clearly a man born and bread in the crowded confines of a city is the antithesis to one living on cold remote island as a whaler. So, What would compel such a man to leave the city and go to a haunted remote place where he is so much a fish out of water? One answer, and the answer that gives me great narrative momentum, is the Great Depression.

As economic collapse grinds the city to a pulp of poverty and despair, William is compelled to leave and find work wherever he can… A remote island whaling station where few wish to go provides the only answer for Will and, perhaps his only chance of redemption.

Storytelling is, in many ways, problem solving. The cause and effect chain is crucial and it’s assembly is a construction of creative logic. The story of The Scrimshaw Marionette was built from a photo go a doll, to the creation of a demon, to a character forced to go to the end of the earth where a collision with that demon is inevitable.

And as William gets lost in the siring nightmares of the labyrinthine whaling station, caught between past and present he should beware that Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss looks back at you.”

—-

Transgressions will be released early 2015 by Simon and Schuster. Stay tuned or follow my tweets on the writing process @mikejonestv #transgressions

Monday
Aug042014

Simon451 - new genre publisher with e-first thinking.

Named in honour of the great Ray Bradbury, Simon & Schuster’s new Scifi, Fantasy, Horror and Supernatural imprint publisher SIMON451 has put out a sampler of its forthcoming titles, including ‘A Vision of Fire by none other than X-Files star Gillian Anderson.

S&S describe SIMON451 as intending publish “in multiple electronic and printed formats, with a focus on digital-first publishing and ebook originals. Its editors will develop new authors and branded series, and bring established authors to new audiences with the ability to move quickly and nimbly between digital and print publication, taking advantage of marketplace opportunities as awareness builds for authors and series. Simon451 will experiment with publishing serialized novels and original short stories, and will also re-issue classic backlist titles in ebook.”

This should sound like very good news to any writer with rich and dynamic story ideas ready to roll in these genre spaces.

For all the excitement of self-publishing it’s important not to forget that strength and weight that comes in having solid editorial contribution from an experienced publisher and the audience-centric legitimacy that comes from a recognised brand. With a focus on e-first, Simon451 would seem to have the ability to be far less risk-adverse than traditional publishing and this may be that perfect happy medium for writers. The weight of a major publisher on one hand, the nimble experimentation of self and indie publishing on the other.

Monday
Jul282014

Story+ and the Brisbane Writers Festival

It’s been great to see the major writer’s festivals of Australia grow to such prominence over the past decade with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane Writers Festivals becoming both truly international as well as popular. Audiences are diverse as are the range of speakers, genres, forms and ideas. It was a great pleasure to speak at this years Sydney Writers Festival back in June and now I’m making the year a quinella having been invited to speak at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September. 

I’ll be giving a keynote presentation for the BWF’s Story+ conference examining the relationship between Narrative, Design and Technology and ideas of authorship and storytelling across media forms. This will then be followed up by a lively panel discussion on challenges and opportunities for writers in the digital world and how to build a flexible career across formats.

And I’m certainly amongst good company with fellow speakers including much celebrated novelist Lauren Beukes and Greg Broadmore author and key artist at the much lauded WETA Workshop.

Story+ is on 4-5th September http://bwf.org.au/more-events/story/ and the official blurb reads:

“If you’ve been wondering where writing and publishing is heading next, how to tell inspiring stories, how games influence culture and what it means to shape a truly interactive narrative, then STORY+ is for you. Two full days of inspiring talks, debates, panels and hands-on play featuring cultural leaders, writers, transmedia producers, interaction designers and publishers.”

Following all this on Saturday 6th I’ll be running a masterclass on Designing Storyworlds 

“Cross-platform narratives hold exciting creative opportunities for writers. Acclaimed transmedia producer and writer Mike Jones of Portal Entertainment shows you how to design immersive storyworlds and narratives that can engage audiences across books, TV, film and interactive media.”

So with this I will have done Sydney and Brisbane Writers Festivals. So what’s up Melbourne…? Don’t ya love me?

Monday
Jul142014

Hellraiser and the art of Monster Design

Great horror narratives start with great Monster Design. More than just scary imagery, a great ‘monster’ should be a metaphor, a representation of a high concept idea as well as the demon inside the protagonist - a shadow-self, embodying their transgressions and their worst imaginable fears tailor-made for them.

Clive Barker’s Cenobites from HELLRAISER are a superb horror creation and this article breaks down the evolution of Pinhead as a horror concept and character. It includes exploration of the mythology and imagery that went into the design of Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites and the horror writing process of Barker himself.

“One image I remember very strongly from The Forbidden was that Clive had built what he called his ‘nail-board’ which was basically a block of wood which he’d squared off and then he’d banged six-inch nails in at the intersections of the squares. He spent endless hours playing with what happened if a light was swung around in front of it to see the way that the shadows of the nails moved and what happened if it was top lit and so forth. Of course, when I saw the first illustrations for this gentleman, it rang a bell with me that here was actually Clive putting the ideas that he’d been playing around with with the nail-board in The Forbidden, now 10, 15 years later or whatever here he’d now put the image all over a human being’s face. Which is typical of the way that he will work with ideas, you’ll find little bits of ideas that he would play around with that ten, fifteen years later when apparently it’s all forgotten with, that idea is suddenly brought up again and dealt with in a much bigger way.”

http://www.clivebarker.info/pinevolution.html

 

Monday
Jul072014

Podcast Interview discussing Victorian Gothic Horror

Death Becomes her - Metropolitan Museum of Art NY 

Progress continues on my new series of horror novels and, as I set into the second book this month, I continue to interrogate the concepts that underpin the the story ideas I’m executing. 

Having spent a number of years teaching writing my own creative process has become infused with the kind of reflection you have to do as a teacher in interrogating Why you make the narrative choices you do.

To that end, last week I had the opportunity to talk about Victorian Gothic Horror with ABC Radio National’s Antony Funnell and the discussion ranged over the genre’s form and appeal as well as speculating on why we continue to tell these kind of stories, even in a modern digital age. What is it about this particular period in time that makes for such a compelling mix of dramatic forces, ideas and motifs?

The full podcast of the interview is available online here…

“The Victorian age may be long gone but it’s certainly not forgotten. It continues to be a reference point for counter cultural movements like steam punk and of course for fiction.

Just think of all those shelves of vampire stories you find in bookstores these days.

They may not necessarily be set in the Victorian era but they certainly borrow from the look and feel of Victorian Gothic Fiction.”

Tuesday
Jun172014

Screen 2030: imagining the future present

“This is the best time ever to be a writer, creator, producer or director of stories because there’s never been more diverse audiences, there’s never been more active niches and there’s never been more mediums to tell these stories”.

Or so I said in the documentaryScreen 2030: Making my Content Pay which was featured at the Vivid Ideas Festival in June. The doco probed at the wide range of both problems and opportunities the digital world puts in front of creative producers and teased at the issue of how a professional living can be made.

From the blurb:

This year’s VIVID IDEAS event launched the documentary, Screen 2030: Making My Content Pay, to a full house at the MCA. Host Tim Parsons led a panel discussion exploring the future careers of emerging content makers with some of the screen and media industry’s key thinkers including media futurist, Mark Pesce, Senior Manager of Strategy, Research and Communications at Screen Australia, Georgie McClean, Emmy Award winning producer, Marcus Gillezeau,  and all media documentary producer, Ester Harding.