In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by Jack Ward for a spirited debate about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Does Campbell’s opus really hold the key to writing satisfying stories? Jack thinks so, but Rob and Don aren’t so sure, and this leads to a long discussion involving comparative mythology, newspaper comic strips, 1970’s vampire hunting reporters, and more sitcom references than an 80’s flashback! All this, and Don’s unhealthy fixation with the obscure scifi comedy Quark are waiting for you in this, the 35th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m fascinated by story structure, and recently I’ve been probing the depths of Dan Harmon’s Story Circle. The Story Circle was Harmon’s way to take Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and make it into something practical but still all encompassing. This isn’t new, Christopher Vogler did something similar in his famous memo, which he later turned into The Writer’s Journey, and other writers have done their own takes as well, such as Chris Woo’s fascinating take on it. This is possible because Campbell wasn’t writing a book about writing, but a book about comparative mythology, so he left the more practical applications of his work to others.
In any case, I’ve taken to Harmon’s Story Circle for its simplicity and practicality for writers. I won’t reiterate the details whole thing here (read about it on his original Channel 101 posts, which start here, but this is the most important one), but you can watch this video which covers the points of the thing pretty nicely.
So basically in simplest form it looks like this:
1 – You (a character is in a zone of comfort)
2 – Need (but they want something)
3 – Go (they enter an unfamiliar situation)
4 – Search (adapt to it)
5 – Find (find what they wanted)
6 – Take (pay its price)
7 – Return (and go back to where they started)
8 – Change (now capable of change)
Which is pretty good, and covers a lot of ground. But, as I was trying it out with different stories, I realized something- it actually resembles another story plotting approach utilized by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame. Now theirs, which I covered here, is a lot simpler, as it’s basically just about turning story outlines into series of cause and effect relationships using words like BUT, AND SO/THEREFORE, and MEANWHILE. But, I noticed that if we combine it with Harmon’s Circle, we end up with…
1 – OPEN ON You (a character is in a zone of comfort)
2 – BUT Need (but they want something)
3 – AND SO Go (they enter an unfamiliar situation)
4 – BUT Search (adapt to it)
5 – AND SO Find (find what they wanted)
6 – BUT Take (pay its price)
7 – AND SO Return (and go back to where they started)
8 – THUS Change (now capable of change)
And what do you know? It works! We have a story structure of cause and effect relationships that build up into a heroic journey. Who knew?
I’m still debating about the usefulness and nature of the Hero’s Journey monomyth as an all-encompassing story form, as you’ll hear about in an upcoming DNA podcast where writer Jack Ward and I go at it hammer and tong about the subject, but I will admit that this is a useful tool for writers. I’m always looking for ways to give my stories the solid underlying structure they need to become more satisfying for readers, and this is yet another tool in my writer’s toolkit to try out.
In this episode Don and Rob are joined by the awesome Ramon Meija of the litRPG podcast to talk about the biggest new genre you’ve probably never heard of- litRPGs. The three discuss the origins of this fascinating genre, what makes a litRPG, what books your should be reading, and how the litRPG genre reflects the world we live in today. All that, and how to write litRPGs in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!
Earlier this week, I was having an email exchange with my DNA co-host Don and our frequent esteemed guest Jack Ward about anime and American animation. As part of that conversation, Don took it upon himself to write up a long blog post explaining to Jack how the two animation industries diverged from each other during the 1960’s with lots of examples thrown in. Since I thought that such effort was worth sharing, Don graciously edited it and sent it to me to share.
Holee Smokes, why can’t we have nice things like that? Japan isn’t afraid to get weird though:
In this episode, Rob and Don sit down to discuss story structure. They explore the origins of the 3-act structure, discuss Chris Fox’s Write to Market strategy, and break down the Lester Dent Master Pulp Writing Formula and Michael Moorcock’s How to Write a Book in Three Days method. All this, and why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is really a ninja, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs!
Now that the ink is drying on the contracts, I have an announcement to make. My novel, The Crocodile Princess, has been licensed by Keller Entertainment to become both a graphic novel and a feature film in conjunction with a Major Chinese studio. (Not sure I’m allowed to say who yet, so we’ll leave it at that.)
I’ve been sitting on this news for two months now, since the fine folks at Keller Entertainment first approached me, but wanted to wait until the contract was officially signed before I made the announcement. I’ve worked with the Kellers to get the story down to a more manageable form (it’s a bit long for a film) and I’ll be scripting the graphic novel myself. (But not the film, although I will be working with the scriptwriter.) This is why I stopped writing stories for a while, as I’ve been too busy with the development process.
Now, there is something I should mention that isn’t going to make everyone happy, but I want to be upfront about it. The Chinese studio wants to make an adventure film set in China, but which will also appeal to an international audience. What that means is that they asked that at least three of the main characters become foreigners so they could put famous Hollywood actors in the roles for some star power outside of China. This is part of the current Chinese strategy to reach a global market, and upcoming films like The Great Wall with Matt Damon are examples of this approach. Long story short- Little Gou has been replaced by a Scottish sailor who’s been living in China, and Sister Cat by a similar character (still Chinese) who is a little more petite than the mighty warrior nun of the Gou adventures. This comprise allowed me to keep Gou and Cat separate from the film rights, while finding the balance the producers wanted. I know there will be claims of whitewashing, but it was the only way the project would move forward. Think of it as an alternate reality version of my original novel’s story. 🙂
Speaking of stories, I have to say the revised version of the story is awesome, and much better than my original in some ways. Getting to work with entertainment professionals has really helped to up my writing game, and the story has only benefited from it. For example, the character replacing Sister Cat is no longer a sidekick character, but an equal partner to the roguish gambler, and helps to drive the story in a way Cat never did. I’m really excited to see this character and her story evolve, and this new pair are quite the swashbuckling duo! You’ll get to see them in action on the page, and hopefully on the big screen not too long afterwards.
The truth is, I can hardly believe it myself and it still seems unreal to me, but every word I’ve just written is true. One of my stories is jumping to not one, but two other media, and it’s going to be incredible to watch it all unfold.
I’ll update you all from time to time, and if there are any questions just ask! And, if you want to read the book that inspired all this, why not click this link and pick up a copy?
In this episode, Rob and Don explore the possibilities of sound by talking with voice actress Kimlinh Tran about her experiences and perspectives gained voice acting in anime and video games. They talk about her efforts to improve her craft, why being near entertainment production centers is a must, and why recording walla is so much fun. All this, and why having a voice acting safe word is a must, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by comic book creator and founder of Antarctic Press, Ben Dunn. The three of them sit and chat about Ben’s long career in comics, how Antarctic Press came to be, and the ups and downs of running a comic book company. Along the way, Ben gives great advice about succeeding as an artist both in and outside the comics field and discusses the secrets to AP’s longevity and success. All this and a heaping helping of Ninja High School can be found in this, the 31st episode of The Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode Rob and Don sit down with Journalist and TV Producer Dr. Rashid Narain (R.N.) Shukul to discuss Television and Media in India. Along the way, they touch on RN’s career as a cameraman and war correspondent, his time as TV game show producer in India, his time producing documentaries for Fremantle Media, and some of the political figures he’s encountered. Are Indians into Scifi? What is their preferred style of heroic fiction? And what’s up with all the singing and dancing? All of these questions and more will be answered in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
Here’s a thought:
Copyright Laws are putting us in a long-distance relationship situation with media, and hindering creativity.
In a long-distance relationship, what happens is the couple communicate in a superficial way most of the time, and only see each other occasionally as their life/work situations allow. This creates an odd situation where the relationship is stuck in a kind of dating limbo- where the couple don’t see each other enough for the relationship to progress to the get-together stage or the breakup stage. As a result, the relationship lingers on and on, because they never get sick of each other, but aren’t satisfied with the relationship either. It creates a situation where they are constantly hoping that the next meeting will be awesome, remembering the meetups that were awesome, and forgetting all the meetups that sucked. Preventing them from moving on and finding new and possibly better relationships.
Ever-extending copyright laws are doing the same thing to our relationship with media. Instead of letting us fall in and out of love with a media property (like Star Wars), the long-term copyright laws keep us exposed to only a drip-feed of that media property and keep us from getting sick of it. We remember the good times, but not the bad, and keep coming back to it. As a result, a few mega-properties (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Marvel/DC Superheroes, etc) are able to suck up all the media attention (and money) and hindering the growth of new media sources because they never quite go away.
If we had shorter copyrights, then after a certain point properties would enter the public domain and everyone could make their versions of those media properties, which would have two effects- 1) it would “burn them out” of the collective consciousness through over-saturation and overexposure (everyone would get sick of them and move on), and 2) it would create opportunities for new material to move in and grow, resulting in newer media that suits the current generation and offers new ways of thinking instead of the old stuff being recycled endlessly. (Or, to continue our relationship metaphor- it would force people to break up and find new partners.)
My friend Don often comments that “nothing goes away anymore”, and I think this is a piece of that. Nothing is going away because corporations are extending out franchises and copyright keeps the public from running wild with them and burning them out. You might say that’s just fine, since it keeps the companies in business, but it also prevents them from innovating, since all their energies are focused on the old and not the new. Just like it keeps the public’s attention on the old instead of the new, preventing the innovation which happens every day from rising up into the public’s awareness and changing things for the better (or worse).
Just an idea, anyway.