Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Darth Disney

So, the Internacles in the last few hours have positively exploded with the news that Disney has bought out Lucas Film, and is going to be making Star Wars: Episode VII.

There are two very consistent reactions out there. One: "Aaaargh! This is the end of everything decent in the world!" and Two: "Well, they could hardly make the Star Wars franchise any worse at this point." Often these thoughts are coming out of the same person's mouth. (Or, well, fingers.)

I'll go one further, and bear with me... this is a good thing. Okay, yes, it would have been better if the rights would have been purchased by, say, Peter Jackson or Joss Whedon (although that would be a death sentence for Princess Leia, amiright?)

When Disney bought The Muppets all those years ago, I was pretty horrified. But that was a franchise for the most part unspoiled. Not so, Star Wars. Not so.

I can't blame Lucas for selling. I mean, no matter how rich you are, it's got to be difficult having the most rabid fanbase in the history of pop culture, since, say, Rudolph Valentino, and then watch them all turn from you in disgust. Well-earned disgust, mind you.

Star Wars was the first film I remember seeing in the theater. The series had a profound effect on my childhood, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Most of you are in the same boat with me. Don't get me wrong, the first three films (in our chronology, not the Star Wars universe's) are hardly perfection. Empire is the strongest of the three, but in Jedi, the Lucas-induced cracks are already beginning to show. Still, they are great stories, with great characters, despite some clunky dialog and Ewoks.

Lest we never forget.

But those OTHER films. You know the ones. I can't... I just can't. Kids seem to like them, and one friend of mine, who otherwise exhibits impeccable taste, but most adult humans think that they're a big pile of poo. Why should George Lucas touch Star Wars ever again? He's already killed the beloved family pet, nobody wants to watch him poke it with a stick for another 10 years.

So then... some other creative minds are taking over the franchise. Good! Very good! I hope they go off of Timothy Zahn's post-Jedi novels, I rather like them. But whatever they do, it will be done by fresh talent, by people who, hopefully, understand the appeal of the first three movies (Again, our chronology. Just gonna head you off at the pass there. Yes, I'm looking at you.)

And let's not forget, Disney may be a corporate monster, but it has in its fold other, more likable monsters. I, of course, am talking about Sully and Mike Wasowski. Pixar, people. They may not get on with Disney all the time, but they've managed to put out some of the most consistently terrific films of the last decade, despite the looming Mouse.

Let's hope some similarly great creative minds are put into place to bring Star Wars back to life.
And even if it's not very good... it can't be worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Quash the Creative Mind

From my son's First Grade Homework:

1. Which words go together?


2. Which could really happen?

A rabbit goes bowling with a tulip.
A rabbit hops behind a bush.

And the dilemma of the writerly mom: do I encourage him to conform so he doesn't get his homework "wrong"? Or do we write that story about the monkeys exploding out of the Birthday Cake, bounding about the room with candles grasped in their tails?

Take that Minneapolis School System!

Monday, October 15, 2012

To begin

I don't know if you happened to see this or not, but I recently finished the 1st Draft of my latest Work in Progress (or WIP to all y'all in the know, y'know?). You can read all about it here at my blog, if you're interested. Go on, go check it out. I'll wait... No problem... I don't mind.

Doop-a-do... ppppphhhhbbbbbtttt...

Still looking? No, no. No rush. I said: we'll wait. Don't worry. I just want everyone caught up, is all. Nooooo pressure. Hmm-hmmm-hmmmmm... Hey. Hey, everybody else who's waiting... you guys saw this right?

Never. Stops. Being. Funny.

Okay, everybody back? Great, good to see ya'. And just FYI, feel free to swing back by my blog any time. It's open and free to all.

So yeah. Like I said, the 1st Draft of my current WIP is done, but I'm not quite ready to dive back in and begin the 2nd Draft. Not yet. I don't trust my eyes, for one. They've been too close for too long and they may not see clearly at the moment. And secondly, I need a little break, which is tied into the whole "fresh eyes" thing. Walk away for a bit, take a break, let things simmer down. Then, when you go back again, things will look new... hopefully.

That's the plan, anyway.

In the meantime, I've got plans. I've got new ideas. A new book, I think, maybe (and maybe a new short story too, but that's cooking currently, so we'll see) and I was thinking maybe, while my newly completed 1st Draft is cooling, I would do some work on this new idea/book/thing.

Hmmmm...But how does one start a new project?

Actually, I've done this before, so I've got a process and I thought I'd share it with you. This is what I do, of course, so your mileage may vary, but I've found it works for me. Maybe that's the key to it all: You figure out what works for you and you stick with it. After all, the point is to finish something, right? If your process works for you, great. The flip-side being: If it ISN'T working for you, if you find yourself more often than not staring at a blank page with "so many ideas in my head, if only I could just get them all out..." maybe it's time you switch something up, my friend.

This works for me, so let me break it down for you.

The Outline

This is where I begin. Now, outlines are usually considered bad words in writing circles. They're considered stifling and restrictive and generally lacking in creativity. Conjuring up images of the traditional outline format, many writers sniff, noses in the air, claiming that following such a strict course means your characters will never get the chance to truly walk and talk on their own, it means that your story is locked down before it even starts and as a result, any possible better ideas that might occur along the way are locked out...

Unless of course you prefer to use an outline, in which case the belief is that those who do not lack the focus needed to complete projects, and that those who do manage to finish often miss crucial pieces or forget to capitalize on narrative oppurtunities. They believe that the organization merely allows one to order one's thoughts, to see the shape of the story as it develops, to track the character arcs, and to ensure your narrative is on track. This side of the debate believes that outlines allow the writer to focus on the writing itself by taking the pressure off the writer when it comes to having to remember all the little details and ideas that may randomly occur to them throughout the process.

The two sides can get heated.

Maybe not as much as that classic bit of tomfoolery: Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing, but it does get folks riled, and like that other great bru-haha, the majority of the most strident are really just full of crap, because really, who cares? Outline? Don't outline? Who cares? Whatever works for you, right? That's what we're talking about here; that's our motto for the moment, right? Of course, it'd be nice if it were shared by all, but in reality, if you bring up the term "outline" when discussing your process with a bunch of writers, it almost guarantees that the conversation will quickly derail and boil down to an argument between the last standing pair of fools.

Ronnie prefers to outline, while Jwoww likes to "let shit happen".

So let's back up. Instead of Outline, let's call it: Notes.

Yes. Notes...

Take Notes

This is key. It's very important. Especially in the beginning. You're never going to remember all the random crap that floats up out of the dank idea-hole in the back of your head. Never. You think you will, but you won't, that shit is like smoke, Mon Frere, as soon as a breeze blows through that space... it's gone. GONE gone. And when that happens, the only thing you will be left with that you know for sure, is that whatever it was you forgot, it was the most awesome thing ever. Too bad, sucker. And that will drive you nuts. So, trust me, it's better to avoid this feeling. It sucks. And the easiest way to avoid it?

Get some books and write that shit down.

And while yes, it's true, eventually I do put it all in a Word file for easy writing reference, that's for when the ideas are starting to get a little more solid. When I first start out, when I'm still just jotting stuff down and things are still really loose, that's when I prefer to go with Long-hand. That's when I use the books.

Here are my current books:

The reason I find long hand works best at the start, is because it somehow doesn't seem as set. It's just a bunch of scribbled notes, scrawled in blocks and columns, it's snippets of dialogue, bits of scenes, light character sketches. No pressure. At first glance, it's just a jumbled catch all mess, but it's a mess with a purpose, all broken down into a couple of different specific sections.

The Sections
This is how I do it...


This is where I keep track of the basics. Names. Moments. Details. Phrases. Descriptions. Snippets of ideas that may go somewhere or nowhere. The random bits. The stray thoughts, like: "Should they even make it to the school?" or "Should there be a friendly Orge? Well-spoken? (Not like Hank McCoy)". This is where I write down the beginning and the ending. Which is very important at the start, I think. It is my firm belief that you should know these two things before you start. If you don't, how do you even know what your story is? Also, this is where I put down the idea: "What if you were special and could do special things. What if you were chosen to attend a special academy, a secret place of magic and wonder, a place where only the most special people with the most special abilities were chosen to attend? What if you went to this special academy and discovered it was evil?" Now, is that the whole of the idea? No, but that's the kernel, that's where it starts.


This is where I work bits out. I kind of slog them around and see how they shape out. I question them, if you will. The who, what, why, how, and the where. This is where I start to make some of the bigger story pieces, everything from the character motivation to the setting to the thrust of the conflict. Here's where I figure out the world details, how things work. Knowing these answers are important, even if they never appear in your story, especially if they never appear in your story.

The way it goes:

This is the part that some writers poo-poo, because here's where I sketch stuff out. Here's where I put down what happens first, what happens next, and where things go after that. This is the map. This is the way the story goes. Personally, I like to keep it vague.

"Abby in back of cop car. Rainy. Lots of lights. Her mom is pissed."
"The other world, the rebel ambush, the mass escape, chaos, and into the river."

Short reminders, just enough for me to see and remember. I don't think you need more than that. They're notes, after all. I figure, if you keep it vague, you keep it loose, you leave yourself and your story some room to stretch and grow. Best of both worlds.

Things to remember:

This last part is for specific things that don't have a home. These are the things that are off in the distance still, things that I want to happen, but I just haven't planned up to that point yet. "Find the mech suit" Or maybe it's details that don't need to be in the outline. "The corporate logo is multiple earths spun out into the shape of a C, the beginning of the name: Croatoan. Beneath it says: Worlds of Possibilities." Or "The first child born in America by colonists was named Virginia Dare." Or "Al-taneen means Dragon, in Arabic." These are things to remember. They'll probably be useful.

To begin...

This process takes a little while. It's not something you just sit down and do one day like a math assignment. It's something you start and let build, something you can't linger over. It takes a kernel of an idea. I think it takes the knowledge of a beginning and an ending. Maybe an concerning a few characters too. Maybe a scene. I don't know, your mileage may vary. At a certain point, I take the good stuff, the stuff I'll probably use and transfer it to a Word Document, then this notebook loses it's purpose. It becomes nothing but scribbles and half-baked ideas, but that's later, in the beginning, I find it to be a good place to start.

Of course, once you start your project, you're on your own, sink or swim, baby. Doing this is not a guarantee of any kind of success or anything. How, and if, you ever finish something is up to you; I only share this in the hope that it might help you figure out what kind of story you're going to tell.

Hopefully, it will help you begin.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fallen Jedi - Padawan

Okay, show of hands. How many of you knew there was such a thing as Star Wars Reads Day?

No? Me either. Not until a few days ago, anyway, when I saw it in my Twitter feed. At first I was like, meh, because Revenge of the Sith kind of killed Star Wars for me.

But then I remembered.

You see, I have this bit of fan fiction I've been sitting on for a long time. It's just a short little thing, something I wrote shortly before Revenge of the Sith. Back then I was reading a lot of Star Wars novels and my imagination was churning, dreaming up all the exciting places the franchise could go. I never once considered that Lucas would kill off all the Jedi in one movie.

This little story takes place in a Star Wars universe where Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader and killed many of Jedi, but not all of them. Those who remained were on the run and Darth Vader was tracking them down, one by one.

So, in honor of Star Wars Reads Day, I present Fallen Jedi – Padawan. I've dusted it off and polished it a bit, but it's essentially the same story I wrote all those years ago.


Fallen Jedi

A story by Shawn Enderlin

Kile ran, skimming along the building’s side as fast as his short legs would carry him. Hot ozone and blaster charred duracrete choked the air while the all too familiar sound of colliding lightsabers hissed and spat behind him.

Run, the mocking voice said in his head. While you can.

Heart pounding, Kile rounded the corner and darted into a busy street. He lost himself in the crowd, moving away from the ambush.

Good, the voice said. Run away and hide. You're too young to help her. Too slow. Too clumsy.

Kile pounded his fists against his head. It was true!

Master Marion’s voice echoed in his head. Control, Kile. Remember, the only one who can make you feel inferior is yourself.

Grinding his teeth with frustration, confusion, fear – the dark side! – Kile struggled to bring his emotions under control. Master Marion was right. He couldn’t afford to let fear control him. Not now. Not with death so close.

Give in to your fear, Padawan. Give in to your hatred of your own weakness. Only then will you discover the power you crave.

“Out of the way, boy!”

Kile looked up into the angry eyes of well dressed man who had. The man took in Kile's braid and the lightsaber hanging on the clip at his belt and the man's contempt melted into terror.

“Jedi!” the man blubbered, backpedaling.

The flow of people slowed to drink in what was happening. Kile felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as the thoughts around him bent on that one dreaded word.

The crowd pulled away, their fearful glances searching for clone troopers. Or worse. Kile knew better than to ask for help. Most hurried away, cold with fear, but there are always a few whose shock hardened into calculation, for the bounty on a Jedi could feed most families for a year. Those were the ones to be afraid of.

Kile turned, poised to flee, and nearly ran into an old woman who dragged a reluctant boy along behind. Her crazy gray curls, deeply wrinkled cheeks, and too thick rouge should have been alarming, but something in her sharp green eyes said otherwise.

“Come with me,” the old woman said with an authority Kile was only too glad to obey. Her bony fingers clasped his arm, steering him through the crowd and into a nearby shop. She and pulled both him and the boy away from the windows and behind a large rack of clothes near the counter.

“Can I help you?” asked a distinguished looking man who wore the same fine clothes found on racks.

“Leave and lock the door,” Kile said, motioning only slightly with his hand.

“Of course,” the man said, politely inclining his head and backing away.

“Jedi!” the boy whispered, making the word sound like a curse.

“Not a Jedi,” the old woman said. “A Padawan.”

“Who are you?” Kile asked. She didn’t feel like a Jedi, but her emotions were remarkably calm for a woman who was risking death by the simple act of associating with him.

Her smile intimated a past he could only imagine. “I’m not a Jedi, if that’s what you are thinking. But I’ve known Jedi.”

“Ga’ma!” the boy said, scandalized.

“You don’t understand, grandson,” she said to the boy. “All of you kids, all you know is to fear the Jedi. You never knew the Jedi as I did, as guardians and teachers, masters of lore, compassion, and all that is good.”

“I wish they were dead,” the boy said.

The old woman grimaced. “I’m sorry that this is all that is left to you, Padawan. A boy your age should have better companions than fear, misunderstanding, and bigotry.” She touched his forehead, pushing back his hair. “How old are you? Ten?” He nodded. “Then you must have been in one of the last classes?”

Kile nodded, but kept to himself the memories her words evoked. He barely remembered his life before the Purge. Sometimes he dreamt of the Jedi Temple and of the web of aircars that flew overhead. Mostly it was Yoda he dreamt of. Kile almost smiled. Once, after practice, Yoda had pulled him aside and told him he would be a great Jedi someday.

Kile stuffed the memory back into its safe place then reached out and took the old woman’s hand in his own. “Thank you, ma'am, but I have to go before they find me.”

The old woman nodded sadly, hiding her face as she brought up a hand to dab at her wet eyes. “Yes,” she said. “You should go, but before you do…” She grabbed her grandson's shoulder, turned him around, and pulled off his jacket.

“Hey!” the boy protested.

Kile was even more surprised than the boy when she put jacket over his shoulders.

“Stop it Ga’ma!” the boy sputtered, reaching to take back his jacket. The old woman slapped his hand, stunning him into silence.

Then, before Kile even realized what she was doing, she grabbed the braid that marked him as a Padawan and cut it off with a tiny laser knife she pulled from her pocket.
He watched the braid fall to the ground.

Should have done that long ago, he thought, without anger.

“Now you can go,” the old woman said.

The urgency in her voice rang true and the weight of the world settled onto Kile’s shoulders. Master Marion would be dead by now. He was on his own.

A sudden wave of fear washed over him and he looked up at the old woman, asking, “What if I’m the last one?”

Sympathy and sorrow rolled off of her, but she kept it from her face and instead smiled encouragement.
“You're not,” she said. “There must be balance in the force.”

“Thank you,” he said, and then he looked over to where the boy glared angrily. “Thank you,” he said to the boy.

Eat nerf dung, the boy mouthed.

A feeling of disquiet washed over him.

It had nothing to do with the boy.

“They're coming,” he said at the same moment glass shattered.

“He said they went in here!” a clone trooper’s rough voice said.

“Find the Padawan!” shouted another voice.

“Run!” the old woman fiercely whispered, pushing him behind the counter and pointing him towards the hall before pulling her grandson close and stepping into the open.

“You can't have him” she cried. “He's my boy!”

“What?” the boy shouted. “I’m not a Jedi!”

“Sure you're not,” said one of the clone troopers as he roughly scooped the boy into his arms. “No!” the old woman screamed.

Kile, crouching behind the counter, closed his eyes. “A real Jedi knows no fear,” he whispered, giving voice to Master Marion’s well worn mantra.

Standing, he looked over the counter, to where the sobbing old woman clutched at the armored troopers. He whispered, “A Jedi protects weak, comforts the needy, consoles the distraught.”

Kile stepped around the counter. “A Jedi does not let others die for him.”

The clone trooper with the boy caught sight of him and pointed.

The other clone trooper backhanded the old woman and drew his blaster.

“Another Jedi?” said the first.

“Just some kid.”

“He’s the Jedi!” the boy screamed.

Kile drew his lightsaber from beneath the boy’s coat and thumbed the trigger. It blared to life.

The clone trooper fired. Kile swatted the bolt back into the leg armor on the trooper holding the boy.

Another bolt went wide. Kile leapt across the room, deflecting a third shot back at the shooter and dropping him like a dead dewback. Kile sensed movement and reverse thrusted his lightsaber up into the other trooper's stomach. 

He deactivated his lightsaber and silence filled the room.

For the first time in months his breathing and heart rate were as calm as if he had just woken from a long sleep. Emotionless, he bent down next to the crumpled old woman and turned her bloodied face towards him.

She said, “You should have ran.”
Kile shook his head. “A boy would run. A Jedi would never let you die for him.”

A deep, mechanical voice rumbled, “Foolish sentiment, Padawan.”

The old woman's eyes flashed fear and even though Kile knew who that voice belonged to, her fear couldn't find purchase.

He turned and reignited his light saber.

“Fighting you will be a waste of time,” Darth Vader said, gliding into the room. “Your master was disappointing as well.”

Kile walked forward.

He died a Jedi.

A great Jedi.