Topic: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

Since many of us here are writers whether we admit it or not (Temporal Flux, I mean YOU), I thought we might have a thread devoted to the writer's craft.

How did you guys get into writing? I got into it because Sliders killed my father. ("Dude -- your father's not dead. And Professor Arturo is not your dad!") Yeah, I said what I said.

I kept wanting to write stories to fix things. But I couldn't seem to get it together in those early days. I kept writing lengthy stories where Quinn meets some cosmic entity who offers to save all the sliders in exchange for a long and exhausting mission across Sliders continuity and would get stalled. By the time it dawned on me that the best thing to do was have the sliders already alive and well by the third page, 15 years had passed.

So, it would be more accurate to say that Sliders got me into and out of writing. So the second time I got into writing was primarily to meet girls. I was an extremely shy person and it occurred to me in college that I could talk to women under the pretense of doing interviews for the school newspaper and I got lots of dates this way. By the time I realized that I was more interested in friends than girlfriends, 12 years had passed. I still use this method to approach women platonically, though.

Anyway. I would like to recommend this podcast on writing, At the Writer's Table where each installment has a novelist, screenwriter, editor, agent, publisher, etc., interviewed about their profession and philosophies. The most important takeaway I've had so far from this podcast is to always work writing into your day. If you have a day job, bang out a few paragraphs over lunch and it'll be so much easier to churn out chapters on the weekends. http://philgiangrandeproductions.com/phils-podcast/

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

Good post.
My route was not so dramatic. I was doing some cartooning back in the Nineties and took a novel writing class to help with my storytelling. I was writing an action novel and the instructor liked my action narratives and suggested I try screenplays.

Which brings me to where I am today.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

I don't even have a story. I've just always been a writer. I remember writing a story and having my brother illustrate it when I was in kindergarten. smile

When I was a teenager, I tried to submit scripts and story ideas to Star Trek, but they were never purchased (Voyager would have been so much better if they had hired me!).

I've always wanted to write film and television, but it is such an impossible industry to break into. I finally realized that I can write a book and put my stories out there for people to see, and it won't take someone investing millions of dollars, and hundreds of crew members to get some version of that done... and it would be my vision, not someone else's! So I do books now, but I'm still interested in film and television. The timing has just never been right for that. If some of my books read like outlines for seasons of a TV series, now you know why.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

On pastiches:

Most of what I've written has been a pastiche of other writer's styles and other actor's performances. I get a lot of nice remarks and a number of criticisms. Transmodiar calls my depiction of Arturo "overwrought and overwritten" and Slider_Quinn21 concurred. I ended up toning it down a bit in the final edits for SLIDERS REBORN.

But I find that when you are trying to convert an onscreen performance to prose and extrapolate, it's necessary to exaggerate it slightly. You don't actually have the actor to sell the subtle nuances of their delivery, so you have to heighten their performance in the descriptions so that it comes across properly.

I think I've generally done a good job; Wade is piercingly direct yet caring, Rembrandt is casual and reacts to everything like a normal person but with Cleavant's humour, the Professor is like a dysfunctional Professor Dumbledore and Quinn is earnest and filled with moral conviction. However, there were times when not having the actors really became a problem.

The one scene in SLIDERS REBORN that I think suffers most from Jerry O'Connell's absence is the Quinn versus Quinn-2 confrontation in the last script. Ideally, Quinn would have exhibited the burning, cold, reserved yet outraged contempt that Jerry performed so well in Seasons 1 - 2 with John's guidance, especially in "Luck of the Draw" and "Time Again and World." I wrote the dialogue in that low-key fashion -- and then I found it just didn't come alive; I didn't feel the anger and rage in the scene.

So I exaggerated it more than I think Jerry would actually perform it. Quinn shouts and yells instead of speaking in Jerry's subtly furious intensity. Instead of stiffening with clenched fists, Quinn picks up a laptop and throws it into a wall and smashes clocks on the floor and says outright to his enemy that he is going to kill him. It works on paper -- I don't see it being scripted this way for an actual performance where Jerry's acting would convey all that much more effectively without the histrionics.

I wonder if spec script writers penning submissions for TV shows that already exist have these issues and how they address them.

My niece once told me that the way I view fanfic is completely unlike most fanfic writers. "I write SUPERNATURAL fanfic as erotica for Dean and Castiel," she explained to me, "whereas you write SLIDERS fanfic like you're writing a licensed media tie in product that publicly represents the franchise and I guess you do that because nobody actually watches your show or writes fan fiction for it anymore and you're capitalizing on being the only game in town."

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

My niece and I were recently having a conversation. She told me that she's in the process of separating her online handle from her real name because, as a film student hoping to enter the industry, she doesn't want her real name to show up in association with her fan fiction. "Are you ashamed of your writing?" I asked her. "I mean, your descriptions could use some work, but the stories are solid like Dean and Cas being ice skaters."

"I just don't want that stuff to represent me," she said in a slightly evasive fashion. So I turned it around, asking her: should I be worried that my name is on my SLIDERS REBORN scripts? She replied that I wasn't looking to get into the film industry and even if I were, those scripts wouldn't be a problem because SLIDERS REBORN actually looks like scripts. They were written in screenwriting software. "Also, I've looked through your stuff and there isn't anything to be embarrassed about. I mean, you basically wrote STAR TREK novels. They're media tie-ins. If there were SLIDERS novels, you could probably have sold them."

"So what you're saying," I said cautiously, "is that your writing is embarrassing in a professional context because it delves into your fetishes and your desire to see two attractive men kissing and having sex whereas my writing is acceptable because it's an attempt to meet the professional format and falls within the content restrictions and also because my material isn't particularly romantic and not at all sexual."

"Yes," she said.

Hunnh. I have to say, it really bothers me that she doesn't feel comfortable putting her name on her writing, but there is that old saying that autobiographies can lie but fiction reveals all. I, personally, am very proud of what my fanfic says about me and it's a significantly more flattering image than the flawed reality of the actual me.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

Your niece has a valid point. While fan fiction can be a valuable learning tool, it is not professional writing (especially when such stories don't fit with the reality of the series, and most fanfic doesn't) and doesn't help a writer's career much. A writer can build a career in spite of fanfic, if it is good fanfic, but it's more the exception than the rule. You also don't want to look like you're trying to profit off of copyrighted material.

I don't really hide my fanfic past, but I also don't really associate it with my professional writing work. For that matter, I connect my author name with my face and real/acting name as little as possible, because I don't want to have some of those conversations on set. I like to keep my world's separate. Your niece is building a brand, and trying to control the image of that brand is smart.


Side note: If the word "fetish" ever comes up in a conversation with my niece, I'm bleaching my brain.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

I've been thinking about co-writers lately. I think I may be the sort of writer who can't function without one. I remember gravitating to Matt as my co-writer initially for SLIDERS REBORN because he'd asked me to write six reviews of six Season 5 episodes for EarthPrime.com. I wrote a review of "Please Press One" which was an incoherent rant about SLIDERS in Season 5 and Matt informed me he would need to rewrite it heavily to make it match the writing style of EP.COM. Matt and Mike Truman shared some of their reviews and I proceeded to write reviews of "A Current Affair," "The Java Jive," "The Return of Maggie Beckett," in a closer approximation of their style and then I went back and re-did the "Please Press One" review.

And then Matt lightly edited my reviews but did something that seemed to make him unusually nervous as he kept asking me over and over again if it concerned me -- he added jokes to the reviews. He added a wisecrack for "Please Press One" about how the sliders had successfully created a few odd jobs for some general contractors at Data Universal by blowing up a few walls. He added a longing remark to "A Current Affair" that a few revisions would have made a good episode great, even first season great. My latter reviews had tapped into EP.COM's sardonic voice, but Matt added some beautiful notes about how Diana had a mind-expanding, life-altering experience in "Map of the Mind" that she'd totally forget about.

I loved his additions. I wanted Matt to rewrite everything of mine for the rest of my life. Which led to me asking Matt to do the same for my SLIDERS REBORN outlines, an experience that I'm sure took years off his life.

I think the defining moment of our collaboration on SLIDERS REBORN was when Matt reviewed the novella, a story in which Mrs. Mallory is buying lemon bars at her favourite bakery when she is approached by a stranger. This man she doesn't know tells her the story of five seasons of sliding and how all the odd events of Seasons 3 - 5 were due to a cataclysmic multiversal event, and he's fixed it by erasing himself from reality and he now only exists as a paradox. The multiverse is stabilizing, and this remnant can only choose one person to remember him. He chooses Mrs. Mallory. She recognizes Quinn as her son and embraces him.

Matt gently pointed out all the problems here. The story took him about half an hour to read, which meant it would be at least an hour and a half to listen to. Why would Mrs. Mallory tolerate 90 minutes of a crazy person telling her an insane story? The means by which Quinn rebuilt reality made no sense whatsoever. The multiple reality warping machines involved seemed to have arbitrary and contradictory purposes. Matt asked to be let off this project and I agreed... but I also agreed with all of his criticisms and rewrote the draft.

The story was the same, but instead of Quinn talking to Mrs. Mallory, it was now Quinn in a mental ward telling his story to a doubtful psychiatrist who would raise all of the plotholes in Quinn's story in dialogue that I copied verbatim from Matt's emails. This forced Quinn (and me) to explain the plotholes and offer a rationale and led to a plot twist at the end that surprised me but which the subsequent readers seemed to like. Matt's criticisms were exactly what I needed. I would later ask Nigel Mitchell to help me with world-building, but I constantly returned to Matt for criticisms that I personally found very constructive.

"I have no time to revise a piece of non-canon fanfic and Wade Welles is dead, god damn it!" he would exclaim, but then proceed to grimly chat with me about SLIDERS REBORN and express exasperation, disbelief and frustration towards plot points I would immediately rewrite while reminding him that in SLIDERS, all fan fiction is canon and that "Requiem" point-blank established that Wade was still alive.

The fifth SLIDERS REBORN script was edited by nobody as Nigel felt he'd given me what he could by that point and it is the worst installment of all of them. The sixth script, I felt, was the best one as it benefited from Matt's spirit of oversight, Nigel's imagination for world-building and also Slider_Quinn21 who reviewed each page of script. Slider_Quinn21 noted when jokes didn't land and also reminded me to do things like explain how the Season 3 monsters could exist to descend upon San Francisco and that the sliders couldn't use road salt to fight the giant slug from "Paradise Lost" as no store in the Bay Area would carry it.

I have serious doubts that my writing is fit for human consumption without collaborators. I think I'm a bit like George Lucas: the first STAR WARS film had the benefit of consultation from Lucas' friends Spielberg and Ford Coppola as well as an uncredited dialogue rewrite from Willard and Gloria Hyuck. The prequels were Lucas writing mostly alone and it shows in some of the most incomprehensible, unsayable dialogue ever performed on the silver screen. "Are you sure we shouldn't be screenwriting partners?" I asked Matt awhile ago. "Quite sure," he assured me. "And you say that like we haven't already; the amount of time I put into SLIDERS REBORN was INSANE." And, not wanting to deprive his children of their father, I agreed.

I think I need a collaborator. I'm not quite sure what I would actually need from this collaborator, however. Matt pointed out logical errors and, in his way, would prod me towards my own solutions. Nigel had this Douglas Adams type of daring inventiveness. Slider_Quinn21 understood how to make a story readable and understandable. I told this to Matt once and he remarked that it was nice to hear that he was 33 per cent of a man. These three people could not have been more different, and the only reason they consented to endure my neediness and absurdities is because they loved SLIDERS too.

I wonder if the key might be for us to all become our own co-writers. Maybe it's up to me to do what Matt, Nigel and Slider_Quinn21 did for me but on my own.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

Every writer needs editors and beta readers to provide feedback. You can't do that part yourself, which makes it really hard sometimes, when people aren't available. That said you do need to make sure that the finished product is still yours. If you accept too many suggestions and make too many changes, you really do have co-writers more than beta readers.


It's a fine line. Just make sure that your story has its own voice, whether you have a co-writer or not.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

I definitely think SLIDERS REBORN is ultimately mine. MATT HUTAFF's SLIDERS REBORN and NIGEL MITCHELL's SLIDERS REBORN would've been very different.

**
The George Lucas collaboration with his friends Spielberg, Coppola, the Hyucks and his wife is fascinating to me because you can compare those results to Lucas working alone. Another fascinating but never quite documented collaboration: William Shatner's STAR TREK novels in which he wrote plot outlines featuring Captain Kirk in the 24th century, co-writers and veteran TREK novelists Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens would write the prose, and then Shatner would revise the draft and rewrite all of Kirk's dialogue.

The combination was beautiful: you had a husband-wife team with an encyclopedic knowledge of TREK and an obsessive love for all the shows and movies and the ability to write vivid pastiches of every character. And then you had the lead actor himself presenting a prose version of his own performance and working with two brilliant SF writers to bring his scenes and concepts to life.

The prose read entirely like the Reeves-Stevens' previous TREK novels, but they were keen in interviews to declare that these Kirk books were not stories they would or could write themselves. They also refused to reveal which ideas and words were theirs and which were Shatner's, saying all three had agreed on the ideas and words that were published regardless of who suggested them.

There were insights into Kirk that felt very much like they came from the actor who had played him for decades. Why was a maverick, rogue, rebellious personality like Kirk working for what was essentially the military?

How would Kirk feel about the corporate structure of the NEXT GEN ships? What would Kirk do if he were to retire happily? How would he deal with truly becoming a senior citizen? What would Kirk be like as a husband? As a parent? What would a Kirk-Picard friendship actually be like? The answers felt true. Shatner understood the lead character, the Reeves-Stevens team understood the vast universe around the character and the combination was everything Shatner's STAR TREK V wasn't.

**

MATT HUTAFF's SLIDERS REBORN would have been a reboot in which older versions of the sliders discover sliding at their present day ages instead of in 1994 with the explanation that in 2001, a restored Quinn had to "kill" sliding in order to end the Kromagg threat. I really like it as a reboot concept and found it hilarious that with the exception of matching previous continuity, it's the same concept Temporal Flux offered for a future reboot with the original actors. I find Matt doesn't think like a fan; he thinks like a TV producer, and this will serve him professionally but wasn't where I wanted to go for fan fiction.

Nigel felt my outlines were too dense and that the results would be unreadably long and he eventually disengaged from the material (while still continuing to review scripts). And this is because Nigel is a novelist. He is not a screenwriter.  He doesn't think in terms of film and TV being the edited highlights. Nigel thinks in prose. He didn't grasp why I was outlining events that would take place "off camera."

NIGEL MITCHELL's SLIDERS REBORN would have been a series of novels. And the final SLIDERS REBORN novel in Nigel series, I imagine, would have been more like an anthology in which each of the four characters gets a novella with their individual plot.

And Slider_Quinn21 -- I actually don't know what his SLIDERS REBORN would've been. Certainly, I appreciated his contributions. He spotted typos, he pointed areas where the exposition was confusing or absent, he noted when characters changed the topic of conversation without a transition. I think, because I was sending Slider_Quinn21 script pages instead of outlines, he was less inclined to change the story and more interested in making it as readable and understandable as possible.

Working on the first three scripts and the novella had been very taxing and draining and exhausting. Matt and Nigel made it manageable by helping me find solutions even if they likely never understood how much they helped as they probably only recall telling me something didn't work and why and offering me solutions they knew I didn't want. I think they didn't understand that identifying problems was extremely helpful even if I'd make my own solutions.

Nobody worked with me on the fifth script in which I wanted Quinn to meet Mallory. The convolutions to justify the tangled knots to bring Jerry O'Connell and Robert Floyd in the same room were absurd and I ended up rewatching "Obsession" and choosing a psychic from a single scene to be the antagonist of this script to rationalize an otherwise nonsensical plot. Tellingly, the fifth script is one where Mallory is really a hallucination and it's really a conversation between Quinn and himself, which is probably why it's the worst of the six.

Looking back, it may have been a missed opportunity. I probably should have asked Robert Floyd to work on it with me as it was interviewing him that made me write this fifth installment. Admittedly, I don't know what kind of cache that would have provided; the majority of the fans view Floyd as Jerry O'Connell's scab which I've always found unfair. It probably wouldn't be quite the same as, say, James Marsters and Juliet Landau writing comics featuring BUFFY and SPIKE.

That said, Floyd is quite present in all the REBORN scripts, not because of anything he contributed specifically to REBORN, but because REBORN is an attempt to pastiche Jerry O'Connell's voice and mannerisms just as Floyd sought to impersonate Jerry while making sure that copying someone else's voice and body language was just one aspect of playing a character, and the scripts are very informed by Floyd's choices.

Writing the first two scripts was fun and easy. Writing the third, fourth and fifth installments was all very tiring and I was ready for it to be over by 2016. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that working with Slider_Quinn21 was a joyfully effortless breeze, probably because Matt and Nigel's work on the outlines had smoothed out all the plot problems in advance and Slider_Quinn21 and I could relax and focus entirely on dialogue and 'acting.'

I feel Slider_Quinn21’s contributions to SLIDERS REBORN could potentially seem understated, but the sixth script is the best one. Part of that it’s because it featured the sum total of all our respective talents: Matt’s hyperrational sense of plot, Nigel’s imaginative world-building, my commitment to typing it all up in a script.

Without Matt and Nigel, there would have been no clear vision of REBORN, but I think the sixth one is the most enjoyable to read because Slider_Quinn21 has a very firm grasp of how readers engage with text and absorb information and process prose and dialogue gave the final script a crisp, direct quality that made all the crazy ideas fun to read. Slider_Quinn21 had this commitment to clear, understandable, simple, straightforward description while appreciating that it was a novel in screenplay format.

There was a lot of overly dense, confusing description in the second half of the script where the sliders confront all the Season 3 monsters and Slider_Quinn21 helped clarify a lot of it while also noting when the action had dragged on for so long he’d lost track of what was going on. And he had the patience to indicate readability issues on some of the earlier scripts which I went back and touched up. I suspect that I will never be as readable again as I was for that final script.

There was also this delightful moment where he pointed out to me that my Arturo dialogue had become extremely overwritten with me giving the Professor so many big words and such an overexaggerated accent that he’d become a caricature of a caricature.

I’d given myself a December 31 deadline to post that script, but SQ21’s editing led to me publishing it four days earlier.

Slider_Quinn21 expressed a desire to do more SLIDERS stories together after REBORN and I felt it was time to move on, possibly from writing SLIDERS, possibly from writing entirely. But it was truly a golden age and I always look back at that period fondly and with great warmth and appreciation for Matt, Nigel, Robert Floyd, Slider_Quinn21... and, oddly but appropriately, David Peckinpah.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

ireactions wrote:

And then Matt lightly edited my reviews but did something that seemed to make him unusually nervous as he kept asking me over and over again if it concerned me -- he added jokes to the reviews. He added a wisecrack for "Please Press One" about how the sliders had successfully created a few odd jobs for some general contractors at Data Universal by blowing up a few walls. He added a longing remark to "A Current Affair" that a few revisions would have made a good episode great, even first season great. My latter reviews had tapped into EP.COM's sardonic voice, but Matt added some beautiful notes about how Diana had a mind-expanding, life-altering experience in "Map of the Mind" that she'd totally forget about.

It's a mixture of considering the voice of the author and vestigial hatred for the people who edited what I wrote for the college paper. I'd get edits that would not trim for space, but for context and meaning. One piece had two words removed that completely changed the tenor of the piece. It was maddening. So when people ask me to review or edit their copy I want them to come away from the process with a positive feeling, not one of frustration.

ireactions wrote:

I wanted Matt to rewrite everything of mine for the rest of my life. Which led to me asking Matt to do the same for my SLIDERS REBORN outlines, an experience that I'm sure took years off his life.

No, your comments on all the stuff I had you read took years off my life, cupcake. wink

ireactions wrote:

I wonder if the key might be for us to all become our own co-writers. Maybe it's up to me to do what Matt, Nigel and Slider_Quinn21 did for me but on my own.

It always depends on what you're attempting to achieve. Is it a singular vision? Then write it for yourself and get good feedback. If you want to collaborate, make sure you've got a co-writer who shares your sensibilities. My writing with Mike Truman produces some really fun results; I certainly couldn't write how he does and vice versa. He's all dialog and I'm meticulous with my plotting. Ib can certainly attest to that.

Earth Prime | The Definitive Source for Sliders™

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity

Hmmm, yes.

To switch gears — one of my favourite TV shows is ALIEN SURF GIRLS, a 26 episode Australian teen drama with a captivating concept. It’s about two aliens from a distant planet, Lumina, who are discorporate beings of energy and visit Earth for a school project in secret. They’re only coming to research the Earth’s electromagnetic and gravitational properties. Adopting human form as two teenaged girls, Zoe and Kiki pass through the small coastal town of Lightning Point. They see the beach, the crashing waves and stunning horizon and athletic exhillaration of surfing and they fall completely in love with water.

ALIEN SURF GIRLS is one of the worst television shows I’ve ever seen. The title is inane. The characterization is nonsensical with the scripts confused as to whether Zoe and Kiki are similar to humans or energy beings in human-shaped shells. The plot that gets them stranded on Earth involves a dog biting the card-shaped key to their spaceship. Each week, some random piece of technology (a microwave, a radio) causes Zoe or Kiki to lose human form which is played as some massive threat when it’s at times indicated to be their natural state. There is no conflict, no drama, no rising stakes, no explanation for why the girls are desperate to get home, no consequence if they remain on Earth — it’s terrible.

But... I just really like the concept of two scientifically minded aliens visiting Earth on a disinterested mission of dispassionate study only to see water and fall head over heels in love with surfing. An idea like that deserves a better story.