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.

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.

Please be informed that the political, scientific, sociological, economic and legal views expressed in Informant's posts and social media accounts do not reflect any consensus of

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.

Please be informed that the political, scientific, sociological, economic and legal views expressed in Informant's posts and social media accounts do not reflect any consensus of

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 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.

Please be informed that the political, scientific, sociological, economic and legal views expressed in Informant's posts and social media accounts do not reflect any consensus of

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.

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

Recently, someone said regarding the show CASTLE:

Transmodiar wrote:

... you don't have to watch past season one to know the show doesn't give two squirts about timing, pacing, or focus. It hopes you like Nathan Fillion or Stana Katic; everything else is incidental. If you keep watching, just skip over every scene with Castle's daughter or mother. With the exception of the contractually obligated A-story episode they get each season, they add literally nothing to the series. Nada. Bupkus. ZERO. And if you make it past the episode where the sidekicks get caught in a burning building, I'll buy you a soda. smile

A treasured writing mentor (no, not this one, it was Informant) pointed out to me that we're writers. We aren't gods. We might be creating a fictional reality and populating it with living beings, but we don't know everything, we don't understand everything, and we'll often have to accept that our creation is flawed because we don't have the information or time to define every corner of our world. We'll have to prioritize making specific elements of our work entertaining and plausible at the expense of some other area where we are less skilled.

Informant argued that these areas of low priority are not even necessarily flaws as much as areas outside the author's chosen focus.

Another beloved writing mentor (this one) once asked me a very incisive question. He asked me, "What are you trying to accomplish?" Was I trying to write an exploration of alternate paths that events might have taken? Was it a series of science fiction set pieces? Was it a deep dive into the minutia of a television show that most people had willfully blocked out of memory? Was it a drama surrounding a college reunion? And what was I doing to meet any of those goals? "What are you trying to accomplish?"

With that in mind, I'd say that if a TV show decides that its priority is giving its leads episode-long arguments and that's what it chooses to excel it at the expense of other priorities, then those non-priorities are not flaws. STAR TREK was not a plausible depiction of naval life; FRINGE wasn't a likely rendition of FBI task forces; LOST was not a realistic picture of survivalism and THE FLASH is not a serious presentation of forensic investigation.

They were trying to accomplish something else and we might be better off asking ourselves what the creators were trying to do, if they achieved it and then ask whether or not it was worth the attempt or if the goal was flawed. If CASTLE sets out to have Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic arguing and then it manages to fill seven years' worth of episodes with Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic arguing, then its failure to present other content is no failure at all.

On the other hand, if the eighth season features Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic only sharing the screen in two scenes per episode because the actors refuse to work together for more than two days a week, then it has absolutely failed.

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

"Castle" failed (for many, many seasons?) because it very rarely hinged on its own premise. The conceit was a Patterson-esque crime novelist worms his way into working with real detectives as inspiration for a new protagonist. To do so, he has to juggle his life as a father, son, celebrity, and love interest for his new partner. The murder-of-the-week stuff should inform those relationships.

For the first season or two, it hewed closely to those tropes. But Castle's daughter was too evolved a character to be a 15-year-old girl; it was impossible to suspend disbelief. It's also the continuation of an exasperating trend in media to make dads just insufferable with their ignorance; I get that its comic to watch the kid parent the parent at times, but Castle himself dotes all over his daughter. He's not an absentee by any stretch (I think the mom left early on? Been a while.).

Then you throw in the weird subplots with the precinct captain, the bro-tastic adventures of the two junior detectives on the squad, and other nonsense and it just becomes hyperbolic. It's even worse when the show's tone veers off course and tries to do edgy, dark topics like the serial killer and who killed Stana Katic's mom. You see the same thing in the recent "iZombie," which went FAR up its own ass in the last couple of seasons. Just keep it light-hearted, let the leads have will-they, won't-they? chemistry, and keep in mind that the whole reason Castle is there is to grind out storylines for his books. That's what they were trying to accomplish. And they dropped the ball, and it got agonizing.

Earth Prime | The Definitive Source for Sliders™

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

I am only at the tail-end of Season 2, but I don't think CASTLE is really about an author trying to grind out storylines for his mystery novels. I think it is about Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic arguing. What they argue about is irrelevant. They could be arguing every week about how to run a restaurant or how to teach a high school class or how to fly a plane or how to manage a cruise ship or how to record a podcast about every episode of SLIDERS ever made.

Are there any shows that, by your standards, carried the ball throughout their run? I would feel obligated to watch one. (PleasenotanythinginvolvingNazisoranythingdepressingpleasepleasepleaseohthere'snohope.)

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

It's hard to thread the needle the longer you go. Characters get broader based on fan reaction and shows inevitably lean more on character interaction at the expense of concept, particularly if it's a high-concept show.

I really don't watch a lot of new television at the moment, but I would say one show that has unabashedly stuck to its premise for years and succeeded is "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It's a rich misanthrope getting into uncomfortable situations and acting like the asshole we all wish we could act like on occasion. You can start in season 1 or season 10 and get the same experience. Hell, if you just watch the Jon Hamm episode from this latest season with no primer whatsoever, it'll be as weird and funny to the neophyte as it would be to the die hard fan.

"The Wire" is also one that does a good job remaining consistently excellent year over year, with the right tone. You should watch it just because it's great, although I'm far from the first person to recommend it.

Earth Prime | The Definitive Source for Sliders™

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

I liked CASTLE until about the middle of Season 4 -- at which point Castle and Kate's continued reluctance to act on their interest in each other became incredibly tedious. But the zombie episode was hilarious, an episode where Castle insists for almost the entire episode that a zombie apocalypse has been unleashed due to a zombie attacking a murder victim on a security tape and culminates in Castle and Kate surrounded by a hoard of zombies who turn out to be cosplayers engaged in a Zombie Walk event. And the finale finally opened up the Castle/Kate arc to romance and Season 5 has been a wonderful resurgence of the chemistry as Castle and Kate now have 1,000,000 new things to argue about endlessly even though they're now an item. Amazing episodes this year include the spoof of "The Ring," the spoof of "Rear Window" and the budget saving clip show where Castle and Kate argue about every argument they've ever had in the past five years while standing above a literal ticking time bomb.

I'm not saying CASTLE is the greatest show ever made, but it's made with great love and passion for its characters, at least as far as Season 5. Season 4 was a bit too long, however, and dragged out the distance between Castle and Kate for an entire year when it probably should have been resolved by the middle of the year.

I would never call CASTLE excellent, but it is very competent within its low hanging target and it consistently hits that target.

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

I’m at the CASTLE episode where Esposito and Ryan are in a burning building!!! Eeeeeeek!!!

I love the characters in this show.

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

ireactions wrote:

I’m at the CASTLE episode where Esposito and Ryan are in a burning building!!! Eeeeeeek!!!

I love the characters in this show.

Congrats - if you make it past that POS you've officially outlasted me. Talk about a tortured and ham-fisted plot.

Earth Prime | The Definitive Source for Sliders™

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

It's not my favourite episode. It didn't have enough of Kate and Castle arguing. But over six seasons, CASTLE's cast had endeared themselves to me. Esposito and Ryan feel so familiar and I was worried to see them surrounded by flames and running out of air. Esposito's showboating every time he has an audience is hilarious. Kevin Ryan modelling his hair and clothes on Castle is really funny.

I can't remember the plot of this episode in the slightest or who the villain was, but I was happy to see my buddies running around bickering, chattering, fighting crime and not beating up every civilian of colour in sight like actual New York City police officers.

I guess you would say that I am easily satisfied, but I've skimmed studies that say that people who watch television often experience the same neurological activity that the brain manifests when the person is spending time with friends.

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

I finished CASTLE, sort of. Amazon Prime only has seven of the eight seasons. But the seventh season finale ends with Castle solving the first murder mystery he ever encountered and a scene where all the cast members are assembled at a writers' awards ceremony as Castle gives a speech about how much all his co-stars mean to him and it concludes with everyone running off to deal with a new murder which, to me, seems like a pretty definitive ending.

I think what I like most about CASTLE is something very much like SLIDERS. Castle addresses every case like it's a story, but he's not sure what kind of story it is, what genre it's set in and what the formula is for each one. It's an absurd approach to crime solving that only works for him. Sometimes that genre is the soap opera or the conspiracy thriller or the espionage drama or the space opera or the heist. One standout episode is "Undead Again" where a murder suspect is caught on security video. The suspect looks like a decaying corpse. "It's a zombie!" Castle exclaims gleefully. "Our killer's a zombie!"

As Detective Beckett tries to track down the perpetrator and refuses to even consider the notion of zombies, Castle declares that the zombie apocalypse is upon them as they encounter witnesses who have been scratched by the suspect and keeping themselves locked up. Castle and Beckett follow the evidence to a lonely New York City street at night only to find themselves surrounded by a crowd of moaning, malicious corpses closing in on them and growling with a fervent hunger for their flesh and the viewer will note that CASTLE has never explicitly ruled out the supernatural in its show.

Castle is terrified. Beckett snaps at the crowd, "NYPD! Stop acting like zombies!" The crowd stops; they are cosplayers engaged in a roleplaying game. The killer is revealed to have been a cosplayer. Another police officer later whispers to Castle, "Do you really believe in zombies?" Castle whispers back, "No. You know what I do believe in? Driving Beckett crazy."

That's something I've always really enjoyed about the best SLIDERS episodes and Steven Moffat's DOCTOR WHO and CASTLE too, even though they're totally different shows. They often leave the audience unsure as to what kind of story they're watching and don't resolve that until the middle.

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

I got an email recently asking if I collaborated with Tracy Torme when writing the "Slide Effects" screenplay based on his story idea. The short answer is no and putting Tracy Torme on the title page is somewhat deceptive. (My email writer can stop reading now. Haha!)

Torme told me his story idea in 2000 and I dismissed it until 2011 when I wrote it. In addition, the script as it stands is severely contradictory to his wishes and style. It is not the script Torme would have written nor does it achieve the goals he would have wanted to accomplish with his concept. But it's his idea; while I have some gifts for writing stories about *the* sliders, I simply don't have the talent of coming up with Torme's simple, straightforward, elegant, beautiful means of restoring Quinn, Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo in his hypothetical Season 4 premiere.

Having Quinn wake up to find that time has been rewound to the Pilot is the perfect way to open a new season of SLIDERS where a lot of confusing events have taken place in the previous season(s). Finding Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo alive and well in this scenario is ideal. Revealing that the situation is a Kromagg trick along with all the episodes produced during Torme's absence from the show is very clever and a little mischievous.

The thing about "Slide Effects" as Torme conceived it: he came up with the idea before the cast was mutilated, so he wasn't trying to come up with a story to fix everything that went wrong. He just wanted a season premiere that would re-establish the characters and the concept; he didn't imagine this premiere coming after all the characters and the concept had been warped and twisted and broken. And had he actually produced it, it's unlikely Torme would have consented to watch the episodes he'd missed, so there would have been no specific references to the episodes he was removing from continuity.

The "Slide Effects" script has 'clips' from episodes of Seasons 3 - 5 with the sliders of Season 2 reacting to them. There's a specific explanation for the continuity gaffes. There's an explanation for Quinn's odd behaviour in "Mother and Child." It's very clearly a psychodrama produced by an upset fan demanding an in-universe explanation for real world negligence, and I simply don't see Torme (or any professional TV producer) making television that exists to comment on other television so specifically.

I think Torme would have, instead, focused on the characterization: what if Quinn is tempted to stay in this perfect simulation of home and to let his friends have the illusion of having never been away? What if the Kromaggs offer Quinn this conclusion to the sliders' journey instead of whatever horrors may await them -- in exchange for some aspect of the sliding equation that will further empower the Dynasty? And what if Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo refuse, saying that while they miss home, sliding has made them stronger, smarter, kinder, better -- and they wouldn't trade their friendships and adventures for a facsimile?

Also, the "Slide Effects" script ultimately declares that everything after "As Time Goes By" was part of the Kromagg simulation and that Quinn had the tracking device in his brain. This is fundamentally at odds with Torme's wishes; he would have rewound time to after "The Guardian" and he believed the tracking device was in Arturo, not Quinn. I decided to change that because I wanted the implant to be the reason why Quinn was experiencing Seasons 3 - 5 and because, if "Slide Effects" were the last SLIDERS story, the unfinished threads of Logan St. Clair and the Professor's illness would no longer be a factor.

It's not inaccurate to have Torme's name on "Slide Effects," but I do consider it a degree of false advertising because it suggests that Torme would have written or would approve of this version of his story. I did that because, in 1996, after Captain Kirk had been killed off, there was a STAR TREK novel called THE RETURN which resurrected the character. It would have been dismissed as a meaningless STAR TREK novel like the 40 - 50 published every year, but THE RETURN had significance because it was STAR TREK: THE RETURN BY WILLIAM SHATNER.

While STAR TREK novels are not canon, Shatner's name gave THE RETURN weight even though in reality, the novel was written by veteran TREK novelists Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens based on phone calls with Shatner who would read the manuscript before it was published -- and I was unquestionably stealing that marketing by using a memory of an AOL Instant Messenger chat session with Torme, knowing that TRACY TORME'S SLIDE EFFECTS grabbed more attention than IREACTIONS' SLIDERS FANFIC.

I'm actually seeing a lot of this sort of crediting in post-"Slide Effects" spin-off media with other franchises. Two years after "Slide Effects," comic book publisher IDW announced THE X-FILES: SEASON 10, a comic book continuation with series creator Chris Carter's name on the covers, given top billing and suggesting that he was writing the comics. In reality, the comics were scripted by comic veteran Joe Harris and Carter would review the scripts at most. Carter vetoed one element of the comics -- the SEASON 10 villain was originally a teenaged William Mulder. Carter asked that the comics not use William and the writer complied.

Later, the FOX Network commissioned a tenth television season of THE X-FILES which flatly ignored the comic books and made it clear that the only 'canon' was on TV. IDW would relaunch THE X-FILES comics with the same writer, now doing standalone tie-ins to the TV SEASON 10 and continued to put Carter's name first on the cover -- but the SEASON 10 comics being ignored by the TV's tenth season made it clear that the name was meaningless marketing.

Carter's name on the X-FILES comics, like Torme's name on the "Slide Effects" script, certainly suggested some legitimacy to the material. The IDW comics publisher understood that fans would only engage with the content if it were presented as an actual, approved continuation to THE X-FILES.

I'm seeing a lot of that now even after THE X-FILES comics imploded. The BUFFY comics were steered by Joss Whedon working with writers from the TV show, but the finale series, BUFFY: THE RECKONING, was by Whedon's own admission largely written by Christos Gage with Whedon merely polishing the scripts after Gage was done.

A recent run of FIREFLY comic books boasted the WHEDON writing credit on the covers. The writer was Joss Whedon's brother, Zack, although Joss himself did review the material. Whedon's name is prominent on the subsequent comics written by Greg Pak and he is billed as overseeing the FIREFLY novels even though writers James Lovecraft and Tim Lebbon are the ones who really write them. The name sells the product. In some ways, the name is somewhat deceitful, but it's also part of the game. It's an invitation to let fans accept the tie-in as canonical while leaving their decision to their own discretion.

Anyway. In the next few days, I am going to revise the "Slide Effects" title page to make it clear that this is not a script that Torme wrote or would write, but that the idea is his and his alone.

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

My niece said that I could be a part of her social bubble after months of having lunch on opposite sides of her deck or porch. I brought over a raw chicken (which I'd seasoned) and some raw vegetables, planning to roast the chicken and grill the vegetables. Then I mentioned having found a cast iron frying pan in my storage space and how that was annoying because I'd recently bought a new cast iron frying pan. She asked if she could have the cast iron frying pan and I said that I would drive home to get it, but she would have to handle the cooking. I returned a half-hour later to find that my plans for a roast chicken and a side of grilled vegetables had been converted into a chicken and vegetable stir fry with peanut and soy sauce.

I've never written teleplays for a TV show, but I'm told that this is exactly what it's like to write for TV.

Re: The Writer's Room: Thoughts on imagination and creativity … laved.html

Cracka, imagine Sliders writers ever tried this?????

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

Torme had an idea for an episode where the teaser shows the sliders emerging from the vortex to find a Ku Klux Klan ceremony of white hooded figures. Rembrandt steps backwards to hide. Quinn, Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo are confronted by a Klansman who rips off the hood to reveal a black man underneath.

I don't know if that could work. Part of the problem was the FOX Network. They were resistant to having Wade kiss Wilkins (the black leader of the Revolution in the Pilot), saying it could offend racists. They were either racist themselves or unwilling to court the wrath of racists.

The other issue is one of imagery and this is something mass media writers struggle with. Often, a story demands onscreen actions that are ill-advised for publication or broadcast whether it's showing black men as dangerous across the board in a parallel universe where blacks were put in a position of white supremacy or other content. It's possible Torme had a more "Weaker Sex" style approach where whites are regarded as prone to violence, intellectually inferior and treated as criminals on sight just as "Weaker Sex" presented men as overemotional, flighty, distractable, and treated as servants and status symbols. But opening with a KKK gathering suggests that it is a story of violence and while Torme would often wrongfoot and misdirect and did not care for SLIDERS stories driven by action, the risk is there.

SUPERNATURAL, in the confrontation with the Men of Letters, had Sam Winchester holding Hess, the female leader at gunpoint. But SUPERNATURAL didn't want to show Sam shooting a woman to death even if she'd killed many of his friends and brainwashed his mother and even though Sam would be fully justified in executing a woman who'd declared bloody war on him and his and who would inevitably escape and come after him again. SUPERNATURAL had Hess pull a gun on Sam before Sam shot her; they didn't want the image of Sam killing an unarmed woman onscreen.

SUPERNATURAL also had an episode where Dean and Jack are hunting down Harper, a lady serial killer who lures potential boyfriends and then has her zombie paramour kill and eat them. In the final confrontation, Jack and Dean are dodging the zombie and have a clear shot on Harper but inexplicably fail to open fire -- partially because the writers hoped to bring Harper back for another run-in with Jack, but largely because Harper is a cute girl.

Ultimately, SUPERNATURAL doesn't want to create images of heroic men killing women. And I don't think SLIDERS wants to create images of black men being trounced by white heroes.

Torme's idea would have been very difficult to realize. That said, this is Torme. I'd like to see Temporal Flux take a crack at this story idea. I'm sure it would have been better than the extremely mediocre "California Reich."

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

Well the network would have been lambasted for trying to make sarcastic light of the situation.  I'm kind of surprised Torme would have gone that far, given he came from Star Trek where Roddenberry refused to paint humanity as racist in the "future," though he did so with other alien species.  It would've been tough, plus I'm not sure if the producers, director, or Cleavant himself would have been okay with that.  Let's not forget that you had a Sliders writing duo who weren't in fact pleased with Weaker Sex as it was, portraying women as characatured bad.  I think it's too extreme, because the real story is obviously, very bad, and by trying to swap it around, you are somewhat absolving reality.

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

This is genius: … Ho0eEdEUGc

A half-hour comedy that picks up where Paramount’s 1985 D.A.R.Y.L. feature left off. What if a top-secret, 10-year-old human weapon grew up to be a 44-year-old guy just trying to keep up with a world that he was never designed for? And what if the story morphed from an ’80s sci-fi adventure movie about a child with a computer in his skull … into a single-camera comedy starring Tony Hale? The boy everyone wanted … has become the man no one needs … in the TV adaptation nobody asked for.

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

Probably best fits in this thread, but here’s one of those ideas where you slap your forehead wondering why it hasn’t really been done often: … e-annual-2

A police officer; a CSI; a detective and an investigative journalist in a locked room murder mystery.

Green Lantern; Flash; Batman; Superman.

The powers and gadgets to the side - just a story about who they are as people.

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

This is a post about the comic book INSUFFERABLE, by Mark Waid which you can read online for free and in its entirety here: … apter-1/#1

The Stars: In the late 90s and early 2000s, the top superhero comic book writers were (and arguably still are) Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and Mark Waid.

Grant Morrison is an eccentric visionary of crazy cosmic ideas who wrote JLA, NEW X-MEN and ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Mark Millar is the hypersardonic and action-oriented writer of CIVIL WAR, ULTIMATE X-MEN and THE ULTIMATES and also creator of WANTED, KICK-ASS and KINGSMAN.

Mark Waid reformatted traditional superhero stories with modern wit and high adventure pacing and hyperdramatic turns of plot and comedy with science adventures in THE FLASH and FANTASTIC FOUR, hilarious comedy in DAREDEVIL, spy thrillers in CAPTAIN AMERICA and some brilliant creator owned material with detective stories in THE UNKNOWN and POTTER'S FIELD and dark superhero horror in IRREDEEMABLE and INCORRUPTIBLE.

The Partners: Grant Morrison and Mark Millar were friends in the 90s. Morrison was renowned for his fourth-wall breaking work on ANIMAL MAN in the 80s and his BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM oneshot. Millar approached Morrison for advice on breaking into the industry.

Morrison saw Millar's talent and collaborated with him in order to get Millar hired. Together, they co-wrote SWAMP THING and THE FLASH and worked together on project pitches that led to Millar becoming a comic book star on THE AUTHORITY, THE ULTIMATES and SUPERMAN: RED SON.

The Breakup: However, on the last three, Millar took sole credit and did not credit Morrison's contributions to Morrison -- which apparently upset Morrison, especially when he had consulted extensively, offered ideas and plot points and even ghost-written an issue of AUTHORITY for Millar. This ended their partnership.

Grant Morrison's writing is eccentric and bizarre with peculiar ideas Superman fighting an angelic invasion of Earth, an intelligent virus that transforms into an addictive drug to mind control mutants, Batman creating a backup personality for his brain in the event of a nervous breakdown -- matched with an upbeat, gleeful joy for all the wild ideas of superheroes and a grand, epic scale of action.

Mark Millar's style is very action-oriented with a dark sense of comedy (a homicidal 10 year old superheroine) and while his post-Morrison writing has lacked Morrison's mind-expanding ideas, Millar has shown a gift for crafting comics as visual concepts perfect for film pitches that led to WANTED, KICK-ASS and KINGSMAN becoming box office hits.

Insufferable: Grant Morrison often gives interviews describing the inner workings of his mind and how he believes he was visited by aliens to impart their concepts to humans via the medium of comic books and how this had nothing to do with the hallucinogens he'd ingested and how he finds that far too many comic book writers think only in terms of reiterating superhero tropes and old continuity. Mark Millar relentlessly hypes his brand with his film pitches in comic book form and makes constant reference to hobnobbing with celebrities and studios to present himself as a film producer first and a comic book writer second.

The Response: Their mutual friend, Mark Waid, remarked in an editorial that he found arrogance to be obnoxious and annoying.

Mark Waid wrote:

I was reading an interview with one of them and as he blathered relentlessly on about what a genius he was and how tiny the rest of us were, I remembered the phrase, "Why be mad?" and instead expressed my frustrations creatively through the language I know best: comics. I'd do an ongoing series about two former partners where the junior one grew up to be an ungrateful jerk and the senior one would have to labor hard to choke back his resentment.

It is very interesting to read INSUFFERABLE because despite these origins, the actual characters of John (the older insufferable) and Jarod (the younger insufferable) have shifted from their real-life counterparts.

John in INSUFFERABLE is not a Grant Morrison-like eccentric genius at all; he is a troubled, sad, withdrawn, driven, tactical and while he is clearly a better crimefighter, he has no false modesty and can back up any and all of his boasts. He does, however, relentlessly chastise his former partner for any shortcomings. He is not full of lunatic concepts; all of his ideas are tactical approaches to fighting crime.

Part of me wonders if Waid made this choice deliberately because, as Waid concedes in his editorial, "Ideas are not a series and jokes are not a character," perhaps thinking that a pastiche of Grant Morrison would be a limited character template. The rest of me wonders if Morrison is so bizarre that any attempt to pastiche him would be hopeless. In addition, Waid has declared, "Grant and I have always been the best of friends," so it's possible that Waid's stated vitriol is for Millar and Millar only.

Jarod is certainly more like Mark Millar than John is like Morrison. Jarod is primarily fixated on how his superhero exploits will create a splash in the news and on social media, a marked criticism of Millar concocting superhero comics largely in terms of how he can market them for notoriety and he is relentless in trying to assert his former mentor's irrelevance.

Having a fictional character mimic the showboating Mark Millar is significantly easier, but it's intriguing that Waid largely confines his (forgiving) contempt towards Jarod. Waid presents Jarod as a talented but self-destructive oaf who is crippled by his inability to act on anything other than his anger towards his former partner while John is the more stable and responsible half of the equation.

But regardless. Waid has really hit on something. INSUFFERABLE is a great superhero comic with two hilariously dysfunctional people who are forced by circumstance to work together long after they realized they could not stand to be around each other. Their broken partnership is a joy to watch in the face of rising supervillain threats. And throughout the entire series and right to its finale, Waid's therapist's philosophy rings true. Waid was upset by his friends. He was offended. He was hurt.

But : "Why be mad?" Be constructive. Be creative. … apter-1/#1

29 (edited by ireactions 2020-10-10 14:48:03)

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

The Triviality of Murder: I enjoy a lot of procedurals: FRINGE, SUPERNATURAL, and even non-fantasy murder mystery procedurals like ELEMENTARY and CASTLE. Shows like ELEMENTARY and CASTLE, however, have had an odd and not always positive effect on the perception of the genre; they've trivialized the craft of creating murder mysteries.

Writing In Reverse: Inexperienced murder mystery writers have been misled into thinking that murder mysteries are written by coming up with a cast of characters, then a setting, then a mystery, then some clues, and then a method for committing a murder that matches everything they wrote before. This is a mistake; a murder mystery must be outlined in the reverse order with the murder created first before coming up with anything else.

The Audience is not the Author: This might not seem to be the case to viewers. CASTLE isn't about the murders as much as Castle and Beckett arguing. The murders are just to give the characters something to work on so that they're not standing around in a plotless vacuum trading quips or barbs.

The Sequentially Written Murder Mystery: As a result, many first time murder writers understandably think that there is no need to put thought or attention into creating a murder mystery. That one creates the character arcs and set pieces first and then throws in a murder as an instigating event.

The Result is Not The Process: That's what these first time writers see onscreen, after all. They see that TV procedurals don't devote much screentime to the reason for the murder, the method of the murder and the means of concealment. They see that these elements serve merely as inciting incidents and seem almost an afterthought. In the writing process, these writers then treat the reason, method and concealment as an afterthought as well, as the last thing to create.

Struggling for Revelations: This is a deeply counterproductive approach to writing murder mysteries. Writers who work this way concoct random clues in a fit of inspiration, but then struggle to create revelations that match the previous information and come up with strained convolutions to make their answers meet the the previous discoveries.

Circling: Most writers who work like this often get stuck, unable to explain how and why their murderer did it. They are pilots flying an underfueled plane with nowhere to land. TV gives the false impression that murder is merely a plot device that isn't important and can be created at the end of the writing process because the murder is explained at the end. This is an illusion.

Murder Mysteries Come in Two Parts: An effective murder mystery writer starts with outlining the murderer's story, working out how and why the killer did it and obscured their guilt, as well as all the groups and individuals in proximity to the murder whether physically or situationally.

Facts Before Theory: Our effective writer then produces a second story outline, the story of the detective solving the murder. In most mystery stories, it's the detective's story that is most present in the final product, but because it is plotted out after the murderer's story, any clues, suspects, victims, red herrings, false trails and genuine truths will be consistent with the solution -- because the writer has already drafted the murderer’s point of view.

Screentime May Not Correlate: Much of the preparatory work might not appear in the final draft. One of my favourite episodes of CASTLE, "Fool Me Once," opens with a victim being murdered live on webcam during a stream of his crowdfunded North Pole expedition which turns out to be staged in an apartment for the web stream. Questions abound: who was this man if not really a North Pole explorer? Who killed him? Why?

The episode doesn't actually devote too much attention to how the victim was a con man of multiple schemes, one of which was planning to marry an heiress and flee with her money. Or how he genuinely fell in love and no longer wanted to rob his heiress. Or how he wanted to finish his last scam and go straight. Or how his partner, furious at losing the con man giving up a payday, murdered the con man during a web stream so that witnesses would assume the body was in the North Pole.

Foreground: The episode is more about Castle's increasingly ridiculous theories about how this con man may have been a spy, about Castle's latest mystery novel and how it has racy scenes that irritate his associate, about various blind alleys and false leads from Castle's theories -- but these most visible aspects of the story are possible because the writers first worked out the plot of the murderer, the victim, the motive and the means -- creating a solid framework in which they scripted Castle's shenanigans.

Labour: A murder mystery can be a triviality within a story. But it is never trivial to construct a murder mystery. Even in a TV procedural where the murder mysteries will be the least important thing onscreen, creating a murder plot itself needs to be treated by the writers as the most detail-demanding and labour-intensive plot element to create.

Write the Murder First: Murder mystery writers need to start with creating the murder; then they have a clear set of parameters for their suspects, evidence and revelations existing within a chain of cause and effect.

When mystery writers create mysteries first and solutions second, the evidence is invariably random and the solutions are inevitably mismatched. Most writers don't even manage to find a solution and end up paralyzed, searching for answers that should have been written at the start.

It is pointless, stressful, self-destructive and self-immobilizing for a writer to conceive a mystery and then try to create a murder that matches the mystery. It is much easier to create a murder followed by the mystery that obscures it until the detective unravels it. Writing the mystery first is not a healthy or productive way to write a murder mystery.

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

On contempt:

I'm starting to observe that one of the worst things a writer can do to themselves is be contemptuous of other writers. It's not a an issue of decorum or conduct. It's more that writers who disdain the talents of other creators are impeding their own gifts and opportunities for growth.

The Most Hated Men in SLIDERS: It's not hard to find people in SLIDERS fandom who will declare that David Peckinpah, Bill Dial and Keith Damron were talentless. However, this simply isn't true. It takes talent to write and sell teleplays that are filmed and aired. Transmodiar once remarked to me that David Peckinpah was a good storyteller and demonstrated great skill in telling his stories; they just weren't the stories that SLIDERS fans wanted to see. I've come around to that and I see Dial and Damron the same way.

Visual Storytelling and Exposition: "Murder Most Foul," "Dinoslide" and "Genesis" show Peckinpah to be a highly capable TV screenwriter with an excellent grasp of immediate visual storytelling, quickly expositing a high tech Victorian theme park, a colony under threat by dinosaurs and an Earth under invasion within a few minutes of screentime. It's unfortunate that Peckinpah also used his writing skills to create violent sexual fantasies about former employees and add absurd backstories to his lead characters.

Subtly in Real Time: Bill Dial is considered the worst part of Season 5, rewriting the majority of the scripts to have characters standing around repeating the same information until the page count is met. But Dial's filibustering is effective in "Prophets and Loss" and "Asylum," both of which feature gradual, slow, character-driven conversations where characters find themselves slowly entrapped as a pleasant conversation shifts into an interrogation or a confrontation. Dial had a gift for unforced, subtle, seemingly naturalistic pacing and conversation, but he misused it in a lazy fashion to pad out scripts for SLIDERS' final season.

Confessional Writing: Keith Damron is one of the most hated SLIDERS writers, but isn't his Year Five Journal a compelling read as an exercise in devastating self-owns and unintended revelations of creative self-sabotage?

Contempt: There is an alarming tendency that I sometimes notice in amateur and apprentice writers: they are caustic towards other people's work in a shockingly insulting manner, attacking not just the product, but the intelligence of other creators. They dismiss the effort, craft, purpose and ability behind the work as well as the work itself. It's one thing to do this if you're simply a consumer of fiction. You're a customer, you wanted SLIDERS stories, you paid for cable to get SLIDERS stories and you did not get what you paid for.

Creators Can't Only Be Viewers: If you are or intend to be a creator, however, this attitude towards other people's work will not serve you. I'm not saying that if you want to be a writer, you have to think highly of David Peckinpah sending Wade to a rape camp or Bill Dial's stalling filler in his Season 5 scripts or Keith Damron's clumsy portrayal of addiction and computers in "Virtual Slide." But a writer needs to at least observe that Peckinpah was good at devising visual information and exposition; that Dial was capable in using dialogue to subtly raise a sense of threat; and that Damron wrote some highly revealing internet diary entries.

Taste Vs. Talent: Whether or not you liked the final product is a matter of personal taste. However, I have sometimes run into would-be writers who take the view that any project not written to their obsessions, their concerns, their worldview and their preferred approach to storytelling is a failure. That any such project is worthless, produced without any ability, interest, care or investment from the creators behind it.

Self-Limiting: For a writer, contempt for the talents of other writers is a deeply self-limiting attitude. No single writer is going to be skilled in every area of writing. A writer with an ear for hilarious dialogue may lack the ability to write physical conflict. A writer with a talent for crafting lively and memorable characters may struggle with science or politics. A writer with a firm grasp of espionage and conveying action and danger may have a limited sense of location and setting.

Be Interested: All writers have limits. The best way for a writer to work through them is to be interested not just in writing their own stories, but also in how other people write their stories. Writers should appreciate their colleagues' techniques. A writer does not need to enjoy the end result; but a writer should seek to know other people's methods and be open to being informed by them. A writer should be able to look at someone else's writing and observe the skillset put into it even if the skill were misused and the product wasn't to their liking.

Contempt for Craft: When writers are contemptuous of other creators, such writers are disdaining not only their colleagues but the craft of writing itself. A writer who dislikes a book, movie or show but then declares that the creators have no talents worth knowing or learning -- this is a writer who believes that they and they alone possess the ability to produce good work. They are declaring that their skillset is complete and whole. That they have no need for additions, revisions or expansions. That they are closed to any perspectives, techniques or abilities outside their own. That they have no interest in how other writers write their stories. And that contempt for writing itself will be palpable in their own work.

Know How Others Work: Good writers respect the talents of other creators even if they don't care for the final product. Good writers are interested in how other writers work -- not to imitate, not to mimic, but to be open, to be engaged in the disciplines of storytelling, and to see what methods they might adopt or modify to tailor to their own projects.

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

On loopholes:

I find that most fantasy fiction involving battles between good and evil involve loopholes. By this, I mean a story will generally establish that the heroes are underpowered against an overwhelming force with no way to victory -- but then, it turns out the enemy's supposed invincibility had some caveat. The unstoppable Death Star has a weakness where one well-aimed shot can blow up the entire space station. Captain Kirk regularly encountered godlike entities whose power were dependent on some machine that could be exploded.

The most pleasing example of loophole victory I enjoyed recently was in SUPERNATURAL where Sam and Dean Winchester are two blue collar animal control workers who have been fighting evil for 14 years and whose villain for their 15th and final season is God Almighty himself, a being of boundless power who can erase Sam and Dean from reality on a whim and the boys defeat him by clever use of osmosis to siphon God's power into his kindhearted grandson.

Another clever loophole was in RISE OF SKYWALKER where Rey is told that if she kills the Emperor, his consciousness will transfer into her body and so when the Emperor attacks her with Force Lightning, Rey reflects the lightning back at him and he kills himself, sparing Rey from being used as a host -- which for some reason, IMDB seems to consider a plothole.

SLIDERS REBORN has a loophole at the end. The central conceit is that in REBORN, the multiverse is broken: the only branching point for parallel Earths now is the day of the first slide and there are no subsequent splits before or after that single date. Smarter-Quinn wants to destroy this damaged multiverse so a new one will replace it and Quinn has to stop him; at the end, Quinn and Smarter Quinn have the chance to choose a new branching point and they choose the very moment in which they are choosing a branching point, which repairs the multiverse to have infinite branching points and preserves the existing realities. Transmodiar said that this would have simply wiped out the existing multiverse and Slider_Quinn21 says it's extremely clever, and sometimes, if I've had a bad day, I re-read Slider_Quinn21's email saying it's clever and I feel better.

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

ireactions wrote:

Another clever loophole was in RISE OF SKYWALKER

You lost me right there.

Earth Prime | The Definitive Source for Sliders™

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

That’s okay. A wise man once told me that he wasn’t the final arbiter of taste and I will say the same for myself.

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

I remember producing a first draft of an outline for SLIDERS REBORN and sending it to Transmodiar and knowing it was bad and not knowing how to shape the story (or any story) and telling Transmodiar that it was awful beyond awful and I dreaded his reaction. He told me -- and I will never forget this --

"I'm actually pretty busy right now and can't read it right away. Why don't you take a couple days and see if you can get it from 'awful' to 'adequate'?"

One of the nicest and most productive things anybody has ever said to me about anything ever.

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

I recently got a new job running a communications department and feel that it's largely due to Transmodiar teaching me how to handle constructive criticism

How to engage in healthy and productive teamwork

How to manage a project

How to lead

And also how to handle WordPress web building.

Transmodiar insists that he didn't teach me anything, but that he will reverse his opinion if I ever get a book deal and take 20 per cent of the money. I'll be happy to do that as I'm sure he really meant eight per cent (of the advance).

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

I stand by all of the above.


I find that in criticism of content, entirely too much criticism can be summed up with: "You didn't write what I would have written, so what you wrote is bad."

This is a cognitive bias and an error in judgement where one person declares that their subjective and personal tastes in fiction, a highly personal and individual set of likes and dislikes, are an objective standard and any content that doesn't match this one person's obsessions and distastes is flawed and worthless. This is not a perspective to which I subscribe. My belief is that content should be evaluated in terms of three questions:

What was the creator trying to accomplish?
Did they accomplish it?
Why or why not?

When we claim that a piece of writing failed because it was a historical drama and we prefer spaceships in our stories, we are not reviewing the material based on its attempted merits. It is arrogant to declare that the only material worth producing is the material we ourselves would write. It's entirely possible to simply say that we personally do not enjoy certain kinds of fiction.

I'm not a fan of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies because I don't connect to large scale battle scenes. I had the same issue with INFINITY WAR. I don't really gravitate to shows with male protagonists because I have trouble relating to men. I don't like vampire protagonists too many stories have them preying on innocent people and being presented as the protagonist. That doesn't mean people shouldn't write these things and it would be shockingly rude and dismissive of people's talents to claim that something is "creatively bankrupt" "100%" just because I personally would not read it or seek it out or enjoy it.

There's also the fact that writers are only human. Writers aren't omnipotent or omniscient even when creating worlds through typing prose or screenplays. Writers have gaps and limitations of knowledge. Writers have strengths in writing certain kinds of scenes and weaknesses in writing others. As a result, writers often have to choose what to emphasize in their work at the expense of other story elements. SHERLOCK prioritizes the semi-dysfunctional friendship between Sherlock and John over the actual mysteries. COMMUNITY prioritizes the interactions of a friend group at a college over actual academics. STAR WARS prioritizes one pilot's interaction in one conflict over the larger scale of the actual star wars. Now, someone might prefer a focus on mysteries or schoolwork or the larger interstellar conflict, but that doesn't mean those works are flawed on those grounds. Instead, the questions would be:

What was the creator trying to accomplish?
Did they accomplish it?
Why or why not?

If you dislike SHERLOCK, COMMUNITY and STAR WARS, these questions could still lead to a negative review, but it would be a negative review that came after engaging with the actual aims of the writing as opposed to saying it fell short of the reviewer's hypothetical projects.

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

One of the things about writing fiction: characters sometimes have to say and do things that aren't 'realistic' but are necessary due to the medium, the format and the production.

I got into DOCTOR WHO when it was off the air. My experience of DOCTOR WHO was the Eighth Doctor novels and audioplays; there was no TV show on the air during 1999 - 2005 when I discovered the series, but there were all the novels since 1987 and all audioplays from 1999 onward. The Eighth Doctor had only been in the 1996 TV movie, but his novels and audioplays made it feel like DOCTOR WHO was an ongoing, present day series. Slider_Quinn21 once remarked that I was unlike most scifi fans: I considered media tie-in novels and audioplays and comic books 'canon' and took them as seriously as the TV and films to which they tied in. This is probably why.

The Eighth Doctor had only one onscreen appearance in the 1996 movie and presumably regenerated offscreen when the DOCTOR WHO TV show came back in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor. But in 2013, for the 50th anniversary special, the Eighth Doctor actor and the 2013 series produced a canonical internet special, a short film called "Night of the Doctor" where the Eighth Doctor dies on his last adventure and regenerates into his subsequent self. In this short film, the Eighth Doctor prepares for death and names his companions. "Charley, C'rizz, Lucy, Tamsin, Molly -- " he intones, referring to all of his audioplay companions.

He doesn't mention his book companions. He doesn't mention his comic book companions. I wondered why, given Sam, Fitz, Compassion, Anji or Trix (novels) or Izzy, Destrii (comics) never appeared onscreen any more than the audioplay characters. The Big Finish audioplays had initially suggested that the Eighth Doctor plays were in a separate timeline from the novels, but after the novel line had concluded, a subsequent audioplay had an anthology where the Eighth Doctor had a single audioplay adventure with Fitz and one with Izzy, declaring that the novels were set in the past of the Eighth Doctor audioplays. Also unmentioned were Samson and Gemma, two companions who had only appeared in one audioplay.

Of course, actor Paul McGann could not have played a scene where he had to list off 14 separate companions; screenwriter-showrunner Steven Moffat had to choose a limited number. Five names was probably the maximum. It made sense for Moffat to choose the five most well-known companions of the Eighth Doctor.

Lucie had been in the BBC7 radioplays and was probably familiar to about 400,000 listeners. Charley had been the Doctor's first audioplay which probably had an audience of 250,000 fans (just guessing). In contrast, the Eighth Doctor novels sold maybe 25,000 - 50,000 copies each (according to one of the writers talking about his sales).

The audience for the TV DOCTOR WHO during this era was 12 - 13 million viewers. Most of them would have no idea who the Eighth Doctor had travelled with in novels, audioplays and comics. The companions with the biggest audiences had to be the ones whom the Eighth Doctor would refer to before he died.

There is possibly some rationale to why the Doctor spoke of those names. Charley vanished on him without a proper farewell (as far as he remembered because his memory of her was partially erased). C'rizz, Lucie and Tamsin died. Molly was separated from him and when he found her, decades had passed and she felt too old to have any more adventures with him. Perhaps the Doctor was referring to the companions with whom he felt he'd left things unresolved. Since the short film, the Eighth Doctor audioplays have added more companions (Liv, Helen, Bliss) and with this reasoning, none of these new companions can die.

There was no easy solution to this issue aside from simply not having the Doctor name any companions. However, when Paul McGann spoke the lines in 2013 that named the audioplay companions, he sparked a new interest in the audioplays and drew quite a bit of attention to this media tie-in product which made more sense than trying to spark interest in a series of 1997 - 2005 novels that had been out of print by 2013.

Whose names should the Eighth Doctor had named? Who would he have named if there weren't marketing and audience considerations? If it weren't for the writer trying to canonize the audioplays, would the Doctor have named any names at all?

It's a conundrum that will forever fascinate me.

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

On a related tangent, have you heard about the upcoming documentary of the production of the Paul McGann movie?  Aptly enough, it focuses on the writer of the movie - Matthew Jacobs. … ul-mcgann/

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

Yes, I heard about it on the Pieces of Eighth podcast (which is focused on the Eighth Doctor). 1996 TV movie screenwriter Matthew Jacobs did an interview where he told the podcasters about this documentary.

There's one curious thing that Jacobs mentioned. In the behind the scenes book DOCTOR WHO: REGENERATION by TV movie producer Philip Segal (with Gary Russell), Segal told a story about Matthew Jacobs saying that Jacobs' father Anthony was an actor who'd been in the First Doctor story "The Gunfighters" (playing Doc Holliday), that Jacobs had been on the set for filming, and that his father were estranged that father and son only made peace when Anthony was on his deathbed, and that Jacobs brought this sadness and longing into the script for the TV movie.

This is peculiar because in the interview, Jacobs said that this story about his familial estrangement was completely made up by Segal and not true. Segal made up this unflattering portrait of Jacobs' father and put it in a widely distributed behind the scenes book for Reasons. I wonder if Jacobs' documentary will offer any theory as to why and if it will offer a fuller portrait of Matthew and Anthony Jacobs.

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

Kevin Smith on 'talent':

... there’s always people that will come up to me after the show, say very nice things. Uh, very cool things about like, “Oh, my God. It’s so… you’re so talented.” That’s the one that really fucking bugs me and shit like that. And not because I’m irritated by it. But when you say shit like “talent,” it makes people go like, “Oh, you’re special and this person’s not.”

I don’t agree with that.

I don’t really do anything that requires talent. I just kind of chase my dreams. Anything I wanna try, I give a shot to and stuff. Before I get out of the show, I always like to remind people, like, you can do that too. Like, at the end of the day, this doesn’t require fucking talent.

Invariably, somebody will say to me, before the night is over, “Oh, my God. It’s so talented how you can stand up there and talk for so long.” And I’m like, “That doesn’t take talent to talk and tell stories about my life. That just takes a memory. Like that’s… that’s it. That doesn’t require talent.”

My day job doesn’t even take talent. You think it takes talent to stand on a movie set and wear a backwards baseball cap and a trench coat and say nothing? That’s the exact opposite of fucking talent, man. I said I’ll take it one step further. It doesn’t take talent at all to work in the movie business.

You think it takes fucking talent to stand on a movie set and be like, “I’m Batman” -- ?! Ben Affleck does it, so I know it don’t take fucking talent.

Don’t let people use like a word like that to put shit between you and something you wanna try. This doesn’t take talent. It doesn’t take talent to talk about your fucking life. Over the course of your life, you’ve listened to people talk on the radio, or seen people talk on TV, and you’ve said to yourself or thought to yourself, “I’m smarter than these people. I’m funnier than this person.”

You’re probably thinking that shit right now.

And you’re probably right, man, but nobody’s gonna know unless you kinda go out there and express yourself in some way, shape or form. Share of yourself. Now, some people don’t want to ’cause they’re afraid that it might not work and shit like that. Like, “Oh, what if I fail?”

But there is no such thing as fucking failure. Failure is just success training. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s fucking true. Like, nobody ever fucking gets something right on the first try and shit. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t let that keep you from trying something that you might wanna try and stuff like that.

Rather fail spectacularly than live your life wondering, like, “I wonder if that shit would have worked out.”

That’s how I’ve just kind of conducted myself for the last like 20, 25 years. And it’s led on this weird fucking journey. I know there are people in the audience that are like, “I kinda wanna do what you do.”

And you absolutely fucking can. I’m gonna tell you something that maybe like you don’t hear that much anymore, ’cause you’re adults and shit, and it’s our job to say this to younger people and shit. But this is the truest sentiment a stranger’s gonna fucking tell you this week, so fucking get ready.

You are smart and good. You’re all fucking talented. You all have something amazing to fucking say. So… find a way… Find a way to fucking share that.

- from Silent But Deadly

Shortly after this speech, Kevin Smith had a heart attack from which he recovered; he lived to direct THE FLASH another day.

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

In other news, I have been converting SLIDERS REBORN from PDF screenplay format (created in Fade In) to ebook format where the presentation resembles a stageplay rather than a script. The stageplay format simply scales better to phone reading and I think that if SLIDERS REBORN had been more readable on small screen devices back in 2015, it would have had (a few) more readers. While removing line breaks and mass find-and-replace functions help, it's also necessary to go through the document to add quotation marks throughout, remove ALL CAPS descriptions that are unpleasant to read on a smaller screen and clean up various anomalies that come from converting a screenplay into something close to prose.

I have one script left to finish converting.

Also, Jim_Hall of Slidecage is kindly contributing some high res 35mm scans of 1994 - 1995 era cast photos for me to digitally age to use as book covers.

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

Sounds cool. Could you upload the photos here when you are done? I'd like to see all the clothing types and colors the cast were wearing.

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

I think, as Jim_Hall purchased these scans and spent days, weeks, months (and years?) of his life cleaning them up, it's up to him to post them when he's ready and when his Slidecage website is back online. I ran some upscaling for him, but I'm sure he's still doing some further refinement since he's a REAL photographer.