Monday, May 25, 2015

We Don't Need Another Hero

It's no secret that I've been running out of steam recently. Motivation was at an all time low, and I've been finding it hard to be enthusiastic about anything. It's a sad fact that sometimes real life gets in the way.

It didn't help that I'd been starting to doubt what I was doing with the RPG I'd be working on - WILD -  and the novels that I'd been writing that tied into the game that told the back story. Stepping back from the first novel, I was concerned that I was doing something wrong. I looked at what happened in it, and it felt like one long chase sequence.

Sure, there are plenty of character moments, and most of them are female characters (I think there are only three male characters in the whole thing). There's some emotion in there, family stuff and a quest for independence, and finding direction. But on the whole, the lead character finds herself in a bad and surreal situation, and then stumbles from one action sequence to the next.

There are hideous creatures, a surreal landscape, car chases, train chases, motorcycles, flying, robots, knights, and... well, if you can dream it, it can happen.

But I thought, "who'd want to read what is basically a massive chase?"

Then I saw something that changed my mind.

Mad Max: Fury Road

A film that has taken the internet by storm, with massively positive reviews. Like the previous instalments of Max's adventures, when you look at it from a distance the plot is a little thin. For example:

Mad Max: Cop tries to catch bad motorcycle gang, gang takes it out on cop's family, cop seeks revenge.

Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior: Former cop needs petrol, people with petrol are under siege by bad gang, former cop helps in return for petrol.

Mad Max 3 - Beyond Thunderdome: Former cop wants his stuff back, gets screwed over by people with his stuff, finds kids who think he's their saviour, former cop (with help from kids) gets his stuff back and saves the kids.

The new one isn't too dissimilar...

Mad Max - Fury Road: Former cop gets screwed over by bad guys, one of the bad guys' best people runs off with the big bad's favourite ladies, former cop gets caught up in the fight, joins those running from the bad guys.

Just like the previous movies, Max isn't really much of a hero, more a befuddled and reluctant participant. Dragged into the fight by his own selfishness before realising that there are other people who have a noble and worth cause worth fighting for. He ends up joining them, and helping them, tipping the balance a little to help them to get what they want - whether that is freedom, justice, gasoline, or Tomorrow-morrow Land. A lot of the time it looks like they'd get what they want with or without his help anyway.

I first saw the first two Mad Max movies in the most unlikely of places... A large stately home in Yorkshire regularly held a classic and custom car rally where people from all over the country would bring their shiny cars and park them up on the grass, and the public could wander around and look at the cool cars. My dad was always really into cars - not in a gear-head way, but in an "appreciating cool and vintage cars" way. He used to collect the Matchbox cars of vintage motors and had them displayed all over the house, so the chance to look at the real thing was too good for him to pass up. So mum and dad would go, and I'd tag along, sometimes with one of my school friends (usually Cooper or Mole).

One year we found a room near to the car exhibition where there were loads of kids just sitting and watching movies. I say kids, they were mostly teenagers, family of those people who owned the cars. They had a TV and a VHS player set up in the room. While mum and dad looked at the cars, I sat on the floor and pretended to belong and watched a lot of Mad Max, and all of Mad Max 2, before I was discovered and kicked out. (Strangely, I remember watching a lot of Rocky 2 this way as well another year).

Maybe it was seeing it at a young age, but Mad Max always stuck in my head. And travelling around Australia last year, seeing the long and straight roads, looking out of the windows of the Ghan railway at the orange desert that seemed to stretch off into the distance on both sides, I couldn't help but think of Mad Max.

The Lasseter Highway heading to Uluru. Mostly straight and fast,
just how Max likes it. (Taken 2014)
It could be that having the Max movies in my head from such a young age has influenced what I write on a subconscious level. Seems only apt as most of the fiction takes place within the dreams of someone trapped in them.

Thinking about the plot of the first book of the trilogy that is set in the WILD universe - the eighteen year old daughter of the tech mogul who will go on to develop the dreamshare technology - finds herself in the surreal mindscape of another version of our reality. Like home, but slightly twisted. A dark Silent Hill alternate. She escapes a number of threats before embarking on a dangerous trip to find a way out of her nightmares.

I realised that she spends a lot of time like Max, the befuddled and reluctant participant. She just wants to go home, to her real home, but is caught up in dangerous situations - conflicts with monsters, knights, robots, and more, each could represent her own personal internal battles...

For a time I thought about giving up on it. Just packing it in. Not only writing the WILD novels, but giving up on writing WILD the RPG as well... Hell, I've even thought about giving up RPG writing entirely - accept my place as a shop assistant.

But you know what?

Sod it.

I'm going to muddle on. Chipping away at it. Walking the desert landscape of my creativity a little further every day. Who knows, I may find my Tomorrow-morrow Land. My Green Place. And actually know what the hell it is I'm supposed to be writing.

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