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Here's another opening. This time it's the first chapter of the first episode of Dead Men.
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It’s simple and fun, and can lead to really complex worlds and characters. There’s skill in how you throw the rocks, and in how the character reacts to them, but the foundation of the idea is simple and you’ll see it in anything you really enjoy.
Episode 5 marks the midpoint of Season 1. It’s the last stand-alone story in the season, so from here on out I’m ending on little cliff-hangers. I’ll make sure every episode is complete and ends with a resolution, but the main arc for the season is about to kick into high gear and there’s no way I can make it all go away in one episode.
For the rest of the season I’m going to be throwing rocks, one after another. I’m going chase them all the way up the tree and I’m going to make them beg me to stop. I’m going to do this over multiple episodes, so I have a suggestion:
Buy Episode 5. It’s good and fun and there’s shooting and swearing. And it’s stand-alone.
If you have any issues with cliff-hangers, or with waiting for a resolution to the story you’re reading, don’t buy the next few episodes. I release these every two weeks, so that’s a lot of time to kill between episodes if you find I’ve left you with a burning need to know what’s going to happen next. If that’s a problem, don’t buy them.
Either wait until I’ve released all the episodes or wait an additional couple of weeks, at which point I’ll be releasing a Season 1 box set. You’ll get all the episodes in one book, and you’ll save money in the process.
Now, if you want to buy the individual episodes, and you don’t mind some of them ending on cliff-hangers, and you don’t mind spending more money (though not a lot more), then do whatever you want. I’m just warning you, because I’d like you to enjoy the series.
Having said all of that, go buy the book. Buy a few: books make great gifts.
I've seen a few people do this and I liked the idea, so I'm stealing it.
I'm going to post the opening of a novel/novella/episode periodically, starting with the stuff that's already out there in the world and moving on to works in progress when I've run out.
This is more for my own amusement than anyone else, but I hope you enjoy.
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I started writing a fantasy novel a few years ago, powering through the awkward beginning, learning who the characters were and just how brutal the world was, and enjoying every minute. I wrote about fifty-thousand words before a different idea smacked me in the head and I went and wrote that instead.
I don't live in the same world as the people around me. Most of the time I'm lost in a plot, a movie playing out behind my eyelids just for me. This isn't strange, I know. We all have interior lives, but mine revolve around the fiction I wanted to write, the themes I wanted to explore, the characters I wanted to bring to life.
Oh, the characters. I wanted to see them breathe and fight, bleed and cry. I wanted to see the lengths they would go to in order to protect a loved one, or a stranger. What depths of their soul would they find in the moment of failure?
I've written a lot of stories over the years, explored the lives of a lot of characters. I've woven worlds from dreams and populated them with the torn and faded memories of nightmares. For that fantasy I was writing I built a perfect world, one that I thought would be fair and just, given the constraints of a pseudo middle ages setting. Then I tore it apart, using both an external and an internal threat.
I'm doing the same thing with the world of Isaac's Story. Both Dead Men and the titles in Isaac's Story are my attempts at picking the world apart, at seeing how far I can take the people who live in this world without breaking them. Or, hell, breaking them to see what happens when they try to come back together.
Mortal Distractions gives me a different canvas to play with. In this series I will build the worlds and use them within a single book. This will be my playground, where I can explore whatever weird idea pops into my head while I'm writing, without messing with or abandoning Isaac's Story.
Publishing the books myself, throwing them into the world to fall into the void or take flight, gives me structure. It gives me deadlines and promises, and a reason to not stop halfway through a story and chase the shiny thing my mind just saw. I've always written and always will, but now I write with a purpose. Now I have a plan, a view on the evolution of the world that I need to explore.
And I can get better. I'm driven to get better. I think The Bridge is pretty good, but the next one, The Algorithm, is better. And the one after that will be better still. I'll take what I've learned and apply it, and try something different. I'll fail, and learn, and be better.
That's why I do what I do. That's why I write late into the night, every night, why I poke and prod at these stories until they're the best they can be.
I do it because I want to explore these worlds better. I want to portray these characters as fully as I can, and get better at it so I can bring them to life.
I don't need to write. Nobody does, though some people think they do. I can quiet the stories in my head, put the characters desperate for life to sleep. I can play games and watch movies and they'll be quiet, if only for short stretches of time.
Why the hell would I? This is fantastic. I create a character, build a world, set it in motion and watch what happens. Then I polish it, prepare it, package it, and send it into the world.
I hope you enjoy it. I'd like to see these worlds fly. But if they don't, if they fall into the void without a peep, I'll have had a blast building them.
If I had to go further, I’d say that the film focusses where it should, on the apes. The humans are there as a maguffin, a thing to get the ape civilisation changing from the idyllic to the complex. From Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to Adam and Eve a little later in the Garden of Eden.
Caesar has this peaceful little civilisation going, with hunting and community and a little school and, we are left to imagine, lots of picking fleas off one another. Some humans turn up, shoot one of the apes, and things go a little pear-shaped.
We pay attention to the apes more than the humans, watching as ambition and distrust change their world into something more human. This is very much a movie about the apes. The humans are stock characters, never given enough screen time to become more than they are absolutely required to be. Even Gary Oldman (who, I probably don’t need to tell you, is Gary fucking Oldman) is given perhaps one scene to grow a little. Otherwise he is post-apocalypse stock character number 4, though he plays it extremely well.
The apes are believable and, thanks to all that body hair, we are never bothered by the uncanny valley. We are able to get involved in their story and we come to care what happens to them. This is their movie and their characters are the three dimensional ones. The human we are most invested in is given as much chance to become a character as Caesar’s newborn, and it works.
Also, there are apes on horseback with guns. All by itself, that is a reason to watch this movie.
Here’s how it heralds the end of the world.
From the first moment of the movie, when the clichéd news footage was data dumping all over the screen, there were people in the back of my cinema talking. We got to see the apes on a little hunting trip, and these geniuses were talking. We saw the ape civilisation, and they were still talking. Humans turned up and I thought, surely now they’ll stop talking; nope. An employee of the cinema turned up about halfway through and had a word with them and they finally shut up.
For ten minutes. Then they were talking again. Incessantly yammering about…it doesn’t matter what they were yammering about because they were in a cinema. And some other people started talking too, I suspect because they didn’t want to feel left out.
I was watching another movie a few years ago (I don’t go to the movies much). It was an explosion movie, where every plot turn is punctuated with a ball of fire (for an example please see my series, Dead Men). It was Michael Bay perhaps. Throughout most of the movie I couldn’t have heard whether someone was speaking because the speakers were set loud enough to rupture my eardrums (seriously, it’s very loud and we get it. Shhhh). But even in an explosion based movie there are quiet moments.
The cardboard hero stares emptily at the plastic love interest and dribbles some dialogue, and the music goes quiet to let us know that this is important and we should pay close attention.
At no point during this silence did I hear someone speaking. At no point, despite the lack of explosions and/or giant robot testicles, did the audience utter so much as a peep.
I believe this is the sign.
We as a civilisation are coming to an end, and the people in the back of my cinema are among the first to know it. There are no rules to civilisation anymore, and they’re capitalising on this. Soon people will be skipping their place in the queue, or not holding doors for people when the people are clearly mere moments away from being able to grab it from them. Madness will descend on the world and we will realise we were warned. We could have stopped it and we didn’t.
Much like Caesar and Koba. We trust them to uphold civilisation and they are going to destroy it. You have been warned.
Or, I guess, some people found the bits where the CGI apes had conversations with each other a little boring, when all they wanted to see were apes, on horses, with guns.