Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A concept: the elements currently shaping Bones of the Angel.

It's been a while since I've done any major writing on this journal about Bones of the Angel, and it's worth a quick update to discuss what directions the story is currently taking as it slouches towards Bethlehem.

It's funny – while I've always wanted to tell stories, my interests in video gaming, film and visual design all have me trending away from straight-up fiction. I love reading and writing, but I've been finding myself getting bored with pure text. A while ago, a friend asked to see some of the different story ideas I was currently working on, so I hauled open the top drawer of this huge antique mahogany filing cabinet I keep in my bedroom/office and pulled out a couple dozen overstuffed white envelopes. Essentially, each story idea I have gets jotted down somewhere on a piece of blank white paper (I can't stand the lined stuff) and then stuffed into one of these big white envelopes. Notes, sketches, concepts, all of it goes into the envelopes, which are then brought out as each project demands.

Anyway, I pulled out these envelopes and started flipping through them. What we found is that they were primarily drawings of the characters with notes scribbled around them. My friend looked at this and sneered, "This is great writing. Have you ever thought of being a cartoonist?"

Sarcasm did not become her.

It did get me thinking, though. Instead of viewing my continuing arc towards visual storytelling as a failure as a writer, I should start researching other ways to tell these stories, as film or videogames or comic books. What concerns me, though, is that the directions in which my work is trending may be a little too arthouse and not enough Hollywood. Hence, this list of recent influences, in order to get some of these ideas squared away.


First and foremost, I've been doing a lot of thinking about religion over the last ten years. My relationship with religion has always been a difficult one, having grown up in a superconservative small town in Ohio. I was forced to examine my beliefs when I was pretty young, after having gotten laughed out of Sunday School for believing in the Big Bang. I began to suspect that there may be a growing rift between God and the church, and I decided to take my relationship with God elsewhere. It may be the height of arrogance, perhaps, but I do not believe that I need a procession of men in big pointy hats to act as a translator between me and The Man Upstairs. I now consider myself the religious equivalent of a free agent.

I've had a lot of brilliant conversations with incredible people about religion, and that's where Bones of the Angel is going to get weird. There are scenes in the story where two characters are driving somewhere in a car, or sitting in a bar somewhere to collect their thoughts, and they start talking about religion. There are a series of main characters in this book, and I want to have my narrator/avatar talk to each one of them, one-on-one, to explore some of these different ideas of faith.

As you can imagine, this is making the plot pretty herky-jerky. There are some interesting scenes of the old ultraviolence, as Anthony Burgess might say, but these are weird little flashes in what is otherwise sort of an art-house flick. Lots of dialogue and philosophy. It may mean that it won't sell, but this is still what I want to be writing now.

Hayao Miyazaki

I've been getting into Japanese animation lately, in part due to the excellent recommendations of my friends Aaron and Laura. Some of them I obviously appreciate more than others – for instance, I loved Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust but didn't appreciate Neon Genesis Evangelion as much as I would have expected. While this may be considered heretical, I thought Armitage: Dual Matrix was cool but Akira was just a little over-the-top. (Although even Armitage's moral at the end was, again, pure Velveeta.)

So what is it about Japanese animation that I really like? I like the way you can do anything, I like the blend of technology and traditions, and I love the way it's literally art in motion.

Most of all, I love Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki's films are the epitome of what I love about Japanese animation. His cinematography and his use of light and color are just flat-out beautiful. The flight scenes in Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky are so perfectly graceful, as is the train scene from Spirited Away. Most of all, though, I love the way his characters are so rarely "good" or "evil." I love that. That's so much more real than the terrorists and supervillians that tend to populate so much American animation and film. Even the villains have motivations, often fairly justified. That's something I'm trying to incorporate into my own work.

Again, more arthouse than Hollywood, but what the hell.

Et Cetera.

Other things that have to be included in my influences:

I may well update this list as more of those "Oh, yeah, and those guys too" moments hit me this week, but that's where I'm coming from now.

So how can I use new tech to build out on these ideas? There's a lot of cool stuff going on out there with Bluetooth and 802.11b, and sooner or later someone like me is going to write a novel consisting entirely of multiple weblogs maintained by each character. I'm seriously considering trying out an animatic for Bones of the Angel, something sort of like an animated storyboard with character voices and music, but I'm not sure it wouldn't be a pain to watch a long story told in that format. (Although it might be useful as a pitch to turn it into a full-length something else.) I could do something cool with transmedia storytelling, doing short films interspersed with playable levels and extra components, like a book bundled in with the other media to use for clues... But, I'm not sure that wouldn't just be annoying.

Hm. I need to get into a Master's or doctorate program to try and play with some of these ideas with some other like-minded folks, and then maybe tie them into some bigger campaigns (like, doing that story idea with the weblogs for a big film, kind of like what they did for A.I., perhaps). Working on it.

Post a Comment