Friday, 2 January 2009


I thought I'd go through some of my shiny inspiration when it comes to writing. It's a good thing to have writers/films/TV shows/books in mind when you're writing. But there's a fine line between inspiration and rip-off.

Joss Whedon
It'll come as no surprise to you to learn that Joss Whedon is my biggest writing influence. It's because of his I got into it in the first place. The first fiction I wrote was fan fiction for Angel. Then I realised that it was pointless because it wasn't mine.

I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the 90s then caught Angel when that hit the screens. The shows had everything I wanted from TV - action, supernatural, comedy, horror and much, much more.

As far as I'm concerned, Joss can do no wrong. I haven't watched/read anything from him that has disappointed. The guy has incredible range - TV, film, comics, songwriting, musicals. Pure genius.

What Joss Whedon does that I love more than anything else, is subvert our expectations. The very first episode of Buffy shows a 'helpless' woman with a tough bloke. We know something bad is going to happen. They hear noises, so we think something is going to get them both. Then there's the predictable possibility that the bloke is the danger.'s the 'helpless' woman - Darla. She vamps-out and eats the bastard. And the tone for the show is set.

From that moment, Joss went on to subvert everything. He had a small, blond teenager kicking the hell out of vampires on a regular basis. There was a girl who was a timid little geek at the beginning who ended up skinning a guy alive and nearly destroying the world. Another character who was a friendly soul-having vampire who turned evil, killed some folk, then turned friendly again, then evil again, then friendly again....hmm...I think.

Another vampire who appeared intent on killing little Buffy but ended up falling in love with her and dying to save the world....twice.

A nerdy librarian who - 5 seasons later - killed a man for the 'greater good'. Another geeky watcher who went from ponce to bad-ass, shotgun-wielding 'rogue demon hunter'.

In short, Joss subverts and shows change. TV is all about change in characters. You have so much more time to work with on a TV show than on a movie. And that time is used to change your characters.

However, as the great Rupert Giles said -
"In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed."

I Am Legend (Richard Matheson)
This is probably the first adult vampire book I read. Written in the 50s, set in the 70s about a world where vampires have taken over, this book has influenced a great deal of other fiction. It's the 'man against the world' idea. Loads of horror books have had vampires in them, but it's usually one or two vampires in the human world. I Am Legend is about a man all alone in a world full of vampires.

It has been the influence for quite a few films, including the Omega Man, 28 Days Later and of course - I Am Legend. It was the influence for the first screenplay I wrote about 8 months ago - Exile.

I really love this book. No matter how many times I read it, I'm always on the edge of my seat. Matheson creates a great atmosphere in such a short novel and it works brilliantly.

Jurassic Park
The first film I remember going to see at the cinema. Think I was about 5 or something and it scared the shite out of me. From that day, I wanted to be an archaeologist. That dream lasted for at least 6 years, until I realised that dinosaurs were not going to come alive. Sigh.

The film itself is a masterpiece. The opening shows a velociraptor killing the gatekeeper. But not really. We don't see the raptor apart from its eyes. And it's like that throughout. The first time we see a raptor for real, it's a baby. Alan Grant is terrified of raptors. We hear their killing method (foreshadowing for a later incident) and just how dangerous they are. Then we see them feeding, but we don't see them. The tension builds up until we really see them - in that amazing kitchen scene.

That was the moment for me. I was terrified! We had all this info about the raptors - 50 or 60mph in the open, eating you alive, six-inch claws, very smart, lethal. So in that kitchen, we really feel for those kids.

I could rant about Jurassic Park for hours, but I'll leave it there, because this post is already a bloody essay!

Let's see, I watched The Terminator when I was 7. Did I really understand what was going on? No. But I did learn 3 things about the world -
  1. Time travel is confusing and potentially world-destroying.
  2. Machines are hard workers - "It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead"
  3. And ripping out someone's heart is cool!!!
Terminator 2 is one of the greatest action films ever made. Whoever said that the perfect action film was 90 minutes long, hadn't seen T2. At a hefty 2 hours 20 minutes, it's non-stop action throughout, with amazing stunts, explosions and fear. Easily one of the best films ever made. Sadly Terminator 3 fell short.....oh and it just happened not to be written and directed by James Cameron. What a coincidence.

But Terminator: Salvation looks good, with Christian Bale playing John Connor (the 7th actor to portray him - at least), set in the futuristic world we were teased with throughout the other three films and the great TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

So that's a run down of some of my biggest inspirations. It's a good idea to think about what inspires you and have them in mind when you're writing.


No comments: