An Observing Creator

Hello Readers,

Last week I told you I started a second iteration of The Edge of Snow and Dust. It was a pretty long post, over two thousands words actually. This time I’d thought I keep this one relatively short. Today I want to show you the mind of a creator not while he or she is hard at work making a movie, a song, or a book. But what runs through their mind while they are consuming others’ creative works.

First off a quick little background note. After taking a year off from high school, I attended Monroe Community College here in Rochester, graduating in 2007 with an Associates in Mechanical Technology. Everyone said I had an analytical mind and was great at building things, so the degree made sense. My family and friends constantly noticed me staring hard into an object, speculated on how it was designed, and then guess ways it could be improved. That was all well and good, and encouraged by my parents. But the same enthusiasm cannot be said when I deconstructed art. Instead I constantly hear, “stop analyzing it.”

See when I watch a movie, hear a song, or read a book, I usually have a list of observations I want to talk about afterwards. In each piece of art there is so much to breakdown and understand. “The director introduced the unicorn twice but completely forgot to give us the payoff, or the editor cut it. I wonder why?” or to everyone’s chagrin, “You could definitely tell that was a studio note. The character’s flaw should have been this, but that would turn off this audience, and they wanted that money.” Those around me hear all this an assume I can’t see the art, or don’t like art in general, or enjoy ripping apart art. None of its true.

I break them down because I am a creator at heart. Be it fan-fiction (of which I have written plenty), to writing my novel, to quickly coming up with an absurd take on a commercial, I am always creating. And as a creator, I know what messages I want to convey with my own creations. Character traits that resonate with me or messages that have affected my life that I hope can have the same effect on others. So when I hear people say “just enjoy the thing” or “it’s a movie you can just turn your brain off and enjoy” I fundamentally disagree. These aren’t manufactured creations. Someone living and breathing whose life is a thick novel of joy and sadness and fear created this thing. You can learn so much by analyzing why they used this paint brush, this color, this camera lens or angle, or this instrument. And if some big corporation did manufacture that song or movie with a boardroom of executives with polling data and test audiences, then what does that say about the society that created those people or warranted those studio notes. I’ll give my creator eye on two examples.

I saw Bumblebee yesterday, a Transformers prequel with a different director and take on the fighting robot mythos. I really enjoyed it. It felt like a movie, felt like a story. With each sequel under Director Michael Bay becoming more and more incoherent, I was really hoping for a change in vision. Now it is not perfect and as a creator I could see the studio notes and deals within the movie. Firstly, (minor spoilers) we see a number of transformers that look like the toys from the 80’s which served two purposes. One, to let us know they are abandoning the more insect look the previous five movies had. And two, more importantly, to hit us with nostalgia. Nostalgia is a powerful tool when you want someone entertained. For very little effort you can remind people of a portion of their live that never existed. Boy was Bumblebee banking on that. After the opening scene, the audience is hit with 80’s posters and gadgets, 80’s TV shows, and FOUR famous 80’s songs played back to back over scenes that just don’t need them. Why do all this? Because Stranger Things on Netflix made 80’s nostalgia popular and profitable.

Seeing all this nostalgia didn’t affect me. I had seen countless new shows find reasons to pull themselves back to the 80’s to try and jump on this bandwagon. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but I noticed it. I noticed that was the studio hoping to revitalize their dying big blockbuster franchise. But I also noticed a touching story of a character trying to get over some difficult hurdles in life with a giant transforming VW Beetle trying to do the same. By noticing and separating the studio mandates and the writer and directors vision, I was able to connect with real people who made something they wished to share.

Another example I will give you is my own personal take on today’s popular music. Most of what I hear today sounds so similar in tone, pace, style, that I can’t tell them apart. Even the message feels confined to a specific topic: love. My girlfriend, Lord bless her, has to deal with me asking a sarcastic question every time we get in the car. “Hey, is this song by that girl, you know, the one that sounds like all the others, about that guy she loves but shouldn’t, or has and is leaving, or loves him and is leaving because she shouldn’t have him but does?” And she always shouts, “I like this song!” I then ask who is it by and she starts laughing, “I don’t know.”

From a creator point of view I only make fun of the songs because I know the corporate thought behind it. Because of how integrated the internet is in our life, especially with our cellphones instantaneous connection we, as the older generation loves to point out, don’t communicate with one another. Which is factually false. We now communicate with more people than ever and with people we would never see in real life. And personally that’s okay. You can connect with like-minded groups about things you love. I play D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and other rpg’s. But my close  group of friends don’t. But online I can find a community that does, and we can talk and debate and laugh about it together. We may not be able to touch one another but we are still communicating.

However due to these long-ranged spread out communities, it is harder to find a connection with people closer to us that we are attracted to. Think about it, if you saw someone at the store whom you found attractive, say they laughed at something and the laugh was so genuine and warm, what would be your “in”? Would you just start laughing with no context, walk over and just ask what’s funny? Most of the options you would come up with would be weird or unnatural. Now before social media, you would know someone who would know someone who knew that person. Now you don’t and instead you wonder what-if. Then get in the car and what do you know, there’s a song on the radio or Pandora or Spotify describing how you feel. Because so many people constantly struggle to find a natural way to connect in a physical space setting when it is so easy to talk online, there’s more and more songs about it. I see all this by breaking down why corporations would want to constantly create eerily similar music and radio stations play the same four songs over and over again. Those songs make money. Despite seeing the generic song on the radio as a studio crafted, purpose built, money making opportunity, I can understand why they are prevalent and what that says about our society and the individual.

I can see the art.

So the next piece of art you consume, in its infinite forms, consider breaking it down. Seperate it into is many components and see not how it affects you, but what glimpses it gives into the state of our society today. Why is this subject the focus of so many artist? You might fall down a rabbit hole like I do, but you might just learn something that’ll give that art a new perspective. A new perspective that might turn you into a creator.

Take care!

A Glimpse of The Edge

Hello readers!Scribe

Last week I told you I was going to hold off on the publication of The Edge of Snow and Dust until I felt it was the best I could offer. I also explained I was going to release either the Prologue for The Edge of Snow and Dust or the book cover. Thinking about it over the weekend, I concluded the Prologue was the better choice. Anyone can create a great cover. We have all seen the movie posters and album covers out there. The dazzling images and colors draw us in, but it could be all flash and no substance. The opening scene to the movie, or the first track on the album, that can truly show you the passion behind the project. Click on the link below and enjoy the first glimpse into The Edge of Snow and Dust world!

https://rickeyjacksonjr.com/2017/12/08/prologue/

Take care and don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me what you think.

A Life is a Story

Hello! Hope you are all well. I have nearly finished another draft of The Edge of Snow and Dust. In this version I was taking great care to ensure the characters were telling the story. Of course how I feel and what I think will most likely be felt in the novel, but I wanted to eliminate the feeling of a structure to the story. I recently watched a video on YouTube on the secret to a successful movie. Movies are moving stories so I decided to take a look. Now first off I do not think there is any secret to anything. There is no secret to a perfect relationship, there is no secret to a perfect life, and there sure is no secret to a perfect story.

The video was detailing the key elements to the three Acts in a story that will artificially hooked the audience. I watched the speaker a little stunned at the arrogance of his supposed mastery of audience puppetry. I grinned as the speaker confirmed a trend I had been noticing for quite a while; that expressions of art, music, writing, and theater, can be manufactured. If a song followed a formula it will become a hit. A movie needs these specific moments to become a blockbuster.

I truly believe some of the most memorable songs, movies, and stories; are borne out of passion not built-in a factory. And those songs and stories are often born messy. Think about a story you told, did it follow a special structure? Did you make sure the critical moment in your story was at the midway point? When a friend ask you to hear the first hint of a song, was the chorus the correct length with the right number of syllables. None that I have ever heard.

So when I reread The Edge of Snow and Dust I made sure to have a keen eye for any artifacts of myself as the writer. The people in this world, struggling to rise above the mess but still take the moment to cherish living, they are telling the story not me. Their moments do not have a special structure that would check off boxes in storytelling.

Life is a story containing endless stories. And life is messy. It is coarse and rough at times, and yet a smooth soft moment can appear out of nowhere. That I think is what makes life interesting. If life was perfect in its predictably, manufactured to mimic other lives, it could not be called life. It would be a product, and I do not what my story to be a product for you.

I want The Edge of Snow and Dust to be these characters’ stories. I want it to be their lives.

 

 

Characters Laboring to Stand

Hello again! Hope you had a nice Labor Day and a good week so far. Schools and colleges are starting back up, new chapters in a lot of lives. There are new challenges, new people, new responsibilities. And as much as we try to prepare for them, you never know if you are truly ready until you are in the thick of it, until you have that moment of “oh boy” and you are in over your head. Or you say “I got this” and know you will be all right. But really you stand between the two, murmuring to yourself “oh boy” and then finding that moment when you grunt “I got this”.

I have a lot of those moments in my life, of not being fully prepared for something. I thought I had things well in hand, that I knew myself and knew the stakes. Then once I was thrust into the situation, I realized I was not just drowning but the surface to the mess was ten feet above me. I would turn to television, video games, and movies for inspiration, to see those characters ten feet under and swim their way to the surface, climb out no worse for wear and succeed.

I felt I had a story like that, But I felt not everyone has their matters in order, they are not ready to swim to the surface. No, the challenges wait until you are already down on one knee before it drowns you. And while you’re drowning, you can hear the frantic pleas around you asking for help. You try to choke back that “oh boy” but you know you are in it.

The people in The Edge of Snow and Dust, are already wounded and down on that one knee when a challenge comes and drowns them. Journey with them as they struggle to get off that one knee, answer the pleas around them and push for the surface. Take care!

A Fantasy Novel of Enduring Inspiration

Happy Friday! First let me say thank you to everyone who liked and shared my post. I can not thank you enough. All day I kept getting notifications that someone else found my website or liked my Facebook post and that just energized me. So, now that I have your attention I should tell you what The Edge of Snow and Dust is about. See the novel’s blurb below and tell me what you think. Next week I will tell you what motivated me to tell this story.  Take care!

The world is . . . barely alive. Expanses of wastelands surround tiny beacons of civilization where life struggles to survive. Towns in the Periphery, where the young Anila lives, sacrifice freedom for the slightest aid. People like Garekk, a soldier facing not men but deadly creatures, live under the iron grip of the three last remaining kingdoms. Their people desperately try to prove their worth or risk finding themselves outside their protection. Dyeslyn, a nomad searching for a connection to the past, is vigilant of marauders lurking in the dead spaces in between these pockets of life. But most of this is moot when it is luck that a Wave of vicious creatures from the Fatal Sea of Endless Green has not engulf them, and even then, luck at some point runs out.

This is the life they have known and yet in this struggle there is still hope. Hope found in the soul’s capacity for defiance. Hope in knowing the old folktales of bold men and women standing for something bigger than them, are not stories of ancient times but are witnessed events against the abundance of threats.

However those inspiring this hope must endure the burden of keeping the tiny beacons of life shining. When the brutal Fatal Sea of Endless Green’s sudden aggression risks breaching the Periphery’s defenses and the surviving kingdoms rush to prepare for threats just as deadly but hidden from view, a small group of men and women use what might and magic they can muster to shine bright among the darkness.

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The First Steps At Dawn

Hello! My name is Rickey Jackson Jr, author of the fantasy novel: The Edge of Snow and Dust (releasing this winter 2017). Welcome to my website dedicated to the series. Here I will share my journey from taking a story swirling around in my head to sharing it with the world. Each post will update you on my progress from tentative writing to tablet publishing. I have already written several drafts but like any bold venture, you eventually have to cross that line, make that leap from cautious to courageous.

 This website is that leap. Even now as I write this, my first blog entry, I am taking that first anxious step at dawn to commit to telling this story. So I hope you will join me as I walk the path of an aspiring writer!