Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Mild Fantastic Beasts spoilers


Both franchises, Harry Potter and Star Wars, recently launched new films that explore more of their respective universes. But there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way.

The right way is “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This movie introduced all new characters that fit snugly into the Harry Potter world. It felt right, while still being its own movie.

Characters apparate, and the movie doesn’t have to explain to you what’s happening. If you’re here, you already know. There are recognizable names and creatures and spells, and that makes you feel comfortable.

But, there are enough new things that keep it from being more of the same. Yes, we see yet more of muggle vs. magic…again…but we also see what happens to young wizards who are told that their power is evil, and that they should be ashamed of it. We see what happens when power is bottled up, with no healthy outlet. And we see the real world problem of child abuse in a fantasy world.

In short, it gave fans what they wanted, and things they didn’t know they wanted.

Star Wars Episode 7 was two hours of fan service. It didn’t really bring anything new to the saga. There wasn’t a feeling like it was breaking any new ground. It was too safe.

“Rogue One” tells the story of how the plans for the Death Star were found. It’s kind of like a Star Wars Tales comic, where they would tell one-shot stories about some obscure characters or side quests. Again, it might be too safe. You pretty much know how it will begin and how it will end.

Star Wars needs to step outside of its safe zone, and take some chances. If they are committed to making a new one every few years, the creators can’t be afraid of one of them only making $1.5 billion instead of $2 billion.

We don’t need to see a prequel that just tells you how Han Solo got his clothes. (I’m sure they’re going to tell us anyway.) We need to explore these worlds.

Of course, Fantastic Beasts had J.K. Rowling writing the story. She has already mapped out the marriages and children of most of the students at Hogwarts even though we (might) never see these stories. George Lucas seems to be out of the loop on the creative end, and that might make a difference. Some people say a good change, some say a bad change.

Other Worlds cover


When something as popular as Twilight invades pop culture the way it has, it’s not hard to write about it with at least a passing knowledge.

I recently wrote a parody of it for an animated sketch. Here’s the video. I hope you like it. But you should be warned there’s some disturbing footage in here:

cartoon parody

When I wrote this parody, there were certain truths I kept to:

1. It’s about the characters. A lot of people rip on Twilight because of the drama. However, the drama is what drew fans to the series. Critics whine that vampires and werewolves should be more visceral, not lingering in love triangles. So I played on that.

My parody is about a Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn video game. So I made the first part of the gameplay about relationships, which I see as the strength (not the weakness) of the books.

2. Take it too far. Parodies work if you take it just far enough outside of the spectrum of what’s acceptable in the book’s real world. The second act of the video you’ll see just how far I pushed it.

3. Prey upon people’s preconceived notions. The interaction between Edward Cullen and Jacob at the end is based upon what pretty much every guy thinks Twilight is. It’s an easy joke, and I’m not proud.

4. End with a 180 degree change. The problem with some parodies is that they just keep doing the same joke over and over. So, I wanted to make sure the last thing my protagonist says is a surprise.

I had the good fortune to interview Vlas and Charley Parlapanides, screenwriters for “The Immortals,” last week in advance of their movie.

They said something that struck me, and I want to share it here. They said that in Hollywood, scriptwriting still has a meritocracy.

“If you have a good script, “ it can get made, Charley Parlapanides said.

“If you do have a big idea, they don’t care who you are,” Vlas Parlapanides said.

This is wonderful news to budding screenwriters. It means that if you have a good idea, you can make it work, providing you can get it into the right hands.

More or less.

They also said that you have to work your ass off and that you usually write 5 movies before your sixth one is sold. And then, there’s no guarantee it will be made into a movie.

Also, they said you are only as good as your last one. So, if it doesn’t make money, no one cares.

What I Learned: It’s not as much who you know. Not when it comes to this. Sure, maybe more people will look at your movie if you are famous, or have some kind of connection. But you don’t have to be anyone to start.

But you have to make yourself someone to keep going.




For my (sometimes inappropriate) humor videos, visit:

I was trying to read while my wife watched the 2010 version of “Alice in Wonderland.” I kept getting distracted away from the page by the amazing visuals. Then, I’d hear a sentence of dialog and think “God, this is stupid,” and go back to my book.

The visual effects were stunning, and I found myself checking every nook and cranny on the screen to find little details. It’s a shame the same amount of care wasn’t given to the script. A-list actors, top notch computer animators, and a legendary story and this is the end product?

What a waste of talent.


I got this e-mail recently:

For a week next spring (May 1-10, 2010), two stellar fantasy writers—Laura Ruby and Anne Ursu—will serve as faculty for a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop. We conducted a mini-interview to give a sneak preview to those who might be interested in attending and to others who would appreciate tips from these amazing fantasy pros!

Highlights Foundation: What do you think it takes to become a publishable fantasy writer today?

Laura: I think you have to have an enormous love for fantasy as a reader before you tackle it as a writer. (I’ve seen a number of writers take a stab at writing fantasy simply because they think it’s a hot genre, and that’s not a good enough reason to write anything. I think you can only write the kind of stories you love to read.) After that, you have to have the same skill set as any other type of novelist: the ability to create vivid characters, develop a strong POV, craft a memorable plot.Anne: I think two things. First, you have to make sure your elements of craft are all really solid: good character, good story, good world. And then I think you need some spark of something extra. Maybe it’s voice, maybe it’s ideas, maybe it’s a world we’ve never seen before; maybe it’s just the pure strength of your storytelling.

But then, you also have to have spectacular control. In fantasy, so many things are possible, so many things can happen, you have to keep a firm grip on your characters, your world, your magical elements so that the story doesn’t get away from you. And yet you have to be loose enough to allow your characters to live and breathe. It’s a delicate balance.

Highlights Foundation: When you pick up a fantasy novel, what makes you read past page one?

Laura: I think a great voice will always carry me to the next page, whether I’m reading a fantasy novel or any other type of novel.Anne: I always want the sense that I’m good hands. I like to feel some kind of strength and originality, whether it’s in character, voice, or world. If you give me that, I’m going to trust you to take me wherever you’re going.

Highlights Foundation: If you could give writers one tip about writing fantasy, what would you offer?

Laura: Make your fantasy as grounded in the physical as you possibly can. Every sight, sound, smell, touch, etc. makes your world more real and therefore more accessible to your readers.Anne: Fantasy is, at its heart, a character-driven genre. The world should never overwhelm your character.

Applications will be accepted January 15-February 15, 2010. You will be notified of acceptance status by March 8, 2010.

If you’d like to learn to more about the Whole Novel Workshop for fantasy writers, visit or contact Jo Lloyd at 570-253-1192 or e-mail

I shared this because I thought these were good tips for any genre. I like “that spark of something extra.” That’s a good way of putting it.