The Joy of Writing Whatever the Heck You Want

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

One of the biggest influences on my desire to write was the late, great Ray Bradbury. I’ve written before about meeting him, and how The Illustrated Man blew me away in junior high. In high school I read Fahrenheit 451, which is of course a classic of the dystopian genre.

I love what Bradbury said in an interview about his reason for writing the book. “I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.”

That, it seems to me, is the highest and best use of dystopian fiction. It’s a warning. It’s a prophet crying in the wilderness. And the nice thing is that the prophet can employ the steely voice of a John the Baptist, or the sly wink of a Jonathan Swift.

I don’t specialize in speculative fiction (though I suppose you could call my zombie legal thrillers, written as K. Bennett, speculative. At least I think most lawyers in Los Angeles are not zombies, but I need to check on that). But I recently found myself pounding out a short story and having a lot of fun doing it.

The story idea had its genesis in Rogue One, the new film in the Stars Wars milieu. The most striking part of the film is the meaty supporting performance by Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. Striking, of course, because Peter Cushing has been dead since 1994. In view of his deceased status, he really brings it Rogue One!

Of course, Mr. Cushing is actually realized courtesy of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). The effect is stunningly effective. Which got me thinking about the possibilities here. What if, sometime in the future, someone wanted to make a film with Cary Grant, or Clark Gable, or Bette Davis? Future technologies will not only make this possible, but easy.

Then I thought about the discussions we’ve had here at TKZ recently about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the prospect of machines getting into the writing game.

So the idea came to me: in the not too distant future, a movie studio is working on a Western starring John Wayne and Lee Marvin, featuring Jane Russell, Andy Devine, Chill Wills, and Victor McLaglen. The technology provides holographic imagery along with AI functionality. What if …

Well, I’ll leave the What if for you readers, because that’s what my new Kindle short story, JOHN WAYNE’S REVENGE, is about. It’s FREE through Thursday. (For those who don’t have a Kindle device, remember you can download a free Kindle app to your phone or tablet or computer, and enjoy Kindle books that way.)

One of the nice things about short fiction is that you can get an idea and just start hitting the keys to see what happens. It’s fun. You can write whatever the heck you want to, without a huge expenditure of time.

That was Bradbury’s practice. He’d hop out of bed in the morning and just start capturing what was in that fertile imagination of his, whatever his writer’s mind had cooked up in the nightly dream world. Only later would he look at the pieces and figure out what was going on. He wrote with more pure joy than any other writer I know of.

So enjoy the story, on me. It’s an under ten-minute read, perfect for the waiting room at the doctor’s office, when you’re lunching by yourself, or after choosing the wrong line at the grocery store.

What if … 

So what have you written lately purely for the joy of it?   

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19 thoughts on “The Joy of Writing Whatever the Heck You Want

  1. Yes, it sounds like sensible advice. Write whatever you want, including what you want to know but currently don’t, in the firm belief that it’s within reach.

    I just have to ask you. In light of the Gospel of Structure and other high truths on craft about an active protagonist and so on that routinely make their due way to the Kill Zone blog, did you enjoy Rogue One?

    I found it awful. Coincidences, inconsistencies and absurdities and clichés strung together are not a plot by today’s standards. I’ve watched every single Star Wars movie since the original , in theatres and as of late, at an extra cost, in 3D. The last few episodes have left a sour taste in my mouth. I am going to vote with my wallet from now on. Either they get their act together or I’ll pass. I suppose you could say writing and learning about the craft has made me a petulant intellectual and that snobbery is good for nothing, except, maybe, cocktail parties.

    But I do believe Rogue One is a disgrace, as a stripping of its visual splendour would prove beyond a doubt.

    Thanks for your post.

    • NR, while I didn’t hate it, I wasn’t enamored of it. I give it a C. What I miss in the recent films is the sense of fun that was in the original. (Though I will say I liked Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens.)

  2. Jim, thanks for the link to JOHN WAYNE’S REVENGE, and for the price tag. I look forward to reading it tonight.

    I’m a firm believer in short stories for the reasons you listed, as well as an opportunity to explore different voices, genre, style, etc.

    I’m currently embarking on some children’s stories – because I have grandchildren, and because I want to. I even reconnected with a classmate to collaborate. Now I’m looking for an artist.

    To prepare myself I’m reading the Harry Potter’s series, Lord of the Rings series, and CS Lewis’ Narnia series. It’s been fun. Talk about preventing the future, CS Lewis loved author intrusion, and often to warn of the “error of our ways.”

    Thanks for the book, Jim. And thanks for helping to change our futures by improving our writing.

    • My pleasure, Steve. And talk about “preventing the future,” Lewis’s That Hideous Strength is a classic.

      Writing for the grandchildren … that is reason enough!

  3. Just read JOHN WAYNE’S REVENGE becuz. Please tell me how you wrote that without laughing out loud. Or at least a chuckle. Fun, fun, fun. Love your shorts about the nun from rehab. As they say nowadays, it’s all good. Pilgrim.

    • Thanks for the good word, Dan. I did indeed laugh as I wrote the first line of the story: Stan Hunsacker was on the phone with his mistress when his assistant, Monica, his former mistress, knocked on the door and stuck in her head. I knew then it was going to be fun to write.

      • I too liked the opening sentence. I knew immediately who this guy was.

        The shattering moment at the end seemed abrupt at first. After thinking about it for a few moments though, I like the feeling of satisfied justice.

        The Duke wins again.

  4. James,

    Looking forward to reading JWR. And thank you for that gift, as well as the sound advice you’ve given.

    Also – welcome to the world of writing spec fic! I haven’t read your zombie lawyer stories yet, but I’d say that qualifies. I recently read a great article that offers a suggestion about the growing popularity of spec fic titled “Why kids can learn more from tales of fantasy than realism.” (Free online) Interesting argument from a psychologist.

    Finally, you’re right, every genre is a gold mine for writers. I’ve published sci-fi, fantasy, and literary. Like different sports or games, each has its own rules, opportunities, and limitations. Why not enjoy them all?

  5. Interesting timing, since I’m re-reading Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing” this very moment. And also found “Rogue One” mediocre at the best and certainly not worth the New Year’s Evening date night my wife and I made of it. What a mish-mash-hash of a movie. I literally fell asleep in it.
    Just did the Kindle thing for your story. Your books, comments here and other factors have me back to doing what I used to love to do: write!

  6. Wasn’t there a lawsuit or something back in the mid-70s or so about this very issue? The question was, with the new technology, they said, some day, it might be possible be possible to make a movie starring, say, John Wayne, the Three Stooges, and Richard Gere. Who owns the images? The studios? The families?

    Seems as if I read that when I used to travel a lot.

    But John Wayne and the Three Stooges? I don’t drink. Never have. But John Wayne in a movie with the Three Stooges might drive me toward the Demon Rum.

    • There was a case in California about the use of Bela Lugosi’s image, which the estate lost. California later enacted a statute giving estates certain publicity rights, but I don’t think it applies to doing it in a film (as that is considered “transformative.”) It hasn’t been litigated to my knowledge. I know they used Wayne in a commercial a few years ago, taking some real film footage and putting into the commercial. They probably needed permission for that, as it was commerce, and the image was lifted. But as for my scenario, I think it will play out exactly like this in the future!

  7. Well, they’ve got holo-Michael Jackson on stage, so why not?

    Very Bradburian, if I may…

    And the name Hunsacker ~ how double entendre of you, Sir… 🙂

  8. This comes at just the right time for me, Jim. Giving myself permission to write whatever I want–I have to do it every freaking day.

    I gather the Star Wars people have promised not to put simulated Carrie Fisher in upcoming films, but I don’t trust them.

    Love that cover!

  9. I did not read “Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury but I will now. A writer that writes with pure joy in writing….I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for a great post.

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