Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lessons from the Batcave

I learned something this week from the Batcave. Well, it's not really the Batcave. It's actually the Fatcave, but you can't have a Fatcave without the Batcave.

Speak sense, man! Hark! I shall.

Most of y'all know that Batman is my favorite superhero. One of the absolute best Batman-related thing currently being produced is Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman podcast. He refers to his house/recording studio as the "Fatcave," so there's the reason for that reference. If you are remotely interested in Batman, I can't recommend this podcast highly enough. But if you are also interested in how creative people come to do the things they do, this podcast is a must. 

This year is the year in which I learned that I could write and write consistently. I now know that I can sit anywhere and bang out words and string along paragraphs to makes stories or novels. I'd like to think that the more I'm writing, the better my writing is. That's the nature of practice, right? But what about the other side of the equation? What about the imagination part?

On my own, I've been studying some of my favorite novels to break them down into their component parts to learn how a book is constructed. But what about the germ of an idea? Sometimes, I'll admit, that my imagination is the thing that needs work. Sometimes, I'd almost like a prompt. On the things I do imagine, I'm always curious how others use their imagination and create ideas. 

That's where Kevin Smith comes in. On his 51st episode, his guest was Paul Dini, the same man who inaugurated this podcast in episode one. As Smith is wont to do, there is some meandering talk, but something magical happens about a half hour into the 90-minute podcast. The two of them discuss the TV spot of the new Batman: Origins video game. Here it is. The commercial is fantastic. What it shows is a series of images, all close up on Bruce Wayne, from the moment the man kills his parts, to the funeral, to prep school, to high school, to him training to be Batman, and finally as the Dark Knight himself. As steeped as I am in Bat-lore, the prep school and high school scenes were new to me.

And they were new to Smith and Dini. They both zero in on the prep school shot and talk about that part of Wayne's life is underwritten. Then, the magic starts. The two Bat-fans start brainstorming a potential TV show centering on Bruce Wayne in prep school. Their enthusiasm for the project is palpable, and it's a show I'd, frankly, pay money to watch. They spin the show's mythology in wonderful little twists and do for Batman what the TV show Smallville did for Superman. And the fan community went wild. Just check out the comments.

It was the brainstorming that really got me. Right there, in my ears, was a creative team imagining something, putting beats into the overall story arc, talking about where you'd end season one or season two, and just painting this tantalizing vision in broad strokes. Then, they went back and filled in some details before moving on to the next topic. 

Man! That was exactly what I needed to hear. Shoot, I've listened to it twice, not only to absorb the how-to session of spitballing an idea, but to revel in the Bat-nerdism of these two men. Someone should seriously make this show. It's awesome.

So, in an unlikely source, I got a little taste of a creative team in a brainstorming session. It was exactly what I needed to hear and I've already started applying it's tenants to the series of novellas I'm writing. I'll be a better writer for it.

Now, if someone would only make that show….

What kind of out-of-left-field things help you along your writer way?