Ever since I started writing, I’ve always wanted to do a western.
Fortunately, my Dad is a bit of a western fan. He has many books about the America West, and has most of John Wayne’s movies. He usually knows, when a western is trying to be somewhat historically accurate, if they are wrong or not. His love for westerns trickled down to my siblings and I. My brother and sister read pretty much all of Louis L’Amour’s books and enjoyed many movies.
I took a little longer to really appreciate westerns. For me, it was movies like Silverado, They Call Me Trinity, Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter that won me over. I also enjoyed the historical aspect. That historical part made Gang of New York one of my favorite movies. Although set during the time of the Old West, it showed a snippet of what was going on in the east. But the icon look of the cowboy, the wild, untamed frontier of what would become the United States of America, the injustice brought upon the Native tribes, good and bad, all of it make for compelling history. That’s probably why so many stories continue to be told, even if they aren’t as popular as they once were.
So naturally, being a writer, I wanted to write a western. There was one problem. There have been so many really great western already made, it would be hard to compete. The original True Grit, the Searchers, the Shootist; my three favorite John Wayne movies. The Man with No Name trilogy, concluding with the dare-I-say-mythic The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Unforgiven, and pretty much any other western Clint Eastwood has been in. The most recent, highly under-rated western, Open Range.
I watch them and I think “I’d suck.”
Fortunately, westerns aren’t my forte. Science fiction and comic books are.
Enter the Wild Wild West. Sadly, that refers to Will Smith’s stinker for a few years back.
(sidebar: Kevin Kline, under-rated and under-used in that movie. Yes, I know it was a Will Smith movie, but… Kevin Kline! He of Silverado fame! He’s wicked! Reduced to sidekick?! *sigh* & Kenneth Branagh, cut in half digitally? What, no little people in Hollywood talented enough to play the main villan? Was Warwick Davis trapped in a Ewok suit and couldn’t be called? WTF?! Ok, I’m done.)
Since I knew little about the original TV series, watching the lame-ass theatrical version still spurred my imagination. It also fell inline with the few ideas I had about writing a western. If I was ever to accomplish this task, I needed to do one that was different, original. Once upon a time, my first idea was to have some gunslinger who had access to cutting-edge weapons, particularly, an experimental automatic pistol or other such weapons. But it wouldn’t be too over-the-top. That was where I made a mistake.
It was then that I was reminded of something one of my early scriptwriting instructors, and excellent writer and director in his own right, Keith Davidson, said when developing a story. Push it further. Take the idea farther. If something bad happens, make it worse. If someone has a bad past, make it terrible. Take the idea and push it farther and farther until it reaches a point where you realize you’ve gone too far. Then, bring it back one step.
That’s what I had to do with my western idea. I had to take it farther.
I had always liked the idea of advanced technology existing in a time period that it shouldn’t. Ideas like Steampunk, Weird West stories, and alternate history fiction always interested me. It was along the same lines as the myth of Atlantis’ ancient, advanced, lost technology, and the idea of aliens visiting Earth. As a kid, one of my favorite series was The Mysterious City of Gold. It featured aliens bestowing advanced machines and science upon the ancient civilizations of South and Central America.
All of this came together one day, as I was walking and listening to Will Smith’s song from the movie Wild Wild West.
When an idea comes together like this one did, it’s a wicked feeling. It’s like your brain gets super-charged. It races along with an idea, adding to it, developing it. Some additions aren’t great, but many have potential.
When I got home from my walk, I jotted down the basics. It featured ancient Atlantis technology, time travel, and the Old West. It could be a stand-alone idea, but setting it within the mythology of the Infinatum excited me even more! Over the years, as I have developed the Infinatum, I have pushed many of the ideas, and some characters, further back into history. Having an idea set in one part of that history allowed me to include some of these ideas and characters. Since then, I’ve been developing characters and creating an origin mythology for the idea. Although a name hasn’t come to me, it’s best not to rush some things. The wrong name can ruin or take the spark out of an idea.
All of this bring me to TADA! The point of this lil blog.
Ideas can come from anywhere. It can inspiration from something you really like (classic western movies, ancient history, mythology), or it can come from really crappy ideas (The Wild Wild West feature film). Regardless of its origin, your idea shouldn’t be cast aside. It should always been held onto, written down, kept somewhere safe. Even if the idea doesn’t fit into whatever you’re working on now, it might someday.
Sometimes, like in my sci-fi/western project, it takes two or more different ideas coming together to make something interesting. By themselves, the ideas may be flat or mildly interesting. But slap them together and you may have magic on your hands!
Always remember to keep you eyes, ears, and mind open, cause you never know when inspiration may pop its kooky head up and say “Booya!”