Author Spotlight: James Holmes
We’re back this week with another author spotlight episode, this time featuring Jamez Holmes.
We had a fascinating discussion with Jamez about his process for writing, and how other media such as video games and film influence his work. Jamez is lucky enough to focus on his writing full time, and is working on his first novel.
Tune in on any of the platforms below, or search us on your preferred podcast app to listen in!
Sarah: Hey, welcome back everyone to Dear Writer. We’re onto episode 14 today and we have the second of our Authors Spotlight series with Jamez Holmes. So welcome, Jamez.
Ashley: Hi, Jamez.
Jamez: Hi, Ashley. Hi, Sarah. Thanks for having me.
Ashley: Oh, no problem. We’re very excited to have you on today. Jamez is actually quite a good friend of mine. He is my friend Wendy’s partner. Hi, Wendy! She wanted us to say hi to her at some point on the podcast.
Sarah: Oh, hi, Wendy!
Ashley: This will make her day! Hi, Wendy.
Jamez: She asked me to awkwardly shoehorn that in later so, that’s already achieved at the beginning. Easy.
Sarah: I love that I’m waving and she can’t see us but, I’m waving. Hi Wendy!
Jamez: She’s waving back.
Ashley: Anyways we’ve um, we’ve bonded… Jamez and I have bonded quite a lot over the past few years, especially because both of us—since he has on this podcast, obviously—are very interested in, you know, a creative, the creative side of life. So, and Jamez also lives a life I know many aspiring writers dream of. He gets to spend almost all of his time working on all of his creative projects. So, he is writing a novel, but he’s also working on his own video game, which is pretty cool.
Sarah: Ooh. Sounds very interesting.
Ashley: I will also just clarify that, doubly clarify that Jamez is not my husband James and the Dan from last episode is not Sarah’s husband Dan. They are separate people.
Sarah: That’s just a really strange coincidence that occurred.
Ashley: But yes, so maybe we’ll start with a hopefully easy question, Jamez. Were you always a creative person? Like as a child, were you always writing stories and pursuing your creative passions?
Jamez: And that is a good question and great starter, Ashley.
Ashley: Thank you.
Jamez: Yeah, I guess my passion for writing goes back to… the earliest I can remember has been about five? Yeah, sort of writing fiction. At the time that was sort of media I was influenced by, be it like movies, video games, etc. And sort of just continuations. Things years later I would learn—very cringeworthy—termed as fanfiction. But at the time, was a kid, you know, you just like, this is cool, but what if there was more?
Ashley: There was this Pokémon story I have written.
Ashley: No, I understand that looking back and seeing stuff that is really, really cringey.
Sarah: I used to do like these little weird ‘sausage people drawings’ is what I called them and I had like little pieces of paper just folded together in a ‘book’ in quotation marks.
Ashley: What sort of what sort of quote unquote fanfiction were you creating when you were five years old?
Jamez: As I said, it was primarily just extensions to say, video games or movies, it was a continuation work, where it would be okay where does that character go now, what are they… you know. But then as an adult also, I look at, you know, one of my favorite films is the 80s classic Robocop. And you look at the latest sequels that were not that well written and so comparatively you know you’re looking at fanfiction. You’re like, well, you look at sequels and things that get greenlit and, you know. I’m by no means saying it’s better than saying, at least, you know, perhaps chasing, you know…
Ashley: Professionals sometimes do a terrible job as well.
Jamez: Yeah. Going off in fighting in the Vietnam War or something’s probably more interesting than what we’ve gotten the third film so… you know.
Ashley: I’ve never seen Robocop.
Jamez: You should. It’s one of those great series where they made one and they just stopped. And they’ve never kept going.
Ashley: Is that good as in… so for context, Jamez and I have been watching the Rambo movies because I find them both ridiculous and amazing at the same time.
Ashley: Um, is Robocop in a similar vein to that?
Jamez: So, oh boy. This is gone from writing into [indecipherable mumblings].
Jamez: …this is just my whole thing. Yeah.
Ashley: I apologize.
Jamez: Oh no, not at all. This is great. So Rambo in itself is a fascinating case because… and for the listeners at home, Ashley when watching them with me, skipped First Blood, the first film the series. So we just started with Rambo 2. See when they made the Rambo films, the first Rambo was based off the novel, First Blood. And it’s largely about a soldier’s PTSD and coming home, trying to find the place in society and being unable to fit in, and all these Vietnam veterans came back, and society rejected them because they decided to go very antiwar and etc. And so it’s quite a heartbreaking story of someone that fought for his country, that no longer is a place in it. And then after that, they dropped all of that because there was not… as far as I know there were no more sequels to the novels. And so they just turned them into ridiculously stupid fun action movies. And so, 2, 3, and the continuation are so far removed from what the first one was—in a great way, they’re fantastic—but they’re not really sequels in the traditional sense. And that’s why when around Christmas, Ashley was talking about Christmas movies. And I said, well, technically, First Blood did take place at Christmas, but to watch that now… In first part he does like contrary to popular belief, Rambo doesn’t kill a single person. He sets up some traps, he injures people, but he doesn’t kill anyone in that movie. Later movies his body counts are in the thousands or… so then to go from that back to the first one… it doesn’t flow great. And um, Robocop’s similar. The first piece was written as a very heavy political satire at the time. It was a heavy look at how comfortable America was getting with violence. It was the political, cultural sphere at the time. It was nuclear armament. And it was supposed to be a cold satire of all of that. The whole concept of Robocop is that they’ve taken police work and stopping crime and turned into this machined, robotic, cold, you know, merciless force. And then in the later ones they realize things like, hey kids think this is cool, we can market it to kids if we like, with Robocop 3, let’s take this ultraviolent R18 gore-fest, make PG13 so we can sell a bunch of action figures.
Jamez: What it would become later on is quite removed from sort of its inception. And with the sequels they seemed not to realize that what mad—is again with writing, I guess this loops back a little bit and writing—is that they thought the only bit that really made Robocop, robocop was Robocop. They’re like well, he’s the main character, it’s his name on the box. So if he’s in it, it’s Robocop.
Jamez: As I said not realizing the whole thing was satire. You know, it’s a skewed lens on society at the time, but they dropped all that and just took the titular character like, it’s fine. It’s still the same thing. Like, like Rambo.
Ashley: Rambo. Maybe I don’t need to watch the first Rambo. Do we think it might ruin my… I’ve got like a very rosy perception of Rambo right now. He just goes in, kills some people, rolls in mud, explodes things, and then occasionally says one line of dialogue. That’s my description of Rambo.
Jamez: I mean, that’s it too, in the first in the first film you know Rambo has these dialogues about the war and his trauma during it. And the second one he has like three lines.
Ashley: I think it’s 15 minutes till he says his first word because it started becoming ridiculous, and then he just says, okay, and then like, stares at the camera. And I was like oh, okay. Apparently, he can speak.
Jamez: Yeah, that’s what I mean, the characters are so far removed from each other. It’s a weird arc, and again looping it back to the writing thing—cause I guess it’s the point of the podcast—
Ashley: Not Rambo.
Jamez: —I could just, I could just ramble on about Rambo or 80s movies all day, but um yeah again looping back to writing for a moment. The character of Rambo from First Blood you can tell is heavily again drawn from the novel, and what the author had penned. Whereas in the sequels that’s not there. They had nothing that we’re going on, and they just took the name and just sort of did what they want with the character. So its… First Blood’s fine, but it’s a very, very different person and very different… they don’t really mesh with… and the, the concept of the character’s hero journey, or his story arc is strange too, because the whole point of the first one is that goes through a great deal of events through the first movie, and then sort of towards the end, he gives—some spoilers, mild spoilers, for like a film from the 80’s—but he sort of gives himself into the police. And so, this idea that he’s… his old Colonel brings them in and he’s willing to sort of forgo what’s happened, and accept what happens to him. It’s, it’s the storyline that sort of finishes itself neatly. There isn’t… in the second one just becomes a sort of emotionless killer. And it just… Like any sort of redeeming arc he had in the first one is sort of thrown out for ‘it’s cool when he shoots people’.
Sarah: Just give us the action.
Jamez: Pretty much!
Ashley: Pretty much.
Sarah: Just get rid of the rest.
Jamez: But it worked.
Ashley: It’s great. You should watch it. I’d recommend. I laughed the whole way through. You should watch them.
Sarah: We just watch the, the whole Die Hard series over Christmas, because that was our Christmas movies, was Die Hard.
Jamez: They count.
Ashley: I think they count. They count
Sarah: Yeah. So I guess that leads on to the next question is, so you were writing fanfiction. And what sort of things are you writing these days?
Jamez: And so these days, as Ashley says, I’ve sort of got a few things I’m working on. And one’s this novel concept that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s… that I guess goes a bit into the discussion of the creative process and how the writings done. And the way that I’m… I guess nowadays the way I approach a lot of things is… it’s a bit of a breakdown with the with the novel concept I’m working on now it’s sort of, it takes place over a series of time jumps.
Jamez: Over a series of years, following various characters over those periods, but they all link into an intrinsic main story. Sort of an overarching plot that’s and this is again—
Sarah: That’s cool.
Jamez: —Yeah, perhaps loops into um, as Ashley said, my main sort of focus, the thing I’ve been saying for years, is video game development. And the way that that’s approached, I guess, perhaps skews a little bit the way that I view writing now as well. In the sense that, you know, within video games, there’s just the way it’s structured from the main plots to… well that’s sort of I guess it’s bit of a tangent, but that’s sort of what got me into video games in the first place. Is the way in stories or plots being told in video games don’t need to be told in the traditional linear way that they told within most novels. Within a novel, because I have so we’ve just discussed, a deep love for film too. But in film again, it’s the same thing, it follows sort of a sequential say, two hour story. Start, middle, end.
Jamez: But within a video game if the plot needs 300 hours, it has it. If the plot needs to be told from different character points and sort of just jump around, you know just start here, stop way over here, it’s allowed for. It needs to have heavy flashbacks that are not even told sort of at exact points, but are told sort of as the story develops. And at certain points later on as, say, the player uncovers them, it can. And so because of that sort of nontraditional story structure, the video games allow for, I guess, that shaped the way that I also view novel writing and other things a bit now too.
Sarah: Right, so how… so what sort of techniques do you take from that, from your writing? Like so you were talking about different narrative structures, you know, and… and do you use like different points of view? Or do you use like a combination of like you were talking about flashbacks, or I guess different characters to portray different storylines. And how does that sort of come together, and what techniques do you use for that?
Jamez: That’s a great question, and also goes back to um, as a… just the general writing concept of how someone approaches point of view perspective for the novel. And I tend to… I guess it’s generally first person. So first person from the lens of wherever it’s being told at the time. Again that might be quite, you know, within…
Sarah: Runs into the video game kind of feel, doesn’t it?
Jamez: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. I’ve also spent a period of time studying film. And so I’ve written a few screenplays over the years. And, and the writing process for that is again entirely different. Because within, you know, within novels, you’re writing… there’s sort of that extreme level of depth. As you girls would know, I haven’t done a…
Sarah: Yeah you can use thoughts compared to screenwriting where everything that… that has be visual, right?
Jamez: Exactly. And it’s, um, it’s that live… live… again ever been in a full novel to the length of you. I’ve written some shorter things, but I haven’t done a full length novel yet. But um, which is what I’m working on now, but um yeah. Within film, within the novel, you might write say the character walks into the room, you’ve got to describe the room in detail. All you have, is what you’ve written down, and that’s everything the reader has to go on to visualize this place. Within the film, you know, within the screenplay, you’re writing, you know, man pushes open door, and you’ll be writing sort of the type of shots. That it’s interior/exterior, the lighting, the… but you don’t need to describe the set because that will likely be done either through storyboards that will be contained with the script, or when it’s on set itself the descriptions already there. So you don’t need to include that level of detail because it will be visual and it’s this whole line of sort of visual storytelling versus directly telling the audience. And again, with video games and film you’re very visual so you don’t need to, you don’t need to write in such a structured way that you need to detail it. Which is good, but also I guess provides its own challenges, sometimes.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely.
Jamez: But just with the film, you know, a lot of that within film writing within screenplays, a lot of that just becomes also dialogues and you know, script. And so that, having done all of them, it’s sort of a bit… the way my personal process is a bit of an amalgamation. What I’ll do with the novel is I’ll roughly sort of plot it out. And then I’ll sort of come and refine it later. So sometimes dialogue becomes a bit screenplay-like. Sometimes it’ll become a bit of, you know, just a breakdown of words between… and then I have to go back in and sort of add in tone and add and, you know.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Jamez: So yeah, sort of… Hope I haven’t diverted the question too much, but it also flows back into what I’ve drawn on to sort of do it, which is a bit of a jumble.
Ashley: That’s okay. I was gonna say, by the sounds of it, you would need to have at least an outline of your novel to be able to write that, especially, it sounds quite complicated. And I assume if you were just like writing it on the fly, you’d end up with a lot of contradictions and kind of difficult points, you’d need to iron out at a later date.
Jamez: Yeah, well, that’s um, that whole question about, whether someone’s like a pantser or a plotter or whatever, right, the type of… how you approach the planning of a novel. And yeah for myself, it’s always… I don’t know. Unless… you know you can watch some videos online, you read the odd thing about people, but it’s hard to sort of know someone else’s full process. And so I just, I just don’t, my… I will not at all say the way that I go about things is correct, but it works for me. Yeah, so I’ve always sort of… with any of, bet it sort of a screen play that I’ve done, be it on video game development, or the novel. There needs to be a fair amount of at least an outline. I need to sort of go in, I need to know the core plot points. I need to at least roughly know where things are headed. They might head there in a diff—it’s like, you know say a GPS in a car. I know the destination, but it might turn on the way there that there might be a horrible crash and we have to enroute, and we have to, you know.
Jamez: I sort of have to know the rough, yeah the rough end destination.
Jamez: And it’s the same with the characters and that too, I have to have at least a rough idea of at least who the main people are. So going in I have to know, so you know, this is our main protagonist. He’s… the direct people he needs to influence these people for the story to work. Everyone else is a bit sort of meldable, that can come later. But yeah, definitely. So that whole plotter or pantser thing. I’m like, I guess I’m definitely a plotter, but not to the extent that quite a lot of people are. I don’t go in, I don’t need to know the full world lore, I don’t need to know… I just need to know, sort of a fair amount of structure so that I can then work within that structure, if that makes sense.
Ashley: Yeah. So like those key points that you need to hit somewhere along the way to make the story work, but how you get to those key points is, I guess just see what happens.
Jamez: Exactly. And then also I am not particularly beholden to things I write down too. Like, it’s always just a roadmap and so it’s like characters, things like even say, gender might change later on if, if I feel it needs to. So there’s always a loose penning but yeah, later on, things are subject to change. But I just think that rough sort of sketch. That base idea to work from, I guess.
Sarah: Yeah, I totally understand that. It’s very similar actually to the way that I write when… I’m going in and adding all these flashbacks to the book that I’ve written. And I did in fact change a couple of genders and things. So it’s like… but me and Ashley, we’re a lot more structured because we have to be with the two of us. But I think it’s a good way to be. Sort of doing a bit of a mix of the two and allowing that sort of creativity and inspiration to strike you as you go. But then sort of having an idea point to get to.
Jamez: Definitely. And I also find… I’m quite fan as I’ve said, of nonlinear storytelling or trying to get a bit weird with it if I can.
Jamez: But that only really works if you’ve also got some—what I’d refer to as anchor points. And you see that a billion times. Writers have sort of… they’ve decided they’re going to write a prequel novel or that’s going to be a flashback. So there’s going to be… and they haven’t really ever defined loose points. Or they have, but they’re not that beholden to them. And then when they start to write a prequel things, they will contradict things that have happened or they’ll… because they just sort of like, you know, I’m going to write a prequel about this character. This is just what’s happened, then someone quite in depth into the lawmaking will go well, actually you’ve already said at that point that he was over here, so that…
Jamez: At least with those anchor points when you come back to your own work, you can go okay, he has to be at this location then. He will need to have actually been, you know, so you’ve got those points that sort of the story can fit within. Yet again, you know, you’ve already given yourself a bit of an outline.
Sarah: It’s sometimes strange what those anchor points end up being too, we find. Sometimes you don’t even know, and then you write something, and you’re like, whoa, this is like a keystone moment kind of thing. Do you ever find that with your, with your writing that you write something and then it’s like, well, this is actually hinging on like a big moment and?
Jamez: Yeah, no, definitely. Or there’s even things where I’m… again, they’ve been sort of a bit of a throwaway thing or something that’s supposed to be unimportant. And then it’ll come into later. And it seems… it never seems good enough now, but yeah just seems important enough that now I might even be changing what I would have thought would have been a more key events were more to fit this other what I thought was a more minor thing and you know to begin with.
Jamez: Let’s say something and I don’t know, just off the cuff like a character gives a side character a love interest of something. Like a pendant right before going off to the war or something. But then you decide later on that, it’s a love story and is going to follow the love interest or she’s older and she is reflecting on this pendant and she’s showing it to children and then it… And then later on you know, you we’re going to throw that pendant thing out, and it was just a little, you know, sort of sidestep before heading off. Now you’re like, actually, no, that’s become quite a pivotal…
Sarah: Yeah yep.
Jamez: And so, yeah, that’s a that’s actually sort of matters more than any of the war storyline, because he isn’t really the focus anymore, and now suddenly this little thing has become quite a, yeah. Quite an unintentional bigger plot point.
Ashley: Totally get that. We’ve had that happen quite a few times. Also unintentionally writing like, key character scenes where you’ve like Just like randomly in a chapter, you’ve written in this scene, and then suddenly that scene is like one of the most important scenes from your entire novel. And you’re like, how did that happen, that was on accident, that wasn’t planned!
Jamez: Yeah, no definitely.
Sarah: I think that kind of did that in the film of The Martian. I don’t know… I haven’t actually read the book, but I’ve kind of heard from one of the other podcasts I was listening to, that they did that with like a love interest and then… then they wrapped it up like with like one scene at the end of the movie. And it was kind of like, it wasn’t in the book, it was literally two minutes of the film, but then it just became this big thing. And everyone’s like, oh, that was a really sweet scene and like really nice for them to put in there. Sometimes little things can really make it.
Jamez: That’s one thing that personally bugs me, especially with film, the amount of times that um, especially—I could again ramble about the film for ages, and especially a general dislike of a lot of film trends now. But, um, I find so many like, character writing in films, especially now feels very poor, especially for the side characters. And you know for love interests and the like. It’d be sort of like one scene towards the beginning of the film, and then they brought back in later, or they’ll be killed off. And there’s no real need to have ever felt anything towards them, and you don’t… you don’t care remotely. But yet you’re sort of supposed to have. But they haven’t given you anything to really make this person anything beyond just a blip in the story. And you get that so often. I’m like, no, I don’t care if they sort of, it’s sort of—you probably have this at the writing too—but sometimes you need to… I’m trying to find a better word than just like ‘nonsense scenes’. But sometimes, you know, you need these sort of little moments of humanity.
Jamez: These little things that again don’t seem that important. But, you know, to the development of the relationship between characters, they really are. And if you don’t have them it does show. Sort of goes, oh, why should we care that that person’s died, or you know.
Sarah: Exactly. You need to kind of set it up beforehand so that people care about what happens and otherwise you don’t have any tension or any… I guess any obstacles to even make the plotline work because if your readers don’t care, they’re just going to switch off and probably not finish the book, or maybe even stop it if it’s a film. I’ve done that before.
Jamez: Exactly. I think film is one of the worst for it. Because it’s just given that, you know, two hour… general two hour time frame, which means that a lot of stuff has to be shortened. One of the worst cases I can think of with film, off my mind to just, you know, entirely disregard, you know, a very famous public work on air. Shoot down the whole career before it starts. But it was within the film adaptation of Ready Player One.
Ashley: Ugh. Ready Player One was terrible!
Jamez: And the romance between him and the female love interest. I think he likes meets her once, and then there’s a scene sort of towards the club, where it’s almost like he loves her or he’s extremely infatuated with her—
Ashley: Oh no, yeah.
Jamez: —but they’d met like once.
Ashley: I agree, no I one hundred percent agree.
Jamez: Within the film, there was no build up, there was no… yeah, it just got weird that he was so aggressively attached to her given that within the film we had nothing to go on that they had any sort of connection or… didn’t even like talk romantically or, you know, like…
Ashley: Have you read the book, Jamez? You should.
Jamez: I have not read the book yet, but I’ve heard that it’s a lot better.
Ashley: It is very good. I read the book and had not watched the film, and then I didn’t want to watch the film because Jamez had explained to me how terrible it is, and I wanted to you know, savor the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But in the end we watched it during the first lockdown. And I was so disappointed. They just… they, they basically massacred that book and turn it into this like weird… you can tell they’ve just made it for Hollywood. They change all of the… there’s like all these challenges he has to do, and they make them way too grand for what they actually were, and they change all of the characters around. It’s weird. I wasn’t a fan. It’s similar though, I was going to say Sarah, we’ve talked about this briefly before about when you watched Tomorrow, When the War Began movie, you found it very similar how they’ve just taken all of these random character archetypes, just like chucked them in and made you not really care about anyone.
Sarah: Like a shortcut to trying to build characters just, let’s grab a stereotype here, there and chuck these characters into the stereotype. And then everyone knows exactly how they going to act, except it didn’t really work because then you’re like, well, that’s just a bit… no one is actually like that.
Jamez: Yeah, definitely. And that especially goes back to the whole film thing where, again using sort of that visual language versus the written. And it’ll be the sort of thing where, again, that’s part of the thing coming from… because video games suffer from this terribly. There are almost no good video game film adaptations, because again, even worse than novels, video games can take up hundreds of hours and to condense that into a tiny story for two hours… And I think that’s part of the problem and novelisations being turned into your film is that again, it’s these stories need more. They just need more than a two hour bracket. You’ve got to cut so much down. And so then when it comes to something like that, it becomes this idea of, okay, no time for character development, no time to flesh these people out. How do we do it? Um… visuals. How about if he wears this outfit, then everyone will know he’s the jock. And so then we don’t need to describe he’s the jock, you can just see it. It’s like, and she will… so then there’s sort of this very, yeah, this very aggressive sort of reliance on that stereotype to explain character traits or personality, because there’s just no time to really have scenes to flesh out what they’re actually like. And it’s a very lazy way of doing it, sometimes it works, sometimes it falls completely on its face.
Sarah: Yeah yeah. I think that can be done. It’s about like using very condensed and character specific dialogue. I think would be probably the way to fix that. But films just aren’t made the way they used to be these days.
Ashley: I was gonna say, then there’s one, the one example, which is the opposite, which is The Hobbit right? Where they’ve taken a book that’s fairly simple and an enjoyable adventure story that takes a couple hours to read, and then turned it into this three book—no this three movie—I don’t even know what it is anymore, not the Hobbit. Lord of the Rings my favorite, it’s my absolute favorite, but The Hobbit is just way too much.
Jamez: Well, that again, going back to video games, there was some video games that have been based on novels, and there’s quite a few video game adaptations popular films. Like say there will be a new iron man film, and they’ll make a video game of it, but the video game has—this happens so often—the video games been in production at the same time as the film, or beforehand, so that as soon as the films come out, it can release alongside it. Or, so that it is just before the film comes out, it can come out to build that hype for the film. And the issue with this is they don’t know the film plot because they don’t know the film plot, they have to sort of do their own thing. And they might have very rough footnotes, and so you’ve got this like, two hour film of I don’t know, Iron Man or something goes and fights the bad guys over here and then comes back and has an argument with his girlfriend, cuz he is a drunk or something, and then yay end of movie, eveyone’s sad. But in the video games they’re like okay, but we need to make this last, like, five hours instead of two. And we can’t just make someone sit there and listen to an argument with his girlfriend for half an hour, so it has to be more engaging. So how about now Iron Man has met some Turkish guys in a cafe, and then he has to go help them collect spice from a caravan and he… and so then you get these weird nonsensical things that have sort of nothing to do with the main plot, because the video game had to pad it out and they just sort of come up with things to, and it gets, you know, really weird. Because as you’re saying there’s just no… there’s not nearly enough source material to rely on, but they have to. They just have to. And so they sort of go, well, okay. And yeah the sort of things some video games have that are based on things because they just had to flesh them out so much. It’s fascinating. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s awful.
Ashley: I haven’t played… I’m gonna go with I haven’t played any video games. Which is kind of a lie, because I played a couple, but like not ones that have story. Or anything. So I’m very um, I’m not particularly knowledgeable in that area. But this sounds—this has been quite interesting.
Jamez: It’s a field that’s changed so much. Cause I’ve been, as I said, sort of playing games since I was a kid and back, especially back then, there was not only a vast array of creativity back then it was like, like we’re saying about the quality of movies and a big part of that comes down to the way things are made now. Things are so beholden to stockholders, they’re so beholden to meeting quarterly targets, and… and so things basically have to be a surefire thing. I feel especially in the 80s and 90s, there was a lot more freedom, and there’s a lot more, well if it fails. that’s entirely on you. But they were willing to let you have a go at something and see if it fails. And video games are like that. And back then, there was a very small amount of games that really that focused on story. And one of my favorite, my favorite video game series that was sold, it’s one of the only ones that did that in quite a big way. But you look at everything else, you look at like I don’t know, Crash Bandicoot, and everything in Crash Bandicoot it would be like, uh-oh, the evil scientist has stolen all the fruit, or maybe your girlfriend. And you’ve gotta smash boxes and beat him up, probably. And that’s sort of about all it needed. And most games are like that. That was, you know, and then we look at sort of jump forward to now and most games are, they’re all trying to become cinematic and they’re all trying to sort of mimic movies and high quality storylines are almost expected from every piece now. Whereas back then it was a lot more hit and miss, you had sort of a lot of hidden gems, but simultaneously the sort of general consensus was that a lot of them were just stupid. They plot was there just allow people to play the game and have fun. Whereas now it has become sort of become a massive shift in the last few years.
Sarah: Right, yeah.
Ashley: I was gonna say I feel like some novels have shifted that way as well. Especially teen fiction. Like, I remember the teen fiction that I used to read, you know lots of Alex Rider, stuff like that, which is just like a fun spy story. And now, a lot of it is so intense. Oh my goodness. Like obviously there’s still some of those books, but there’s a lot of, it’s very character focused now. It feels anyways from what I’ve read. Especially the ones that are popular
Jamez: I think that’s part of it too, that um, I blame a little bit the, the internet, and things like us talking on podcasts. Not, not to call Dear Writer out here while I’m on air. But um, just, just in the sense that, you know, you get to like big—again think of a time period. Like my preferred is the 80s and 90s, but doesn’t matter. Let’s see. Or you can go back forever if you want, we can go back a little bit sooner. But back then, you’d get a writer who would you know, stay sitting in his writing room and he’d just pen down this idea that he had in his head, and it might be amazing or jibberish, who cares. But he’s sitting there, just penning it down, and he’s writing this book. And then eventually sort of gets it out there. And maybe you had a few keen writers, especially people that probably had quite a career in it at the time and consider themselves quite high in the list, that might look around at what some of the other writers were doing, and go to the odd convention, or try and, you know, be a bit current. Whereas now, because of the Internet and because of this push towards aggressive marketing and trends and… most writers also have look around and see what’s popular. And they’ll go, okay, this is selling really big. Well, this demographic is really large, and so they’ll sort of cater solely to that. And so there’s a lot less of isolation as to people just going off and just doing the work, and there’s a lot more of… now, I think of, everyone’s sort of almost copying each other. It’s that old joke of, can I copy your homework, sure, but change it just enough so it’s different. And so if everyone’s sort of doing that, I think, and they’re seeing… yeah we’re seeing sort of you know, like all teen fiction will be going, one guy might have started to create heavy characterization and start to you know make plots quite intense. And then someone else goes, oh geez that selling really well. Maybe I should be doing that. And so then, you know, goes home and starts just include more than his work. And someone else sees that and goes, two people are doing that and are selling really well. Maybe this is the way the whole genre is going and I need to shift the way that I write. And so I think like the connectedness of things is changing.
Sarah: I think the connectedness, like with the internet and as you say, certainly probably enhances that. But I would say that there has always been certain trends in the market as far as the types of works that sell, like more traditionally published works. In some ways I think with indie authors becoming more common and becoming a kind of… a way for people to live even, you know, there’s a lot of indie authors who earn a really good wage, but it almost gives room for it to grow in those unexpected ways as well. So I think there’s a bit of both, in terms that people look at what’s traditionally published and what’s selling well, and it kind of like a magnetizes people into, to writing certain styles and certain genres, but then hopefully with the rise in indie we should see a bit more variety as well. So.
Ashley: I hope so. Because especially even when like when we’ve been applying to agents and things you see that they are after very specific things.
Sarah: Yes. Yeah.
Ashley: There are some agents, and I’ve seen what they want and they’ll be like, we want a semi real, half fantasy, dystopian novel that sets… and I’m like, you can’t just like demand that specific novel. I don’t understand. It’s a bit strange. But yeah, I think that kind of feeds into your whole connectedness, I think Jamez, that I guess that agents and stuff are probably not helping it right? Asking for very specific or looking for very specific novels.
Jamez: Ya know that that’s exactly it. So I absolutely agree with what Sarah was saying, cause yeah, those trends have always been there. So that’s not at all a new thing. And agents likely were still pushing trends you know, way back, take your point. And as I say, I think there were even higher, you know, authors, you get people like Stephen King and that, couldn’t help but read some of the rivals work at the time and try and see, you know, just out of, as I said, especially if you’re a high author, just to sort of see what the markets like what your competitors are doing. But I think now there’s just… because of the way things are, I think there’s just sort of more of a push of people you know, like ourselves, smaller creators that are a bit worried, trying to get a foothold into things that are overly concerned with seeing all these trends and trying to just trying to make it a name for yourself which is hard because while there’s sort of so much opportunity, there’s also equally quite a lot of people there. And so I think a lot of people have tried to see, well, I need to try and get, you know, a bit of popularity, I need to try and get my name out there. What’s big? And so it’s of that that concern. And because of the internet allows you to see it all.
Jamez: I mean, it’s the same thing. It’s the exact same thing with video games. Exactly. I mean, it gets almost every creative medium, medium really. Because of the accessibility of being able to do things now, there’s a lot less gate keeping, which means that you know, I think there’s you know, hands down, a lot of people are just riding a wave or riding the tide of what’s popular. You know, they see an opportunity they go, I’ll write whatever’s popular. If I write a new like Fifty Shades of Gray I might do well, we’ll catch that whole market. I don’t want to write one but I’ll write one because they’re, girls seem to love them. And so you get a lot of people that are just jumping on some trend. But at the same time, because you know there’s indie publishing because there’s a lot of indie authors out there. I think we are seeing, yeah, some you know a lot more creative work that wouldn’t have been there, but it’s a bigger numbers game I guess is what I’m saying. The pool of people back then would have been a lot smaller. Where’s the pool’s a lot larger now. So while we are seeing quite a few here really interesting, weird out-there things, I think there’s sort of, it’s par for the course with just how many people are doing it now. But it is, you know, it is good. I think it’s really cool. And yeah, I just worry that you know, Facebook, everything. You know, there’s so much push with like marketing now and trying to, you know, I sort of worry. I’ve seen it myself just how much that can sort of stifle people a bit, it’s just something you know, concerns me.
Ashley: Fair enough, it’s… Although self publishing, I’m really excited about it. But also, you know, very daunted by it at the same time, like you have to put yourself out there and it’s all on you, like you don’t have anyone really helping you out with that. So I can see how it’s a. bit…
Sarah: I have heard that, or one of the podcasters that I follow like makes a good point, that no matter, even though it feels like the marketplace is really saturated and really full, is that everyone… like every writer will typically read a lot more books in their lifetime than what they can ever write, even if they extremely prolific writers. So when you look at it that way and you think of how many—like they like to call them ‘whale readers’ people who read just huge amounts. When you look at how many people like that there is in the world, there’s actually a huge demand for writing. And so I think if you’re delivering a quality product and yeah, you do have to do your own marketing to an extent, you do have to try and put yourself out there, try and build yourself a platform, which is isn’t easy to begin with, when you’re small. I mean, we’re… that’s part of, you know, doing this podcast and doing the blog and doing the… but you know like we also recognize that aspiring authors need help and maybe we can help each other, which is why we’re sort of doing these interviews. But yeah I do believe that there is room in the marketplace for, for more. So hopefully.
Ashley: I think so. Well once someone’s read something they need something new, right? You can’t just stay on the exact same book if that makes any sense.
Ashley: Or even series, like series end, you need new series.
Jamez: Yeah. So, definitely. I mean, that’s, you know, it’s the old adage of build it and they will come. I still like to believe that.
Ashley: Me too.
Jamez: As long as what you’ve got is worthwhile, people will recognize that, or at least, you know, people that… most of your audience will recognize that and they’ll find it. But, um, yeah. And as you said like it all… people always want more of stuff too. And case and point is how they’re like what? Twenty-seven Fast and Furious movies. That is the point that you know like people aren’t satisfied with one, or reading the same book over and over the same movie or whatever. And so even if what you’re making is similar, it might even be that you can just call it an inbuilt audience from the other work. But people always want more, they want different, even if it’s, so long as it’s not directly the same. There’ll be… there’s definitely audience for it, I think.
Ashley: Right. I’m going to pull this back to writing a bit more. So Sarah and I—you may have listened to some of our podcasts. I’m not sure—but we have our mistakes in the month section. And I know I’ve told you some of the mistakes that we’ve come across, especially when we were on that writing retreat Jamez. I was wondering if you have found any hilarious mistakes, while writing your book that you would be willing to share with us?
Jamez: Yeah, I mean I don’t have so much a particular mistake so much as just a fun little—fun in quotation marks there—a fun little editing quirk that I myself have that is always interesting to come across. And I think I’ve told you about it before, Ashley, but I have a tendency to sort of roughly outline the plot and then sort of go into detail more as you know, need arises. As I start to go you know, chapter by chapter. And that means that I’m not always married directly to a story event or more in this case particularly to say, a character. And even more detail say a character name. So I might take character and let’s call him like, David. But I might also decide that I liked the name, you know, like Barry Hopkins, I don’t know. And so it’ll be this thing where, as I write further, half the time I find I’ve gone interchangeable with it. Through like chapter one he’s called David, and you jump to like chapter three, because I’ve written it sporadically in different time periods and that, instead I’ve just started using Theodore or something. But, so I’ll go through editing, and I’ll… for a moment of pause and I’ll be like, is this a different character than, like, nope, it’s the same guy. And so this editing, becomes sort of this hunting down and then deciding ultimately on a name towards the end, because in those earlier stages, I haven’t quite decided, I’ve been just writing it in different… and it, yeah, it’s it happens more than I’d like. And it’s you know it’s quite common that…
Sarah: Have you ever tried just like, merging a name? That would be funny.
Jamez: That does happen! With um—
Sarah: Sorry, I’m just trying to find a way of merging David and Theodore in my brain. And it wasn’t coming.
Jamez: I don’t have it with first names, but definitely with last names. Let’s say he’s called like, as I said like Barry Hopkins and like Theodore Waldor or something. And then I’ll have like Barry Waldor. And it’s like I would have swapped like, yeah, I would have mixed like the last and first name as well. Like, that’s definitely happened.
Ashley: You should call your book like, ‘The Many Alter Egos of Barry Hopkins.’ And people just have to go through and figure out, is this Barry? Is it not?
Jamez: Yeah, it’s a plot point, it’s part of the intrigue.
Sarah: Like a weird version of Where’s Wally. Find Barry.
Ashley: Or Theodore. Or whoever else. David. I don’t know.
Jamez: It’s at the point where was it to be… were I to write just just a more traditional story, I think I’d just use like, ‘he’ or something at this point. Just use a very, you know, specific pronoun, just to be okay. It’s that character. But because I’m doing it… a lot of stuff I write is done from different perspectives, or done from… means that at some point I’ve generally included the name to remind myself who following and what we’re on. Which means the name’s sort of necessary but yeah, it just keeps happening. It’s just that early design thing to, you know, towards the end.
Sarah: In the last chapter that Ashley sent me, she hadn’t decided on the names of these two characters. And so she kind of named to them, ‘xxx’ and ‘xxxx’ except then, the x’s would differ in the amount of x’s. And I got to this point, I was like, hang on a second. This person died, is that the person that I was thinking of? And then I was like, oh no that was the other person, well that’s okay then. Very confused for a second.
Ashley: That’s fair enough.
Sarah: I think you’re going to have to name those people when we get to editing point because I don’t want to accidentally name one, the wrong one.
Ashley: That’s fine. Well, I couldn’t think of names for them. And in the previous, in my previous chapter, I had to create like twenty characters and I have to be honest, I just had enough of creating characters. I had a whole page, and I had to… anyways, I’m not creating more characters. I’m not naming them. I just can’t be bothered right now. I’m just gonna leave them as is.
Sarah: I always put underscores, like multiple underscores, just a like, blank line. And then carry on.
Jamez: I was just gonna say one of my favorite things in a few works I like, are cases where the characters are just entirely unnamed. Like I don’t know if either of you have seen the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling.
Jamez: No? I’d suggest watching it. Tiny bit violent, tiny bit, but mostly fine. But throughout that, they… Ryan Gosling plays the main character, and the characters are never given a name. And so anyone referring to the characters like within outside of the—because it’s based on a book—but anyone referring to the character, talking about the movie, just call him ‘the driver’. And it’s the same, there’s a video game loosely inspired on that, Hotline Miami, and within that same thing that the main character is never named. And so, and none of the characters, none of the main characters in that game are named, and so people needing to refer to it, especially if talking about the game to other people or trying to say, on this level with this character. So they started to just name them after attributes. Like the main character became ‘jacket’. Because he’s wearing a jacket. And another character came ‘biker’ because he rides a motorbike. Because without giving—people need to refer to them somehow—but without being given a name at all by the by the author or creator, they just like, er… so we have these weird nicknames from the community, which sort of come… which end up sort of largely becoming the name for it because there’s nothing else.
Sarah: You have to think that, like maybe they were hoping that would eventually happen, that just this amazing name develops out of thin air.
Jamez: Which again goes back to that stereotype thing, you know, you just create a character that’s like the typical Jock, or the typical nerd or something and don’t ever give them a name. And the people are watching the movie or whatever, they’ll probably be like, oh, the nerd. Maybe they might, you know, give him a name like, ‘Neil the nerd’ or something just as like a… there you go. Didn’t have to come up with a… they did it for me.
Sarah: Neil the nerd.
Jamez: Just give them a stereotype, fill in the rest
Sarah: So I think we should probably round this up. Is there anything else that you sort of wanted to cover that we haven’t already or?
Jamez: I did just think of something I would like to bring up out of curiosity.
Jamez: Just in terms of just something I find interesting. As I said, it’s… you don’t know what other people’s processes are like without talking to them. So um, just sort of the whole creative process in general, how do, how do you girls find in terms of getting ideas or in terms of, say, you need to come up with the character or you’re working on, like the next part of the plot. And how do you girls deal with sort of that, finding that inspiration or getting those ideas when you’re a bit stuck?
Sarah: I think the last one that we did, we started with how… we almost used the plotline more for the last one, although I know a lot of people do it the other way around, where they’ll use a character to create the plotline, but we kind of had a look at the plotline and we were like, well, if he’s going through this, what do we want him to have learned by the end of the plotline? And we almost worked backwards from that to work out how he’d be at the start, if that makes any sense. Yeah. So then we started thinking, well, what sort of traits, to end up with like traits that’s, I guess, well not opposite, but like…
Ashley: Sort of more likeable.
Jamez: That would develop into it.
Sarah: Yeah. Just have developed the character to a point where he’s more likable and making better decisions. Like, what sort of character would we have at the start to, to sort of start him along that journey of self-discovery. And yeah, we came up with this character and then the supporting characters, it becomes a question of… I feel like in supporting characters you almost need like pieces of the main character reflected in them so that you can kind of bring it together and then see sort of contrasting journeys or, like one of our characters is on a very similar journey to our protagonist, but then, like he’s going to end up going, making the wrong choices when our character, hopefully at the end going to begin making some right decisions. So. What would you say Ashley?
Ashley: No, I’d agree, we definitely had the plotline that we wanted first, and our characters were quite flexible as to who they were and what they were like, except a few are based on historical figures. So we were limited slightly by obviously choices that they did make in the past. So we then had to create characters around that which I don’t know, Jamez, have we told you we’re working on our new historical fiction book? I’m not sure if I’ve shared it to you since then.
Jamez: No, I’ve not heard this.
Ashley: I was suddenly like, you might be confused. We finished the teen fiction one. We’re just having a little bit of a break from that the moment, and are working on an adult fiction, which is historical fiction. Hence why we already had the sort of plotline that we wanted. And then had to fit characters into it, that basically helped push that plotline along.
Sarah: I think that’s a difference with historical fiction as well is that, because you do have specific events that are happening within your book, then you kind of need to use those events in a way that if you’re—especially if you’re adding a totally fictional character into those events—you have to use the events to along the characters journey and think about how that’s going to shape their personality.
Jamez: Yeah no, definitely. Sort of works as, as I was saying earlier with the anchor points and that, sort of works us back to, sort of help pull the type of characters you’re writing and that into it.
Ashley: Our teen fiction one was kind of a mix, I would say. We had the characters.
Sarah: Yeah, I feel like it was more character driven from the beginning that one.
Ashley: We made the characters before we even had a plot, I think.
Ashley: And then sort of would come up with… well we’d have original plot ideas and then we’d find the characters didn’t approve of them and we couldn’t force them to do certain things. So we’d have to change it. So that one was definitely more character driven. Hopefully this one will come across character driven once we’ve written it. sold.
Sarah: Yes, yeah.
Ashley: But we’ll see. Hopefully, things don’t yeah, aren’t just happening to our character. I’d like to make it come across that, you know, he’s involved in it and making things happen, even though it was planned out the opposite way.
Sarah: Yes, yeah.
Jamez: I think the main thing is that you’re aware of it, right.
Ashley: Yeah yeah
Jamez: Like you’re thinking that, which means that this less chance that it’s going to happen. As apposed to being pretty much finished the book and then being like, oh no, I’ve just realized that the character might not be involved.
Ashley: No, yes. We’re aware of that. I don’t think it will happen, but no it’s good. I’ve been enjoying writing this um, a different type of writing to what I’m used to. And I’ve been enjoying it, for the most part.
Sarah: It’s had its challenges so far, but we’re getting there.
Ashley: We’re getting… yeah we’re building up our word count slowly but surely. Alrighty, should I wrap this up Sarah?
Ashley: Actually, before we wrap it up, Jamez, is there any way people can get ahold of you if they want to chat about video games, your interesting narrative structures or you know anything, really?
Jamez: By default, not really. I’m these days and absolute recluse. And I live in a cave, for all intents purposes. So I’m going to use the cop out answer and just say that people can get in touch with me, they can get in touch with Linderson Creations.
Sarah: That works, that works.
Ashley: If anyone has any questions for Jamez, you can either ask us on Instagram, or on our website at www.lindersoncreations.com. Our Instagram handle is also @lindersoncreations, so we shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Sarah: Or Facebook.
Ashley: Or Facebook. Yeah. And we can we can put you in touch with Jamez, or get him to answer your question for you.
Sarah: Thanks Jamez for being on the podcast with us today, we’ve really enjoyed it. We covered a lot of very interesting topics. I’m just gonna explain how people can be on the author spotlight. So we did explain this last time, there is a link on Linderson Creations under the podcast. There should be a drop-down menu, and it should be up now. So if you would like to be featured on Dear Writer, then go have a look at that. And what are we talking about next time, Ashley?
Ashley: So, next time, it’s the next episode of Talking Shop miniseries, where we’re gonna be chatting about the books and podcasts that we’re currently reading slash listening to, and how that’s helping us in our writing journey. So I hope everyone has a really good rest of your week and happy writing everyone!
Leave A Comment