Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Vacations are for Nerds

This week, my wife and I are on vacation. As a matter of fact, we're in Seattle! Seattle is home to some awesome museums, including the EMP, which at this moment is featuring a Star Wars costume exhibit.

Needless to say, I spent a good deal of time there, looking around, reading all the placards, absorbing every piece of information I could find. And I learned something about the visual impact of well-crafted costumes: they're just as important as casting and dialogue.

Think about the Jedi robes. The simplicity of them, the way the under-robes cross like opulent silk in a samurai's kimono. Remember the first time you saw Obi Wan with his lightsaber? How awesome that was, and how humbly powerful he turned out to be? Would it have been the same if he wore Han Solo's clothes? Of course not!

This is something writers need to think about, too. Word choice and physical descriptions are to the reader what costumes are to a movie-goer. If we describe a dark cowboy with boots as black as night, there are choices we can make with the description. "His spurs shine with pure silver, a tin star pinned to the collar of his duster. The tip of a toothpick pokes out from the corner of his mouth, and the hint of a smile wrinkles his five-o'clock shadow. He knows a crook's going to hang at noon, and the dark cloud of death is outshined by the glory of justice in his town."

But if we change it to: "A red silk shirt so deep it looks almost black. His vest, heavy as the night, fits him so perfectly he couldn't possibly be a creature of daylight. Coal mines shine more brightly than his boots, and if he wore spurs, they would only disappear in the empty void of his horse's coat. To say that shadow covered the man is to say that light tried to shine on him. But if ever the light feared a mortal, this would be him."

Two different descriptions, almost completely physical, but more is said about their personality through the description than pages of pontification on their inner thoughts. This is something that came out clear in my mind when I looked at the amazing Star Wars exhibit at the EMP Museum.

On a nerdier note (yes, nerdier than an hour spent drooling over Star Wars costumes!), I got to see a first edition D&D Handbook! An entire feature on Fantasy takes up part of the museum, and since that's one of my first loves, I enjoyed every second of it. Pages form the original Sword of Shanara and one of Paolini's manuscripts sent chills through me. Plus a copy of the unauthorized paperback of Fellowship of the Ring. That one gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's awesome to see. But as a creator, I still feel indignant on behalf of the author because someone so brashly stole from him.

Anyway, I can tell I'm rambling, which is fine because I'm on vacation. But I'll be back in the "office" on Tuesday. There may or may not be more stories from my journey, but there WILL be discussions on tropes, nerdery, and creativity.

There are amazing creations in the world, and Star Wars may be one of Giles' favorite. The ONE thing he wanted to see in Seattle was that exhibit. It makes him all kinds of happy to read and understand the choices made by the creators of his childhood fantasy world.

And it inspires him to create worlds that are just as vivid.

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