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Cole Parker

Ideas

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Who are you talking to, Cole?

The whole community?

I don't get ideas, but sometimes I feel the need to release a section of me, myself, my innards, and then write a short story about my experience, while slightly enhancing it for literary purposes.

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This question is hard to answer mainly because I get ideas from everywhere/everything/everyone.

For my story So Called Chaos, I wanted to write a light hearted tale about two boys trying very hard to find some alone time so they could get off. This idea came because a friend and I were trying really hard to finish a serious conversation in a bar where we kept getting interrupted by people I knew. Each time we were interrupted, it took a bit longer for us to return to that place of seriousness. Later that night, I began toying with the idea that if I was that frustrated with all the interruptions and the guy was only a friend, how much worse would it be if two closeted gay boys kept trying to find a place to have sex and couldn't because of friends, parents, and crushed-crazed cheerleaders.

But for my other story, A Moment of Clarity, I got the idea after playing the video game Max Payne. There is a part of the story, a dream sequence, that inspired the opening paragraphs of that story.

It was cold, cold as a witch?s heart. Snow was falling, and by the looks of it, it didn?t have any plans on stopping anytime soon. The world was askew. The colors were reversed, like some kind of madman?s painting, blues replaced by a milky-gray color that sucked the warmth from the very sun. The earth was one big ball of varying shades of gray. Much like an old black and white movie, its picture scratched and faded. That was the world: faded.

Time seemed to move slowly, like a bad imitation of the movie Matrix. Time slowing as objects showed velocity in a perverted world where relativity ceased to exist. Shock waves followed the icy daggers as they plummeted to the gray world. Gray upon gray, fading into nothing. Colors of varying nothingness that inverted into colors of varying nausea.

Time had ended, and all that was left was the cancerous afterbirth of an aborted dream of God. Black as night inside a coffin was the color of God. God was dead; the great leveler of chaos had decided to reign. Black inside of black until only the diseased mind of color existed. Take black from black, and all that is left is nothingness. A world of nothing creates a backlash, and a vacuum of nothingness ensues.

The story changed into one man's struggle to come to terms with his gayness and his faith in God. But the main idea was just to write a cool paragraph in honor of a game.

And when it comes to my poetry, I get ideas from songs, sometimes I become inspired by themes, and sometimes I take a page out of my life and offer it up for everyone to read.

Jason R.

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I got the idea to first start writing when I was fresh out of high school. I discovered Nifty, read a few stories, and thought "Hey, I could do that." At the time, I was fresh out of highschool, jobless, and broke, and spent most of the day hanging out by some train tracks in the woods, juggling. From there, I got the idea to write L&L - a story involving a gay kid who hangs out by some train tracks in the woods, juggling. I know, it was quite a stretch.

I got the idea for Laika after going to Plan-It-X Fest and being in the mosh pit while Defiance Ohio played. It was such an intense experience - the best pit I've ever been in. Everybody would throw their arms around each other and lean on each other for support during the slow parts, and then take swings and throw elbows at each other during the fast parts. I was loving every minute of it, but at the same time, thinking about how strange this would look to someone on the outside. I figured that a story about a geeky guy getting thrown into the weirdness of the punk scene would make a pretty good story, and just went from there.

Usually, when inspiration strikes, it's either short enough to be a poem or long enough to be a novel. I can never seem to get anything in between. That's why I've only ever written one short story.

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Inspiration is built from inner realisation of experience,

and eventually bursts forth in a burst of creativity.

How we each do that will vary as much as our individual expressions.

Perhaps an example is best to show the process of my inspiration,

but don't ask me to explain it, I can't. I just know, I don't have a choice,

I have to express it, share what I feel.

From the 1969 Moody Blues album, "In Search of the Lost Chord":

Be it sight, sound, smell or touch

There's something inside that means so much

The sight of the touch

Or the scent of the sound

Or the strength of an oak

With roots deep in the ground

The wonder of flowers to be covered

And then to burst up

Through tarmac

To the sun again

Or to fly to the sun

Without burning a wing

To lie in a meadow

And hear the grass sing

To have all these things

In our memories hoard

And to use them

To help us

To find...

These lyrics evoked the following from me in 1970:

Whether it be sight,

sound,

smell,

taste,

or touch,

Something else inside Man seeks expression,

Some call it nature.

Some identify with it, the Universe,

There are those who seek to ignore it,

Suppress it,

Or laugh at it,

Try to imagine it,

And build a world of illusion.

Today (in 2007) I would add,

But illusion denied,

Gains insight,

Of truth,

Even in pain,

Of life,

To reveal,

Loving human goodness,

Is Love unbound,

And for each of us to find...

Edit: addition: And of course I must acknowledge that Cole asking this question of us, motivated me to write the above. Question, question everything. So important. So liberating, frightening and inspiring. :icon11:

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As with WBMS, I don't get ideas, ideas come to me.

New Brother was inspired by a scene I read in one of Drake's novels. In it, the lead character was reflecting on how he had lost two friends when he came out -- one because he came out and one because he hadn't told them earlier (saying it implied he didn't trust them). That started me thinking about how coming out can affect those around the gay person, and New Brother was the result.

Falls Creek Lessons started as an exercise in trying to use browser technology for more than just showing a page of text. It was also partially inspired by the interactive Steve Jackson book games that were around when I went through university. The original idea was a group of people in a car on a trip somewhere, and to have a 'thread' for each person. That turned out to be impractical (the person I showed it to said there was too much repetition of the same scene from different points of view), so I compromised. After working out what I wanted to do with the technology, I then concentrated on the story itself, which is really just a simple love story.

I'm not completely sure about the inspiration for Heart of The Tree but I think the idea came to me when I was thinking (for some strange reason) about the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and it's reputed powers.

As for my short stories -- I just try to keep my mind open for inspiration. The ideas just come to me from time to time. Sometimes I have to force the idea, if it's for an anthology for example, but otherwise inspiration just hits.

A few examples:

The idea for Horror Movie came to me while I was watching a show about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. The comment was made how she inspired a whole generation of horror stories/movies, and it got me thinking about what would be an original monster today? I don't think I succeeded with originality, but I ended up with an interesting monster anyway :P

The idea for The Gift came to me from a TV hospital drama, where two children (a boy and a girl) were admitted after swallowing various drugs. Their kidneys were failing. The distraught father offered to donate one of his kidneys, and was then asked which child he wanted them to try to save....

The idea for What Do I Say? came to me when I was thinking about parents who were struggling to cope with a gay child, but wanting to do the right thing, and what was the next step after their son had come out.

The idea for The Rainy Day started when I thought about how many stories show rich families, and what would it be like to come out when you're really poor. I wanted to show someone who was so poor that their sexuality wasn't the most important thing in their life. The funny thing is that as I wrote the story, the issue of sexuality got dropped completely :icon11:

The idea for Trick or Treat? came as I wondered about the abilities and skills of a modern ghost.

The idea for Black Swans was a deliberate attempt to try to write a story that had more than one level. I picked a cycle of seasons, both literally and metaphorically -- in that a person's life has seasons (young, adult, middle aged, old) as do relationships.

I just try to be open to new ideas that might pop into my head at any time, triggered by something around me or just a stray thought.

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Just now, as I was readng Rad Steven's blog, where he frets about the prospect of having to cut his hair for a crappy phone center job. While I was commenting on his blog, I suddenly remembered a time when I cut my hair. Which gave me an idea about a story that I began outlining tonight. So included in everything I said earlier, I also get inspiration from Rad Steven's blog.

Jason R.

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I'll add my two thoughts worth, based on the works that I've written and am writing.

The first is a "what if" course. What if I had stayed? What if I had not gone? etc. Themes that represent a different major decision in the author's life can be spun into a tale. In my Jake's Hand, for example, part of the opening scene happened to me, though in a different place and a slightly different time. The incident with the hand happened, but I never saw "Jake" again after that summer, and I always wondered what would have happened had I responded differenty--until I decided to use my musings as the basis for a novel.

[A wonderful example of the what-if theme is the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow.]

The source for the inspiration of my current novel, Palouse, came from a newspaper feature story. The original story is detailed over at GA in Rec's Forum--my pen name's forum. In short, it was a series of articles about a mixed-race, child-prodigy cellist adopted into an Eastern Oregon farm family. He had everything going for him--working with Yo Yo Ma, playing at Isaac Stern's (the great violinist's) birthday party, being invited to perform with Bill Cosby, being invited to solo with the Oregon Symphony--until he broke down, became angry at the world and abandoned a stellar career potential--at least, to date. There were lots of potential themes in this true story. In my fictionalized version, I've changed the place, the musical instrument, and the racial origin. More importantly, I'm introducing a gay theme that was never even hinted at in the newspaper story.

Besides the "what if" and newspaper/magazine sources, an author can use a classic work like Romeo and Juliet, as Mark Roader has done in his first novel, and change its underlying theme. Or, you can take a character out of a play, book or movie and build a story around him or her (or him and him or her and her).

[John Updike did a wonderful such job with the novel Gertrude and Claudius, two characters in Hamlet.]

vwl, aka rec

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Story ideas can come from anywhere and where a specific idea comes from depends on the type of story you wish to write. For example, if you wish your story to be a social commentary you will find the news media and your interactions with others a fruitful source for such ideas. If you see a news story in which the actions of people disgusts you, write a story in which you explore the subject. Do the same if you come across something you think praiseworthy. You can use your protagonist to demonstrate why the action is good or bad in your opinion.

If your story is written simply to entertain, then other sources will likely be more fruitful. Perhaps a "what if" idea would work better for this type of story. According to Larry King, most of his stories are written that way. In his book, "On Writing," he states that he frequently writes a story by setting up an opening scene and then writing a story to show how his characters act and react to the conditions set up in that scene. What if ideas can frequently be found by examining how you or others acted during a given event and can be used to explore how it might have been had you/they handled that event in a different manner. Ideas for this type of story can also come from reading what others have written. Perhaps you have read a story in which you think the author did a poor job of addressing his subject, or there was a place in his story where you think it would be interesting to explore some point he made obliquely.

As I see it, it is not that there is a lack of story ideas, but rather than many of those ideas don't excite us enough to where we feel the need to write about them. I can read any newspaper and find many ideas that, for the right person, would result in a good story, but for me, no. I'm not passionate enough about them to give them their just due. And I can do the same by skimming through Nifty and other sites looking for stories in which I think the author did a poor job of handling his subject material story wise, but again, unless the subject excites me (and I don't mean sexually excited) I will not bother to write about it.

As to how long a story should be, that depends on how much you have to say about the subject, and that frequently is directly proportional to how you feel about the subject. If you wish to make a single point about something, a short story is usually sufficient to do so. However, you may wish to explore the subject in detail and write more on it resulting in a novella or even up to a series of novel length works in your attempt to cover a given subject. Also, the more abstract the point you wish to make, the longer the story needed to convey it. Exploration of nuances of your point will also require additional story length. That is not to say you can not cover a lot in a short story, but you will need to do a good job of editing it down in order to do so.

So my thought is that there is no shortage of story ideas, only a shortage of ideas for a given author that excite that author enough to make him feel the need to write a story. If you can read a newspaper and not see any story ideas, you are not paying attention or do not have much imagination. The ideas don't have to come from the front page and could come from the sports section or the comics, or even the ads. I've read ads that made me wonder what kind of person paid to have them in the paper. I'll concede that the ads are not normally a good source of ideas, but there are some in them. The same holds true with your life experiences and the experiences of people you know.

Will all those ideas produce good stories? That depends on how the author handles them and not on the idea. You can take a very trite idea and make a good story out of it and you can take a good idea and make a trite and uninteresting story of it. Two of my favorite stories are rather simple, yet I find them enjoyable. Those two are Grasshopper's "Just Hit Send," and Driver's "Falling Off a Log." Neither is earth shaking, but both are very entertaining. I'll also confess to liking Gary Q's stories in spite of the numerous grammar and spelling errors. None of the ideas or concepts presented in those stories were particularly novel, but each story presented its ideas in a delightful and engaging manner. In short, a good author can make any topic interesting and a poor author will be boring no matter what the topic. All good fiction depends not on the quality of the plot, but on the quality of the writing.

So there you have my thoughts on the subject.

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As so many have said previously, for me, almost anything can't plant a seed for a story. I write a lot of what I call vignettes. They are created when an odd thought pops into this cranium and I embellish. They are usually only two or three pages long. Don't know what to do with them really as in a sense they are just imagination gone wild. A great exercise I believe to keep the mind alert and the creative juices flowing.

As an example, when I first joined AD and posted a query regarding acknowledging editors one of the responses sparked me to write a small piece--three pages. It is about making 'assumptions.'

I have a file folder of seeds that are waiting to evolve into a story. If 'one-of-these-days' evercomes they too may find there way here as a full blown story. That is what happened with One Moonlit Night. I wrote, correction, I started to write 1MLN many moons ago. I was having a garage sale and ran across it in a folder and said to myself, "Self, why don't you finish this damn thing." I knew how I wanted it to end and also some things I wanted to include. Everything else was built around these.

Maybe I should start a whole new topic on this, but does anyone else get invested emotionally in the characters they create and write about? I, in one of my stories, actually prolonged the story as I couldn't bring myself to kill off one of the characters--I liked him too much.

It's scary sometimes to be in this mind of mine.

--Steven Keiths

If you can't laugh at yourself; you're probably not funny.

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That made me laugh. I assume that was not what you intended :)

If he did mean it, then I suspect we have a genius amongst us. :hehe:

I seem to be the odd man out (again). My characters are not something I get involved with at a personal level outside the confines of the story.

Finding their emotions and characteristics for the purposes of the plot can very emotional for me and leave me drained, even depressed.

But I cannot say I like or love a character I have created. I have found myself remembering how much I like or loathe a person on whom I base a character, but the characters themselves, poor things, are innocent figments of my imagination, whom I hope will inspire my readers to love or hate as appropriate, as if they are real people.

Of course I might like a character in my story, but it is more along the lines of how well they work within the story.

I guess I am far too objective.

Woe is me.

Why can't I love my characters?

:icon11:

Perhaps I need therapy. :icon11:

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I find that I feel the most inspired when I'm depressed. I don't really get inspired by people/places/phrases... but I'll say that even though they're not what 'trigger' the process, they do help.

I wrote 'Train' when I was depressed. I wrote Silent Hearts when I was depressed. I wrote Silence when I was anxious. I wrote Wicked Possessions when I was confused/depressed/angry/anxious. I do seem like a big, bipolar mess, don't I?

I'm happy most of the time, though not happy enough to feel 'inspired' to write anything. I guess I do art in general when my sensibilities are most... distraught? haha

I have never completed a novel-length story. I have two on hold, because I pretty much lost grasp of whatever feeling I had while (oh god, I almost typed 'whilst' in there) writing them. I find it so much easier to write sequels to my short stories... only because they're short enough to completely exploit whatever chemicals are flowing through me before my muse extirpates them ^_^.

Oh... and I never decide what I'm going to write about before I finish off the first paragraph. I just let my mind work itself on paper/wordsheet. Even for anthology entries, I almost always end up not thinking about the plot up until the second half. Whoopsie.

Maddy

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Where do your story ideas come from?

What determines whether it's going to be a short story, a serialized novel-length story, or something else, like an anthology?

C

I've always liked writing, but never thought about it seriously until the Anthology at GA in spring of 2006, when I wrote 'JJ and the Boys.' I carried on from there. In the main I write short stories, and some of those less than 2000 words. Shorts are great because that's it, and you're not obliged to carry on - unless you're writing a string of them.

'Seraph'- my only serial - has one chapter left to go ... but as my muse has taken a leave of absence from it I'm stuck.

'Harvest Time' (NaNoWriMo 2007) is probably the best thing I've written (no hubris intended) but it's not finished yet, and I'm terrified of the amount of work involved in editing it.

As to ideas, I have not the vaguest. I'm a 'pantser', so I start and see where it takes me. I really REALLY wanted to plan the last NaNo - have a written outline, know my characters etc, etc ... But I never have been able to plan, no matter how much easier it would be if I did.

That's me.

Camy

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Where do your story ideas come from?

What determines whether it's going to be a short story, a serialized novel-length story, or something else, like an anthology?

Might as well jump in and join the friendly fray.

Once I decided to write my first full-length story - Splash in the Pool - in Spring, 2005 I drew on an experience that had happened early in my adult life. The rest was just nurturing a fantasy that had been dormant all this time. I was off and running.

A long career in the hotel/restaurant business has given me access to close-up observations of many people - hundreds per day - in a variety of situations. And, because I worked in an industry where movement from locale to another is quite the norm, I was able to know several cities very well.

For me, the basis of a story is drawn on life experiences. I sit down and work through a series of "what if's" when I decide to create and write. Then, I establish point A and point Z. Like several others, I accept that the characters and story lines take on a life of their own and don't plan too far in advance. I just go with the flow, fill in the space between the two points and attempt to present an interesting and original tale. I'll let the reader decide what is 90% fiction and where my real life is exposed.

I won't go into the other writing disciplines on this forum. Just know this 'old fart' has several more story ideas to roll out.

Jack :brooding:

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Mostly from past experiences, daydreams, stuff :P

but I write in western settings tho I've never been out of my country so I borrow a lot from my stock knowledge gained through being a eating books. :P Chomp Chomp. I've eaten almost three libraries growing up! (Godzilla was my grandfather) Also from teevee, the net, and most importantly movies, so I can make the settings actually feel genuine.

Hmmm... I also write with some music in the background. I've got some story ideas from songs, dunno If I'll ever get to write them. Sometimes I wish the reader could read the story with the same songs I've been listening to playing at the same time. LOL. So they could appreciate the mood better. ;P

For personalities I sometimes take it from real people I know. Sometimes from books. Sometimes from movies. etc.

Last saturday I just finished another story. The inspiration came from waking up to heavy rain outside my window. Heh. :P

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My ideas come from many different sources, in order of most-often-happening first.

  1. Something that just comes to me when I'm walking or hiking or just daydreaming
  2. A suggestion, like a writing project or anthology or request for stories
  3. Something I've read in a newspaper, a magazine, a book, on the web
  4. Something I see on TV or in a movie
  5. Some event that I've been involved in
  6. Something someone says, either to me or that I've overheard
  7. Someone I see, whether I know them or not
  8. A dream (though not often because I almost never remember my dreams; IMO this is something that's unfortunate for a writer)

...I seem to be the odd man out (again). My characters are not something I get involved with at a personal level outside the confines of the story...

Woe is me.

Why can't I love my characters?

:wav:

Perhaps I need therapy. :icon1:

I find that when I'm writing some of my characters take on a life of their own, they make me -- force me -- to change how I'm writing about them, they insist that I write them as they want to be written. An example is Patrice in my story Escaping Katrina. As I began writing her (very few) lines in her (unimportant) part of the story, she grabbed me by the short hairs and forced me to make her a much more important character, and in part a comic relief (something that I'd never planned to have in the story). I found this to be an amazing situation. Another thing about Patrice is that I really love her. She's one of my favorite characters in any of the stories I've written. Yes, I know that it was some process in my brain that caused this character to change so drastically, but I kept wondering afterwards "WTF has just happened??" I still wonder where how I wrote her really came from. This same thing has happened to me in other stories since then. I find this an amazing part of the writing process.

Colin :wav:

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My ideas come from many different sources, in order of most-often-happening first.

[*]A dream (though not often because I almost never remember my dreams; IMO this is something that's unfortunate for a writer)

Colin :icon1:

Don't feel disadvantaged by this. I have found, through extensive personal experience, that story lines that seem superb in dreams, rarely are in the harsh light of day. In dreams, unreality makes no difference. But when you're writing stories, as you know, things have to make sense, have to be logical, and you can't overlook the craziness that is of no concern in dreams. Lying half asleep, you think you have a marvelous story to flesh out. Sit down at the computer, and it looks just as silly and undoable as it really is.

So don't sweat it. You're dreams are probably all filled with lustful indulgences, anyway, and not the stuff of a good, Colinesque story.

C

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Don't feel disadvantaged by this. I have found, through extensive personal experience, that story lines that seem superb in dreams, rarely are in the harsh light of day. In dreams, unreality makes no difference. But when you're writing stories, as you know, things have to make sense, have to be logical, and you can't overlook the craziness that is of no concern in dreams. Lying half asleep, you think you have a marvelous story to flesh out. Sit down at the computer, and it looks just as silly and undoable as it really is.

So don't sweat it. Your dreams are probably all filled with lustful indulgences, anyway, and not the stuff of a good, Colinesque story.

C

OMG! Dreams filled with lustful indulgences? Now I really want to remember my dreams! Damn!! :bunny:

Colin :icon_geek:

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OMG! Dreams filled with lustful indulgences? Now I really want to remember my dreams! Damn!! :bunny:

Colin :icon_geek:

An excellent trick we hippies used, was to say to yourself over and over, as you wait to fall asleep,

"I will remember my dreams, I will remember my dreams,"

This can be aided by keeping a pad and Biro alongside the bed to write down anything you remember when wake up.

On the plus side it does allow you to find the motivation for many of the thoughts and origins of your waking reasoning. The joys of your own reasoning and existence may be revealed.

WARNING!

The down side to doing this is that you must be prepared for remembering some of the horrors, the monsters that lurk in your id.

(id (psychoanalysis): primitive instincts and energies underlying all psychic activity.}

See the movie "Forbidden Planet" which used the "id" in its plot, most effectively.

Sweet dreams! :hehe:

Yes you will remember those too. :wink::lol:

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Des:

I saw Forbidden Planet when I was a kid. Wonderful movie that I remember still today.

I happened to see it again a few years ago and it was much dated and didn't have nearly the impact. Shows how credible young kids are, and how the visual images of movies can affect them to a much greater degree than adults.

Still, that was a great movie for its time, and I do remember the vivid discussion of the powers of the id.

C

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Des:

I saw Forbidden Planet when I was a kid. Wonderful movie that I remember still today.

I happened to see it again a few years ago and it was much dated and didn't have nearly the impact. Shows how credible young kids are, and how the visual images of movies can affect them to a much greater degree than adults.

Still, that was a great movie for its time, and I do remember the vivid discussion of the powers of the id.

C

Cole, Forbidden Planet is not as badly dated as you think. My powers as a cinema projectionist tell me that the first time you saw 'Forbidden Planet', would probably have been in a cinema and possibly with stereophonic sound. (It was MGM's first foray into stereo and they made quite a fuss over it with an introductory short film on how stereophonic sound was changing the movies, using examples from Forbidden Planet).

I bet the second time you saw it was on a TV set, or in a less than adequate "modern" cinema minus the stereo sound. On a TV set the movie fails to have the same impact because it was designed to be seen on a large screen in CinemaScope with all enveloping stereo sound.

The story was an adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". The music was the first time electronic 'Musique concr?te' was used as the sole soundtrack for a movie and has to be quite loud to aid the visuals and was certainly the forerunner for scores like Vangelis' score for 'Blade Runner"

Apart from the fact that you were young and impressionable (as I was) when you first saw it, the fact remains that MGM had taken a first step in an attempt to making a serious psychological sci-fi movie, without which I doubt very much we would have had Star Trek, Star Wars or perhaps even Kubrick's 2001 and Blade Runner.

Forbidden Planet's influence was astounding for its period when most sci-fi movies were little more than cardboard mock-ups of condescending adults making a "kiddies' outer space film" for a quick buck.

You would probably have to go back to H. G. Wells' "Things to Come"(1936), to find a sci-fi film with a similar impact on the audience of its day, (with it's fabulous score by Sir Arthur Bliss.)

Forbidden Planet looks dated to us today, not so much because of its art visuals but because of its script dialogue, which was par for the course fifties writing for movies.

Without actors like Leslie Neilson and Walter Pidgeon, (wooden as they were), the movie would have had to rely entirely on Robby the Robot for actor interest.

The way we see a movie is the way we experience it and thus, come to understand it. Most modern film-makers have no understanding of that statement.

Film class dismissed. :icon_geek::bunny:

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