Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snow Dogs And Happily Ever After

Before we discuss a possible format for an Alien Romance complete with HEA, here's my speaking schedule for Westercon ( http://www.westercon.org/ fiestacon this year in Tempe, AZ.)

LIT/MED-What Universe Are You In? Fri 10a-11a, Palm E room

w/ Jacqueline Lichtenberg (moderator), Dani Kollin, Etyan Kollin, Janice Tuerff

LIT-How Are Small Presses Fri 11a-noon, Palm E room

w/ Jacqueline Lichtenberg (moderator), Adam Niswander, Michael D’Ambrosio

MED-Star Trek Movie Review Fri 2p-3p, Palm F room

w/David A. Williams (moderator), Alan Dean Foster

LIT-It Was A Dark & Stormy Night Fri 4p-5p, Abbey South

w/ Jacqueline Lichtenberg (moderator), Kevin Andrew Murphy, Moira Greyland,
Shirley Runyon

AUTOGRAPHING Fri 5p-6p, Dealers Room

LIT-Writer’s Support Groups Sun 11a-noon, Boardroom

w/ Jacqueline Lichtenberg (moderator), Rick Novy, Dennis McKiernan

FAN-Effect of Web on Fanzines Sun noon-1p, Jokake room

w/John Hertz (moderator)

FAN-SF/F Websites Sun 2p-3p, Augustine

w/ Jacqueline Lichtenberg (moderator), Lee Gilliland, Lee Whiteside

And on another note which is actually in the same key:

I picked up on Twitter and "Re-tweeted" (relayed to my followers)
LIKE SO: RT @victoriastrauss Should bookstores be publishers? http://tinyurl.com/mrdatl

Twitter makes these tiny-urls for you when you post a long url and there are several companies now that make condensed URLs.

So Victoria Strauss found an article by Literary Agent Richard Curtis on whether bookstores SHOULD be publishers. Here's a quote from the article she found.

As if all that were not enough, Amazon has now become a publisher, too. First, there's its Encore program "whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon.com Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers."

http://www.ereads.com/2009/06/should-bookstores-be-publishers-too.html is the blog.

Victoria Strauss also found announcements of other closings in publishing, and coincidentally I'm on a panel at Westercon about small "presses" (which is today a misnomer; it's small publishers, and I suspect one day every blogger will be considered a small publisher.)

To keep up on interesting developments I come across this way, just "follow" me on twitter. http://twitter.com/JLichtenberg look at my profile to find all my tweets.


OK, so back to researching the future of Romance on page and screen by scrutinizing and analyzing old movies.

I saw a 2002 Disney movie titled SNOW DOGS and just couldn't resist transposing it into an Alien Romance as I watched it. It is soooo SF-Romance!

Snow Dogs with Comedy, Drama, a clean family style, Nichelle Nichols for a treat, and starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn Director: Brian Levant. You can still get the DVD on Amazon.

If you've been following how I've been developing the Alien Romance potential for TV and film, and you happen to have seen this "family" movie, you'll know what's coming here. It's really irresistible.

Here's the IMDB link to all about this movie.

Here's the Product Description from Amazon:

-----------quoted from Amazon---------------
Make no bones about it -- Disney's SNOW DOGS is a hilarious action-packed comedy your whole family will love. Eight adorable but mischievous dogs get the best of dog hater Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) when he leaves his successful Miami Beach dental practice for the wilds of Alaska to claim his inheritance -- seven Siberian huskies and a border collie -- and discover his roots. As Ted's life goes to the dogs, he rises to the occasion and vows to learn to mush with his inheritance. Totally out of his element, he faces challenges he's never dreamed of. There's a blizzard, thin ice, an intimidating crusty old mountain man named Thunder Jack (James Coburn), the Arctic Challenge Sled Dog Race that's only two weeks away, and a life-and-death rescue. This fish-out-of water, tail-wagging comedy is nothing but doggone good fun and a celebration of family -- both human and canine!
-------------end Amazon Quote---------------

Compare that description to SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES and find the category it belongs to. (more on that later -- think it out for yourself first.)

Now substitute "Earth" for Miami Beach and "Alien Planet" for Alaska.

Notice the description has left out the ROMANCE which is the B-story in this film as written.

That's a lesson for all writers -- THIS is how you generate and pitch a Concept. THIS is how you "outline" a story you're going to write. Watch the movie, then read that description again. It hits the exact plot-points you need to put in your outline before you write and be sure that you build up to each plot point. All the B-story is support for the A-story and does not belong in the initial outline or Concept, but is generated by that concept.

Novel writers don't learn to do the sequence in this direction, or haven't until recently. Read that blog post by Agent Richard Curtis, think about how marketing has changed.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/05/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html is a blog where I discussed modern marketing.

The novels that get the promotion, the novels that you as an author would find easiest TO PROMOTE, the novels that sell, the novels that attract busy reader's attention -- those novels today resemble games, films, and TV shows more and more.

Market structures have always been morphing, and every generation puts its own stamp on what's popular. But I suspect never in all human history have "markets" (for everything) changed and changed again, 100% replaced in shorter and shorter intervals. This was predicted by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock which I discussed in that blog entry on marketing fiction in a changing world.

This means that never before in human history has there been such an opportunity to overthrow the existing order because the walls between genres are melting and morphing.

Instability like that is a threat in the areas where we have actually got it right -- but in the area of Relationships, I doubt any expert would say that humanity has optimized our ability to establish and hold relationships.

Love is all about relationship -- and it's very hard to get to love without going through Romance (one day we should discuss the astrology behind that).

So let's see what we can do with the example of Snow Dogs to create a template for Alien Romance with broad appeal. A "template" would be a pattern that, if all of us on this blog used to create a screenplay or novel, would generate 7 or more totally original, completely different stories. They wouldn't compete, they would expand a genre.

It would be easy to make the Romance the A-story and transform this movie into an Alien Romance.

So here's a description of Snow Dogs based on the assumption that you know or remember this movie.

In Snow Dogs, the very successful and popular Miami Dentist Ted Brooks (whose mother is played by Nichelle Nichols, the woman who raised him, not his deceased biological mother) is served with a legal notice that he's inherited something in Alaska from his MOTHER and Nichelle Nichols confesses that he was adopted (oh, she's GOOD in this film!).

For more on Nichelle Nichols see my blog post on High Concept:

Thus stressed, Ted Brooks flies to Alaska to be present at the reading of the Will in a tiny out-back town, complete with Bush Pilot who turns out to be his real father.

That's the A-story. Ted, his Miami Beach mother Nichelle Nichols, his Alaskan father who is a white man, his dead biological mother's photo (she was black as Ted is) and her heritage of dogsled racing.

The B-story goes like this: as soon as Ted gets to Alaska, flown into the little town by the Bush Pilot he doesn't know is his father, he meets a WOMAN HIS AGE who takes him out to the house he inherited. He insists he go in alone, so she leaves him. He goes in and meets the friendly Border Collie, then gets attacked by the Alaskan Huskies his deceased mother owned.

Between the Bush Pilot (James Coburn was FANTASTIC in this role!) and the young woman, Ted learns to "mush" and learns the words to command the dogs from his father. She teaches him how to harness the dogs so they'll cooperate.

Then Ted discovers he loves dogsledding, and just as he's really enjoying it, he drives off a cliff and has a (very comic book) slide down a mountainside, gets rescued by the Bush Pilot who takes him to a refuge cave where he confesses Ted was conceived during a dog sled race, but that there was nothing at all between his real mother and the Bush Pilot, and tries to convince Ted that he doesn't care that Ted is his son. (Oh, Coburn is good, but what would you expect?)

Ted goes home to Miami. On TV in Miami, he sees the local annual dogsled race. Nichelle Nichols drops the photo he kept from his biological mother's things which is of Ted's biological mother with her dogsled trophy. The frame breaks revealing a photo tucked behind the trophy photo. This older photo shows his mother with the Bush pilot and newborn Ted. Ted realizes his real father, the Bush Pilot, lied, and he was indeed present at his birth and he did care for his mother, and he cares for Ted too. His real father lied.

So Ted goes back to Alaska and arrives during the race, as a storm is blowing in, just as it did during the dogsled race when he was conceived.

The young woman tells him that his father is lost out on the race course in the storm -- that just as he did that first time, his father has passed by the camp where the racers would wait out the storm, and driven on into the blizzard. After the storm, Ted's father has failed to show up at the finish line with the others.

That kicks off the Act 3 action where Ted takes his sled, his mother's dog team (sans the lead dog which his father took for his team), and finds and rescues his father who has taken refuge in that same cave where Ted was conceived. Bt this time his father has a broken leg. Ted's a Dentist, but he splints the leg nicely. Then it turns out that his mother's lead-dog Demon was in a bad temper because he had a rotten tooth, so Ted pulls the tooth, justifying the whole "Miami Dentist" part of his characterization.

Meanwhile, Ted's Miami mother, Nichelle Nichols, flies to Alaska and the young woman takes gentle care of her as they wait to see if Ted will make it back to town alive.

Of course (this being a Disney movie) Ted and his father make it back to town, Ted almost kisses the young woman in public (being Disney, only almost) and then there's a very quick but moving wrap-up sequence where Ted marries her, establishes his Dental practice in Alaska with his wife as receptionist (now very pregnant), and two of the dogs arrive with puppies following them, and Ted's Dental Assistant from Miami is helping him with patients. And there's a great scene with Coburn and Nichols -- the end-note is TOTAL HEA!!! But the bulk of the plot is comedy-action.

Frankly, the tag-ending providing the HEA (a real tear-jerker) would make a fine novel, all by itself. One part of this story is seen through a magnifying glass (Notice of his biological mother's death all the way through to rescuing his biological father), and the much larger and more complicated part is seen through the wrong end of a telescope. But it works.

Now, if instead of dogsledding there was some non-human skill-set that a human talent would be adaptable to and that talent was substituted for Dentistry, it would work perfectly as an Alien Romance.

Let's say the human is female, and the reason she is pulled off Earth is that tests show she has a gene for being SOMETHING (immune to alien diseases? learning languages? Telepathy?) that makes her valuable on Earth's first-contact team. But she's no astronaut and never dreamed of ever going "out there" just as Ted was happy and successful as a Miami dentist and had no intention of going dog sledding in Alaska.

So Our Heroine goes out there, and has to learn to (SOMETHING ALIEN), and does, and in the process establishes a Relationship with an alien male, just as Ted established a relationship with the Alaskan young woman.

Our Heroine and the Alien Male are the A-story here, and the B-story is her winning some sort of respect from the Earth-Team that has been ordered to take her out-there in spite of her ineptitude because of her talent.

The team returns her to Earth safe and sound but changed by the experience. Something happens on the alien planet, and she muscles her way back to the alien planet (possible only because the B-story characters help) to deal with unfinished business with the Alien Male.

She wins a permanent place on the Alien Planet (as Ted opened his Dentistry office in Alaska) doing what makes her happy with her talent, not necessarily what Earth-gov would prefer her to do.

I'm thinking that a really good setup would be that the Aliens are the "flying saucer" aliens who have been kidnapping kids, and now she has to go there to be the psychological counsellor to those kids and ease them back into Earth society, but proves that's impossible for the kids (they'd be miserable and a disruptive influence). Then she goes back and settles down to take care of the kids who can't be repatriated.

The Alien guy would be someone in charge of settling the matter of the kidnapped Earth kids, maybe someone from a new alien government that ousted the aliens that believed in "studying" humans by kidnapping kids. The new gov't thinks this deed was an attrocity.

That would make a feature film -- and the foundation for a TV series like maybe THE WALTONS IN SPACE? THE KING AND I IN SPACE?

If you get a chance, grab the DVD of Snow Dogs (it's also being rerun on TV) (maybe netflicks has it, or it can be viewed online?) and watch the whole film with the Alien Romance possibilities in mind.

In Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES, check out the category that SNOW DOGS belongs to on the free pdf file:

Snow Dogs is not listed, but I would place it under FOOL TRIUMPHANT in the sub-category FOOL OUT OF WATER (a variant of Fish Out Of Water), which is the category headed by LEGALLY BLONDE. What do you think of that placement? And would that category and its formula lend itself to a platform for an Alien Romance that would have an appeal outside Romance fandom as Star Trek had an appeal outside of SF fandom (mainly to women who wouldn't crack an SF novel if their life depended on it -- those very women who INVENTED Alien Romance in ST 'zines!) ?

Blake Snyder's category depends on the MAIN CHARACTER being a CHARACTER (as in USA CHARACTERS WELCOME) who responds to a challenge with zest, joi de vivre, and the flexibility to learn, making "a fool of herself" in public in the process, and yet triumphing over the learning process in the end.

Note that Crocadile Dundee also belongs to this category. Scrumptious alien male, a fish out of water in Manhattan.

It seems to me that the category lends itself to Alien Romance so smoothly that I think we could see our breakthrough using this type of vehicle.

And as I pointed out, all of us could write the screenplay or novel structured like a screenplay from this template, and not compete with each other for shelf-space.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Wish I could be at that convention and get your autograph, Jacqueline!

    It should come as no surprise that my family loves SNOWDOGS, since we live here in Alaska. Of course, we have to poke fun at the inaccuracies, like the dogs being more 'show' dogs than snowdogs. Real sled dogs are quite different, depending on if they're long distance or sprinters.

    Cuba Gooding, Jr. is hilarious too, one of my favorite actors. And I already looove 'fish out of water' stories. Nichelle was awesome too, beautiful, elegant, and, of course, brilliant.

    But, um, one thing, the Bush Pilot was not Ted's birthfather. The Bush Pilot dude was the justice of the peace who read the will. Ted's birthfather, played brilliantly by James Coburn, was a fellow musher.

    We love the part when Ted arrives in Anchorage, Alaska and transfers to the little Cessna which will take him to Talketna. They proceed to mosey down the runway until the Air Traffic Controller yells, "You better get a move on or you're gonna be a hood ornament on a 747!" And they go straight up, the pilot's laughing, and Ted's screaming.

    Lower 48ers, sheesh!