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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.


A Piece of My Mind
Bennet Pomerantz

We are on a journey to keep an appointment with whatever we are-Gene Roddenberry

With age comes wisdom. I remember I had an experience regarding ideas. I figure I would relay it.

A few years ago, I was a panel guest at a writer's workshop at Rising Star Science Fiction Convention in Roanoke, Virginia. The panel had wonderful People like Mike Allen, Allan Wold and Hal Clement.

On a rest room break, a young woman named Ann came up to me. She introduced herself. After a few minutes of awkward conversation. (You know these stupid questions like "How's the weather? To most they are ice breakers, to me- I'd say look at the window), she suddenly blurted out, "So, where do you get ideas from?"

There is an old Science Fiction convention story. When they asked noted author Harlan Ellison that same question on a writer's panel. His answer was "Cleveland"

I tried to put this pretty lady as ease, as I turned the question back at her. I had always learned the Socratic method is the best way, making the other person think for themselves. For those who don't know this method, it is redirecting the question. We train most lawyers in this method. Her baby blue eyes looked like a deer in headlights. She spoke with a wonderful southern twang "I dunno . . . don't want to seem stupid. I'm only eighteen."

"Ann," I called her by name to calm her, "You are not stupid! Because you are eighteen does not mean your thoughts and ideas are not any better than mine. I may have more experience, that's all."

After I spoke, her body seemed to straighten. She seems to have a new found confidence. "Well ideas can come from anywhere, can't they?"

"Very good . . . now, let's expand on this idea."

"Expand on it?"

"Let's say your concept idea is time travel. " She nodded at me, but still she looked puzzled. "Did you think you could change anything if you went back in time?"

"I wish I could! I wouldn't have had my car accident last week."

"The concept of time travel as an idea is a plot device. With a plot device, you can explore or flesh out a story. For example, I can think of a few books and movies with time travel as a plot device. Can't you?"

"What?" she chimed in. "Isn't that stealing?"

"Did Star Trek Four steal from the movie Time After Time?" She looked confused. "Am I confusing you?" She nodded politely. Well, let's look at two movies that I like, both involving Time Travel.

"In Star Trek Four: The Voyage Home, Captain Kirk and his crew went back in time to San Francisco to save the whales. In Time After Time, H. G. Wells followed Jack the Ripper from 1800 century London to 1980's San Francisco. So, both use time travel as an idea, didn't they? Both ideas involved time travel and both are totally different " Again she politely nodded in agreement. "Also, William Shatner looks nothing like Malcolm McDowell!" I mused.

"So," She said, "I can have the same idea as you . . . and tell it a different way. Right?"

By George, I think she got it!

"What matters is the storytelling. The writer can use notions from anywhere. When I wrote Night of the Shylock for Power Star Magazine many years ago, I combined the characters from the TV series Wild Wild West and a young Sherlock Holmes."

"Wow. You can do that?"

"Sure look how many authors used Sherlock Holmes as their main character. They, as storytellers, gave Holmes a new twist in the literary canon already there.  Look how often that Indiana Jones flick, Raiders of The Lost Ark, used or borrowed plot ideas from the 1930's movie serials."

"It did?"

"Yes, the filmmakers used many plot devices strung together to make a great yarn."

"I hated the snake scene"

"You were not alone. I know someone who climbed over half a row of people to get out of the theater 'til it was over."

Ann chuckled at that. "I wasn't that bad. I just curled into my boyfriend's arms."

I looked at my watch. The break was almost over. "I would love to talk to you another time about this, may we?" She nodded agreement, as I gave her one of my business cards. "Drop me an e-mail."

Ann looked at me. "I'd like that." She starting to walking back into the panel room.

"Ann," I tried to sound sagely, "Remember 'til next we meet, keep your head level and reach for the stars!"

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