Category Archives: Kristin Luna

Always Bet On Black!

Passenger 57 poster
Passenger 57 poster

The first movie I saw in a movie theater was Terminator 2. Because my dad was a preacher and we lived in a small town in Kansas, the theater owner decided that all the ministers in town and their families could come and see movies for free. We took full advantage of this generous opportunity, and while my dad allowed me to see all of the best action movies from the early 90’s, he forbade me to see Ace Ventura. As you may have already suspected, my dad is pretty awesome.

One of my all-time favorite action movies is still, to this day, Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes. It includes some iconic action elements like a hijacking, an evil hijacking terrorist with poofy hair, poofy-haired henchmen, Tom Sizemore, and an awesome catch phrase: “Always bet on black!”


As it turns out, Wesley Snipes and Passenger 57 inspired me to write my very first story. Here were the elements, written by yours truly on my dad’s Smith Corona Personal Word Processor at 7 years of age.

1. Wesley Snipes. All good action films somehow incorporate Wesley Snipes. Thusly, I made him my main character, staring opposite Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard had a very special place in my heart and CD player at the time). Also, I needed a foil to Wesley Snipes’ seriousness and overall attractiveness, so I chose Mel Gibson as his witty sidekick.

2. The Marijuanas. I knew – at 7 – that drugs had to somehow be in the story. Either the Bad Guy had to be on them, smuggling them, or giving them to minors. I chose the latter. My Bad Guy, married to Whitney Houston, was the most infamous marijuana dealer in all of Los Angeles. One day, Whitney goes into their closet to look for a hat on the top shelf and, lo and behold, all of the drugs are there. (I asked my dad if I could put in a cuss word when she finds the drugs. He suggested “shoot” or “darn” instead. We reached a compromise with “Oh crap!”) She calls the police right away, because it’s the right thing to do.

3. A secret place to hide. Wesley and Mel are FBI agents tasked with keeping Whitney safe and hidden from her drug-pushing husband. I thought up an exotic place where most of my movie-story would be filmed – a place where no one would even think to look for them: Hawaii.

4. A blossoming romance. Oh c’mon, you knew it was coming. Wesley and Whitney fall for each other.

5. The twist! Drug husband has a dirty agent in the FBI who tells him Whitney is hiding out in Hawaii. Drug husband is happy to hear this, as he already has a drug ring in Hawaii and he needed to work on his tan anyway.

6. Cue huge action sequence with GUNS! A shootout ensues on the beach. The drug peddling husband’s henchmen get picked off one by one by Mel and Wesley. Mel gets shot in the shoulder, “Go find him! I’ll hold them off!” Mel says, and off Wesley goes to find that drug husband guy.

7. Like all good action movies, Wesley and drug man have a long fight that leaves them both exhausted. Wesley somehow wrangles his gun back, then says something moral and/or funny like: “Smoke this!” and shoots Bad Guy/drug husband.

8. The kiss. Wesley and Whitney make out at the end, Mel says something snide but funnier than: “Get a room!” The camera zooms out, showing an aerial view of the scene and the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.

And there you have it.

Whatever inspires you, pursue it. Movies are a fantastic medium to shape our ideas into a more realistic presentation. If you need to cast movie stars as your characters so that you can see them clearly in your mind, do so. If one of your favorite movies taught you a little something about story structure, use it.

And if you learn one thing from action movies from the 80’s and 90’s, it’s that you probably shouldn’t do drugs. Or Wesley Snipes will find you.

Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and also what he looks like going after drug dealers.
Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and also what he looks like going after drug dealers.

 

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Kristin Luna is a Marketing Consultant by day and writer by break of dawn. She goes to bed at 9:00 PM. Kristin, a descendant of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts, is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy trilogy. When she isn’t contemplating marketing campaigns or writing, she’s crocheting, watching action movies, figuring out yoga, teaching her cats sign language, reading, or rounding out her handmade Jadzia Dax figurine collection. She is kidding about only two of those hobbies.

A Secret History: The Real Stories Behind Literature’s Most Legendary Figures

As you are well aware, excellent reader that you are, every story starts from an idea. Every legend is inspired by something real. Think about some of your own stories and the crazy places from which they originated: a phenomenal supernatural event in space, a news report, or a picture you stumbled upon on the internet when you were [suppose to be] writing. Most of my best story ideas come straight from my dreams.

Let’s take a look at the seeds that eventually grew to be literature’s most legendary heroes and villains.

Protagonists

These popular protagonists underwent a few author-induced identity crises to become some of the most iconic characters in literature.

New Sherlock Holmes by allegator
New Sherlock Holmes by allegator

Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fashioned his character Sherlock Holmes after an infirmary clerk, Dr. Joseph Bell. Doyle also had other sources including Sir Henry Littlejohn, a lecturer on Forensic Medicine and a Medical Officer, but Bell provided the main trait of figuring out the mystery from small, seemingly innocuous clues. After Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were published, Dr. Joseph Bell wrote to Doyle claiming, “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.” Perhaps we are reading a bit of Doyle himself in the pages of every Sherlock Holmes story.

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo on the Nautilus
Captain Nemo on the Nautilus

Captain Nemo (aka Prince Dakkar) was not always of Indian heritage. Jules Verne originally wrote him as a Polish aristocrat whose family was murdered during the January Uprising, in which Poles protested against enlistment in the Imperial Russian Army. Verne’s editor feared that Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea would be banned in Russia – a French ally at the time. Verne kept Nemo’s origins relatively vague for the time period (nemo in Latin means “no one”), although he is now clearly identified as Indian.

Hobbits

Before I jump in here, did you know the decision to publish The Hobbit came down to a 10-year-old boy? Unsure if she should publish the story, Susan Dagnall of George Allen & Unwin Ltd. gave the story to her son to read, and because he enjoyed it, Dagnall decided to move forward with its publication.

The Hobbits by Qwertee.com
The Hobbits by Qwertee.com

Although he had been writing about goblins and developing languages for years before he began writing about Hobbits, Tolkien suspected his idea for hobbits came from The Marvelous Land of Snergs by Edward Wyke Smith. Tolkien wrote that the Snergs were “a race of people only slightly taller than the average table but broad in the shoulders and have the strength of ten men.” He also noted that Sinclair Lewis’ character Babbitt had a homebody-like nature, which was also an influence.

Tolkien originally wrote Aragorn, or Strider, as a hobbit. Imagine Frodo’s first encounter with the mysterious hobbit Strider in the Prancing Pony! Doesn’t quite have the same effect, does it?

 

 

Antagonists

Some of literature’s more legendary antagonists were created from the most obvious and peculiar places.

Dracula

Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula
Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula

The name alone triggers shivers down the spine. It may be no surprise to you that Dracula originated from the Romanian word dracul, which means “the dragon’ or “the devil’.

As Bram Stoker dug into Wallachian history, he happened across Prince Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler. Known for his brutality by impaling his enemies, it’s estimated that Vlad killed nearly 10,000 people.

Vlad’s patronymic name was Dracula, passed down from his father Vlad II Dracul, a member of The Order of the Dragon. These knights were tasked with protecting Christianity in Eastern Europe.

The cover of John Gardner's book Grendel
The cover of John Gardner’s book Grendel

Grendel

In the Scandinavian epic Beowulf, the monster Grendel terrorizes a mead hall and slaughters those poor souls who happened to be drinking inside of it. The author describes Grendel as a grotesque creature descended from the race of Cain (who was the first murderer according to the Bible). Scholars debate the nature of Grendel – was he monster or humanoid? Some scholars even propose that Grendel represented enemies of the Geats, or even more simply, an outcast.

Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick sans barnacles
Moby-Dick sans barnacles

An enormous, albino sperm whale covered in barnacles that attacked whaling ships in the early 1800’s served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Jeremiah Reynolds, an explorer in that time and who was thought to have inspired the character Captain Ahab, wrote of the whale Mocha Dick, describing how its attacks on ships appeared premeditated. It was rumored that Mocha Dick had around 20 harpoons in his back from the 100 or more encounters it had with whaling ships that sailed near the Chilean island Mocha.

 

 

The saying goes that legends are born, not made. But, as evidenced above, they certainly can be made – created from an idea half the size of a man, or as terrifying as a bloodthirsty albino whale.