delay your darlings: the intermissive magic of the cameron effect

February 12, 2018 brianna 2 Comments

While I am loathe to name something after a man known for his toxic egomania and his habit of going through wives and mistresses like a germophobe goes through 20-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, there is none other fit for the eponymous duty to describe the latest phenomenon to plague (or help, depending on perspective) my writing.

So let’s just go ahead and call it the Cameron Effect.

photography: lucy nicholson

Sounds like another sub-par found-footage horror flick, doesn’t it? Sadly, as much as I adore films like V/H/S and Rec, that is perhaps a subject for another day’s discussion.

What I mean by the Cameron Effect has more to do with creative restraint than anything specific to the movie industry. Do you remember Avatar, the uncanny-valley-shattering visual orgasm of science fiction CGI released nearly a decade ago in 2009?

poster: blt communications

You do. Of course you do. For years after, vodka-laden house parties on and around my holy day (read: Halloween) were plagued by drunks decked in poorly-applied blue body paint; people around the world began to teach and learn the few words they could of the beautifully designed fictional language, Na’vi; and in the summer following the ground-breaking film’s release it was, yes, re-released to movie theaters across the country with a whopping extra 8 minutes of screen-time. Oh, and lets not forget the 42-year-old Taiwanese man who was literally so overwhelmed by the visuals that he experienced a cardiac event (“excitement”) and actually fucking died. In any case, the fandom for the movie was and still is burgeoning, especially considering there are four – yes, four – sequels in the works.

But did you know that it took Cameron 12 years after the development of the film’s concept to actually produce the damn thing?

The Cameron Effect is what I refer to as the why in this case: the filmmaker, in his professional wisdom and considerable patience, decided to wait until the technology in the special effects industry ‘caught up’ enough for him to make Avatar the absolute best it could be. And over a decade after its conception, issues in frame rate, color, 3D, stereoscopic projection, stereophonic sound, and widescreen (among other advancements), were finally resolved – and he, famously saying that the movie-making tech of Hollywood had likely hit its peak – was finally ready to tackle the big blue leviathan that was Avatar.

So how does this apply to me, or you, or any writer, be it of scripts, short-stories, novels, or niche pornos destined for the darkest and unholiest of the internet’s seedy back alleys?

As creative professionals we, as in most things in life, never cease the learning process. In fact, if we do – if we ever convince ourselves we’ve hit the maximum pinnacle of our talent – there’s probably something wrong between our ears (might be that Jovian ego clogging up the brain cells). That said, it’s only natural that at some point we may create and attempt to breathe life into a project that our current toolbox of literary skills is simply too sparse and ill-equipped to make that brainchild the best, the prettiest, the smartest, the absolute fanny-spanking greatest it can be.

Sometimes, like James Cameron, a writer has to wait. And by wait I don’t mean sit around, twiddling your thumbs, moseying around town with phallus in hand; I mean spend this hiatus time fostering your talent.

Gain experience. Experiment. Ask questions and get answers, and don’t forget the second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) opinions to those answers.

Add new drill bits, hammers, and specialty wrenches to you toolbox until it is sufficient to do justice to the mighty idea that’s been simmering in your brain-pot for weeks, months, and in my case, years – and probably many more.

This is what happened with my dark epic fantasy trilogy, The Ballad of Black Morning; more specifically, its first book, Ethereus.

art by zefanya maega; character design by brianna fenty

It was (and is) a tale so epic in size, grand in scope, and wildly detailed in its world that, having begun developing and writing it in August 2016 (my very first writing project initiated after years of letting my passion congeal like week-old stew on the back-burner of my mind) it was very nearly impossible to write well.

After spending a year slogging through exposition and character development and magic systems and clashing cultures, 76,000 words later (and not even 1/3 of the way to the end of the planned first installment), I realized I wasn’t ready.

So I tabled it. I tabled it and I started off smaller, foraying cautiously onto the shores of short-stories and flash fiction, and then on to larger projects, albeit of smaller fantastical scale. I discovered my penchant for horror and psychological trauma, and how meaningful stories can be with a cast of just two characters in The Quaking Aspen; I learned that I could use all those hours spent worldbuilding in The Lighthouse of Loom, setting a simpler tale of fantasy in the same world, albeit a different era and country.

And it’s working. My pieces are being published; I’m gathering fans; I’m excited about my current projects and the best part of it all is that other people are excited, too.

The Cameron Effect – advice, suggestion, whatever the fuck it is – isn’t going to be for everyone. I’m certainly not telling you to take your epic 10-part portal fantasy saga and stuff it in a box under your bed to gather dust for a decade. I’m merely here to tell you that yes, it is a thing; yes, it is okay; and yes, it actually works.

As deeply as I fell in love with this universe I created and the people and the monsters and the religions and the nations inhabiting it, I knew I had to delay my darlings. Yes, delay. Not kill. Because I wholly intend to return to the world of Echaria one day, and after a considerable tongue-lashing by my bored, abandoned main characters, Feruza and Maeve, I know I will have the tools primed and ready to make it sparkly, fresh, and downright incredible.

And it’s gonna knock your goddamn socks off when I do.

2 People reacted on this

  1. I cannot wait to have my socks knocked off, as and when the time comes 🙂 In the more immediate future, I have the soul-rending, hand-shakingly good Quaking Aspen to look forward to 🙂

    All very, very good advice.

    Must be patient.


    1. You are ever so kind and supportive Sam! I can only hope to knock as many socks from unsuspecting feet as possible with TQA. Maybe some undies and hats, too. 😉

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