June 18, 2016

The trouble with time travel

I recently re-watched "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Near the end of the movie, Hermione reveals that she has a time turner, which she and Harry use to go back in time and fix past situations. That made me wonder why we don't see the time turner again in the series. In the next book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they could've used it on numerous occasions and saved a lot of grief, especially when it came to Harry, Cedric, or Moody. (I'm intentionally keeping it vague in case anyone hasn't read the book yet.) The time turner would've definitely come in handy during the Hogwarts battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Therein lies one of the main problems with introducing time travel in a story. If time travel is possible, why isn't it used more often? And why do the characters decide to pick the moment in time that they do pick to travel back to?

The Terminator series is another example where this comes into play. The first Terminator movie actually did a good job addressing the problem, in my opinion. Kyle Reese explains that the time travel machine was destroyed right after he and the terminator traveled to the past, and that's a credible reason why the plot device is used only once. Likewise, sending the terminator back to kill Sarah Conner before her son is born sounds like a logical plan. The trouble comes with the sequels. Now we know that another time travel machine can be built. Why not send armies of terminators? And why choose the two periods in John Connor's life that Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 chose?

The other big problem with time travel is the paradox that it can create. If the terminator in the first film was successful in its mission, then there would've never been a John Connor. In that case, there wouldn't have been a reason to send the terminator back in the first place, so who would've killed Sarah Connor? It's the famous grandfather paradox where you go back in time and kill your grandfather before your parent was born, which ensures that you'll never be born, so how could you go back in time to kill your grandfather?

Whenever I watch a movie or read a book with time travel involved, I can poke holes in the plot. That's why I stay away from time travel in my stories. Well, except for this short story, which you can read on Wattpad. :-)

June 4, 2016

There are no new ideas: Star Wars/Harry Potter edition

Star Wars (at least episodes 4 through 7) and Harry Potter are two of my favorite series of all time. "Star Wars: A New Hope" was released in 1977, and twenty years later, we got Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for those of us in the U.S.).

I recently started re-watching the Harry Potter movies and noticed several similarities between it and the original Star Wars trilogy. For example, both series feature a trio of heroes. In Star Wars, they're Luke, Leia, and Han. In Harry Potter, we have Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Luke and Harry are the "Chosen Ones." Leia/Hermione and Han/Ron are the sidekicks whose relationship gets off to a rocky start but eventually turn into romance. Then there are the Chosen Ones' mentors, Obi-wan and Dumbledore. Both initially took on students (Anakin and Tom Riddle) who not only turn bad but also acquire second names (Darth Vader and Voldemort). The mentors' later pupils (Luke/Harry) wind up defeating the dark predecessors.

There are other similarities, which led me to think that I couldn't be the first person to notice. Sure enough, I found this post that lays out some more similarities side by side.

The point isn't that I think J.K. Rowling copied Star Wars. I don't think she did. There are only so many unique ideas that certain archetypes are bound to pop up again and again. When I started reading the Percy Jackson series, for example, the similarities to Harry Potter were immediately apparent. (Look, another trio, but this time it's Percy, Annabeth, and Grover!) I like all three series very much because of the way the stories were told, and they tell their stories differently. As a writer, don't be afraid that your story has been told (because chances are, there are elements that have been) or that you've stumbled upon the one unique story that the world has never seen (because you haven't). The key is how you tell your story. It's all in the execution, not the idea.