?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

A reader asks, "It interests me how big of an influence MGM takes on your books. Do they edit out whole scenes or are the changes usually more minor, like a changed word or sentence? Do they have any influence on your creative process when you first come up with the story line?"

Great question! First, MGM has to approve the plotline. The biggest step was the first one -- the idea that this was season six, and that changes would happen that were actual and real. With most tie-ins everything has to be at the end of the book exactly as it was at the beginning. Nothing can change, nothing can be learned, no plot can advance, no character can grow. In essence, a book must be static. At the end of the book it has to be like it never happened.

Legacy is not that. It's a sixth season, which means characters can enter or leave the show, their relationships can change, and they can change. This is a huge leap for MGM, and we're very proud that they selected us to do this.



So the first step is that they approve the plotline. There are things that are off the table to begin with -- for example we could not blow up the SGC and permanently close the Stargate. That would completely change the premise of the story! Stargate is about explorers from Earth interacting with the larger universe. That's the basic premise. If they can no longer return to Earth forever, this becomes a different story, a castaway story like Farscape. So we can't, for example, turn Stargate into Farscape. We have to stick with the premise of the show.

Another point is that everything must keep to a PG rating. That means no violence greater than we saw on the show, no graphic descriptions of bodies, torture, or casualties, and no sex more than a heterosexual kiss, and only that between canon relationships. Which -- yeah, that's pretty constraining! I really struggled with John's Afghanistan flashback in The Lost. In order for this to explain why he's really dealing with some PTSD symptoms, what happened had to be bad. It had to be bad enough to explain why he's this way. And doing that without actually showing anything even in flashback was very challenging! I'm proud of the way that scene turned out, trying to capture something that grabs the reader with John's visceral horror without breaking a PG rating.

Approving the plot of the book means turning in a detailed outline which they look over. We haven't really had major changes in the outline stage because we understood what the rules were. The only thing that we initially couldn't do back in 2009 was bring Elizabeth back, presumably because they were still filming the first season of Universe at that time and were keeping options open for that show. However, in 2013 they were in a different place and approved us bringing Elizabeth back.

They also approve each and every word of the finished book -- twice! After the book as been through initial edits at Fandemonium it goes to MGM. Here we have had some fairly substantial edits. Some of these are about "not offending" any part of the audience. For example cuts included Sam talking about how she's battled sexism in her career and talking about how Don't Ask Don't Tell provided a mechanism for men who didn't like serving under a woman to accuse her of being a lesbian even if she isn't. I didn't think that Sam saying that she wasn't a lesbian was controversial, or that she dealt with sexism since the show had addressed that several times, but that scene was cut because it was too controversial. However, most of the changes are more minor -- a changed word, a reworked line. Most of the changes are no big deal.

After we've made the changes, the book goes back to MGM for final approval and last edits. Usually at this point it's a few words here and there because everything major has been addressed earlier. It's a very meticulous process.

I very much enjoy writing the Stargate books because I love these characters and this world. But I admit that I appreciate the freedom of writing without the constraints in my original books. Melissa and I began first book of The Order of the Air, Lost Things, kind of in reaction to that -- what would it be like to write a strong team adventure with the same kind of feel, a chosen family saving the world -- without having to pull our punches to keep to a PG rating? What if we could deal with a major character who has a permanent disability rather than being healed at the end of the episode? What if we could really explore the fallout of major character death? What if we could look at the PTSD and other lasting impacts of the battles they've fought while still writing about heroes who are going to save the world even if they have to haul themselves over broken glass to do it? What if we could actually have the payoff in the love scenes rather than tease the reader? So that's very much where that series comes from -- an original adventure that lets us explore some of the same elements -- and I think that's why it's hit such a nerve with the Stargate readers who've tried it.

I'm so pleased we're able to bring Elizabeth back in Unascended! I am writing her sections, and it's wonderful to see her again! I hope you enjoy it.

Tags:

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
geonncannon
Apr. 2nd, 2014 03:33 pm (UTC)
This is relevant to my interests. ;D I'm still crossing my fingers and toes and eyes that Tanis gets left alone as I've written her. I don't see any reason the character can't be gay, but seeing as she originated on the series... it could be an issue even if there's no chance that character will ever be seen again on-screen.
jo_graham
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC)
I have no idea! You'll just have to see! :)
nacinom
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
This was really interesting! It's sad that I am not surprised that the censors, ohps, I meant to say the MGM reviewers, cut out Sam's insightful stuff about sexism and the DADT anti-gay card. I my fanfiction SGA stories (especially one), I have definitely taken many liberties that would not pass any MGM test. One of the main reasons I started writing these fanfiction stories was to explore what happens after the teaser scenes and what happens after a character goes through a huge trauma (like Sheppard being fed on by the Wraith). I am a big fan of your Legacy series and I am excited that you are bringing Elizabeth back. I also hope we get to see more of John and Teyla.
jo_graham
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:26 pm (UTC)
I think that's why a lot of people start writing fanfiction. I certainly did!

But -- and this is why I'm very picky about reading fanfic -- a lot of fanfic ignores why I like the show in the first place. I mean, one of the greatest things about Stargate Atlantis is having not one or two but four amazing female characters who are very different from one another, Teyla, Elizabeth, Sam and Jennifer. And what's the thing we hear most often as a grumble from readers? Why don't we kill the female characters! Why don't we just have rocks fall and make this the boys' show? (This entirely from female readers, as far as I can tell.) I'm tremendously glad that we can't. Simply write out all the female characters like a lot of fanfic does is not an option.

Another big thing is wildly OOC characters. In which Rodney suddenly stops being abrasive, John spends the entire story crying like a baby, and Ronon is suddenly some Savage Wild Man who speaks in grunts! We have to keep the characters within the parameters of the show. And I am so in favor of that!

And the last thing, of course, is the resistant reading in which Jack O'Neill is suddenly an evil villain and Kavanaugh is the real hero of the story! We can't do that. And I'm glad we can't.

Our job is to write a plausible sixth season, to leave you saying, "Wow, I wish they'd filmed that!" not "Was that Stargate Atlantis?" I'm so glad it works for you.
kickstand75
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
Oh thank goodness you can't make Kavanaugh the hero! Every time hubby and I see him in something else we snicker and say "kavanugh" in a disgusted tone of voice.
jo_graham
Apr. 5th, 2014 10:40 am (UTC)
And yet people do! :)
nacinom
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)
I definitely understand and appreciate your concerns. The fanfiction that I like to read and write do give female characters just as big or (preferably) bigger roles than they were given in the tv series. Sadly, these are much rarer than the usual John-Rodney-Ronon focused stories. And here is my little plug: if you ever have the time, check out my The Specimen Strikes Back, which is a Teyla- and John-focused adventure story that has both of them in the front seat of the action.

Like you, I also avoid reading stories where our beloved characters are mostly or totally out of character.

Speaking about enjoying your very plausible sixth season, I am sad that there is no good, non-dystopian Earth scifi on tv anymore.
jo_graham
Apr. 5th, 2014 10:41 am (UTC)
I will check it out!

I am sad that there is no good, non-dystopian Earth scifi on tv anymore.

Oh me too! I am so tired of dystopias. It's like that pile of stuff when I was a kid where it was all nuclear holocaust stories. Where is my Star Trek? Where is my Stargate?
kickstand75
Apr. 2nd, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC)
^Exactly one of the reasons why I love the fanfic aspect of it all, nacinom. :) Areas to explore that were never allowed on the show.
yanin_acier
Apr. 2nd, 2014 10:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the detailed answer! This is great.

It's a shame MGM cuts scenes like the one with Sam you mentioned and it kind of bothers me that you cannot talk openly about sexism and/or homosexuality in this day and age. This should not be an issue in 2014, but apparently it is.
Isn't it funny that in a story about modern people travelling to distant galaxies through huge rings made millennia ago, we cannot address something that actually exists and has probably existed since ancient times, perhaps even since the dawn of man?
Well, I guess we have fanfiction for that. The unofficial ones, I mean. Though it's true they have a tendency to kill off female characters or make them look bad. Perhaps it's the jealousy of the (female) writer who doesn't allow any girls near her precious boys.
jo_graham
Apr. 5th, 2014 10:43 am (UTC)
I think there's the fear that "being controversial" will cause some fans to leave. However, they did let us write Mel Hocken, which I feel is a huge thing!
tavabean
Apr. 2nd, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
Interesting to read about the constraints placed on you by MGM. I would have thought after where SGU went with the same sex couple and the sex scenes that wouldn't be such an issue. But then I don't think I'm exactly on the same page MGM is with this franchise anyway.
jo_graham
Apr. 5th, 2014 10:44 am (UTC)
I have no idea. But it's heterosexual sex too. No more than a kiss, and only a canon couple.
Stuart McCarthy
Apr. 16th, 2014 07:56 pm (UTC)
universe...
i was wondering, do either you guys or other writers have any plans to wrap up the universe series like you've continued the atlantis one?
jo_graham
Apr. 16th, 2014 11:35 pm (UTC)
Re: universe...
I don't have any plans to work on Universe, no. I've got my hands full with a book or two of Atlantis per year, plus The Order of the Air series I'm doing with Melissa and my own Numinous World series! I have no idea if there are other writers working on Universe, however. I'm sorry, I don't know.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )