And for all you writers out there,
Happy NaNoWriMo as of Nov. 1st!
My plan for NaNoWriMo this year is to write a set of 30 short stories, each at a minimum of 1666 words. Longer flash fics, if you will. I’ve been wanting to write an anthology of re-written fairy tale stories and myths, but I’ve been really hankering to play with story ideas from Twilight Zone episodes. I’ve thought seriously about doing this since I saw Come Wander With Us, which is definitely on the adaptation list. And the list is large and meandering, with more than 30+ different collected prompts (so I won’t be bored), mostly ideas from Twilight Zone.
Of course–not to limit myself in the first draft stage–if the muse strikes, I’m open to using elements from many TTZ episodes to add depth to one flash fic. But this is a list of episodes that are really great to watch, not just because they have an interesting concept to expound on, but they’re well-made, well-acted and interesting episodes in their own right. Or at least I think so 😉
I already wrote one flash fic based off of “A Most Unusual Camera,” (screenshot above), and I give it credit for getting me really excited to adapt more Twilight Zone episodes.
So without further ado, in no particular order, and with the least spoilers possible, once again let’s enter….THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (Season 1, Ep. 4)
A lonely, faded movie star longs for the golden days of her career’s prime in the 1930s. Worried that she’s getting lost in her past, a friend tries to help her get a healthy grip on reality.
From now on, I keep the drapes drawn and doors locked! I don’t want any of the outside world coming in…if I wish hard enough I can wish it all away. As of this moment…these are the 1930s again…and I’m gonna make it that way again!
As promised in last year’s entry, meet Ida Lupino, the only woman to direct an episode of TTZ (“The Masks”)! She does a fantastic job playing obsessive, pig-headed but fragile and still beautiful Barbara Jean Trenton. She deftly expresses the longing and desperate nature of this woman, who feels the ravages of time and the changing world are stealing everything she wants most, right before her eyes.
The concept of not wanting to get old isn’t something I’ve explored in writing before, and to be honest, it’s something I’ve been thinking about more when my lower back aches, or as I try to manage a healthier lifestyle. As 30 starts rising over the hill, I know that I’m not getting any younger. Oh, I hear those groans, I know, I’m so ancient, but hey, it’s the oldest I’ve ever been! All I’m saying is that I think I finally have some insight in how to write a story like this, and I already have a character in mind!
The Four of Us Are Dying (Season 1, Ep. 13)
If you could change your face and shape to look like anyone you wanted, what would you do? Would the thrills be worth any consequences?
His name is Arch Hammer [jack of all trades]…He can change his face…into anything he wants. [And he has] a master plan to destroy some lives.
Let me just say that the designer/artsy film dork in me is OBSESSED with the camera work and effects tricks. The lighted signs shots that they use throughout this episode (pictured above) seem to be achieved in-camera, AKA not edited in later! There are lots of great tricks they use, particularly to make it seem like he’s changed into a different person when switching actors. Plus, you get an unsettling vibe from the very beginning, thanks to the well-used Dutch angles, tilting the camera a little to make the viewer feel off-balance. I have to mention Beverly Garland’s fantastic performance as Maggie, the sad, sultry lounge singer. She’s only in one scene, but she’s simply mesmerizing.
I just love the idea of playing with a character who’s a shape-shifter, and I want to see what kind of trouble my character could get into.
Nothing in the Dark (Season 3, Ep. 16)
An old woman is so afraid of dying that she’s barricaded herself in her apartment so no one can get to her, which means she won’t die. When a policeman is shot and wounded outside her door, begging for help, she must make a decision.
Stop, stop! Why do you torture me? It isn’t fair!
It’s such a simple episode, and it all takes place in one room. I could see this being adapted as a one-act play! I love Gladys Cooper. She was also in “Night Call.” And…is that baby Robert Redford? (Thanks, Nostalgia Chick! << Warning, link reveals EPISODE SPOILERS!) I don’t want to say much, because this sweet story slowly reveals itself over the episode, and it has a lovely conclusion that encourages us all not to be afraid of the unknown.
There’s a real fairy tale quality about this episode that I love. It’s got deep concepts about death and the fear of dying, but it’s expressed in such a straightforward story. It also reminds me of The Tale of Three Brothers from The Harry Potter mythos, and I love the idea of writing my own myths and fairy tales!
Dust (Season 2, Ep. 12)
In a poor Western town that’s lost all hope and most of its will to live, a desperate father looks to the jaded and worn-out townspeople to have mercy on his son, doomed to hang for a drunken accident, as a snide merchant looks on.
My son was hungry, and he felt such pain, and he drank too much. He rode down the street not looking, not seeing, and he had a sadness deep inside…that there was nothing left to eat, sadness that they have no work…He did not see the little girl…not for an instant!
I’m actually a little surprised I haven’t listed this one previously, because this is such a powerful episode. It’s heartbreaking, and I feel such emotion every time I watch it. Vladimir Sokoloff does a beautiful job playing the soft-hearted old Hispanic father of the man to be hanged. He’s a fantastic actor, and he’s appeared in a few other TTZ episodes as well. In my research, I found he was a Russian actor who had the knack for being cast in roles that covered, supposedly, nearly 35 different ethnicities over his long acting career! Talk about versatility!
I just love the idea of magic, or miracles, happening for those who want a second chance. That’s what redemption is, pretty much, and it touches me powerfully. Not sure what I want to do with the idea yet, but I’m curious to see what I come up with if I play with it.
A Stop at Willoughby (Season 1, Ep. 30)
A depressed businessman hates his high-stress job, and longs for a simple life. When his train makes an unexpected stop at a station called Willoughby, seemingly stuck in the halcyon days of the rural 1800s, the man is perplexed. But on subsequent trips, when the train stops at Willoughby station as his life grows worse, getting stuck in the 1800s doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Some people aren’t built for competition…I would prefer…any job at all where I could be myself! Where I wouldn’t have to climb on a stage and go through a masquerade every morning at 9 o’clock…I’m not that person…That isn’t me at all!
This episode has an air of mystery. How is he getting to this stop? There isn’t a lot that gets explained. It simply is. A sad man is looking for a way to escape his awful life, and in a strange twist of fate, finds a way out. Somehow. It’s hand-waved as the magic of the Twilight Zone taking sway over reality yet again.
So many adults wish their lives and the world they find themselves in wasn’t so hard. Heck, make that all adults. It’s the wonderful concept of Neverland, the dream of all your happiest childhood memories encapsulated into one place where you never have to change. I’ve always been drawn to writing about seeing magic in the midst of a mundane life, and I think this would be an interesting angle to try.
The Silence (Season 2, Ep. 25)
At a businessman’s club, a cruel, annoyed, wealthy man makes a wager with a desperate, loquacious younger man; that he won’t talk for a year, in exchange for $500,000.
How long are you going to keep on with this prolonged practical joke?…I think that boy down there is going to remain silent for the entire year. And I think you’re gonna owe him $500,000. I just hope you’ve got it.
A wager with high stakes that has so much potential for going wrong. I had an uneasy sense as I watched this episode for the first time, which made the payoff all the more unnerving. It’s like a twisted reverse “Gifts of the Magi” story, and that’s all I’m going to say.
The theme I’d be writing about from this episode is expounding on the strange lengths people will do for things they think they need or want.
The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, Ep. 16)
A young woman named Nan is driving on a cross-country trip, but she’s unnerved when a strange hitch-hiker starts following her. Her apprehension becomes terror when she realizes he seems to be following her, goading her on, and she can’t seem to outrun him, no matter how fast she goes.
Now it isn’t even a trip, it’s flight!…I keep going, conscious of only one thing; I’ve got to get where I’m going, and I can’t let that hitch-hiker close in on me!”
Another absolute CLASSIC episode with twist ending that has become a pillar of modern creepy tropes. It even seems groan-worthy now, but as with many Twilight Zone episodes, it was one of the first ones to do it so well.
The Gothic horror buff in me loves the idea of a character running away from a terror they can’t explain. I want to see what I can do with the idea, and put a twist on the classic trope.
The Hunt (Season 3, Ep. 19)
An old man and his dog go out coon huntin’, even though his old wife warns him of bad omens. After a particularly rough hunt, he and his dog head home the next morning, to find that no one seems to be able to hear them or see them.
Any place that’s too highfalutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me…If I go in that front gate, Rip’s goin’ in that front gate likewise! I don’t want him to get the feelin’ that he ain’t welcome.
I have a huge soft spot for the southern folktale-style episodes. You can just imagine the tale being told to you by an Appalachian grampa in an old rocking chair. It sort of reminds me of the story of Wicked John, or any folktales that involve people meeting supernatural characters and having a battle of wits.
As I’ve said before, folk and fairy tales are some of my favorite inspirations, so I want to allow myself time to play in that head space.
The Mirror (Season 3, Ep. 6)
A new South American dictator named Clemente is riding high on his recent conquest with his four closest confidants. But he gets a warning from the previous dictator, saying that a large mirror in the office will show Clemente future assassins. Soon, the mirror starts to warp the way he sees his friends, and his own lofty ideals.
Power you shall have…enough to make you giddy. But there are other things…and you will find them soon enough. Fear.
This is such a sad story about the cyclic nature of tyrannical governments, paranoia, and absolute power corrupting absolutely. A young Peter Falk is chilling as Clemente, with his gravelly voice and intense, desperate speeches.
From a writing perspective, it’s a fascinating character study to think about how a person’s view of the world would change if they were given so much power, and it’s a theme I look forward to playing with.
It’s A Good Life (Season 3, Ep. 8)
An easily-insulted, immature 6-year-old boy has godlike powers that make the residents of his hometown tremble under his every whim. He controls everything, from the weather to TV programs, and you better like it, or else. The townspeople–those who are left–can’t talk about unhappy things, or even think unhappy thoughts, because Anthony will hear them, and who knows what he’ll do then?
I heard somebody think one time…that I shouldn’t wish away all the automobiles and things, and electricity. They said that it wasn’t good that I did that…He shouldn’t have thought those bad thoughts! That’s why I made him go on fire!
I dare say Bill Mumy’s performance as the terrifying Anthony is in the top ten most well-known performances of the Twilight Zone. Right up there with William Shatner in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and Burgess Meredith in “Time Enough at Last.” I mean, even Johnny Bravo made a parody of this episode! Plus, a young Cloris Leachman plays his mother, and she’s amazing, of course <3 But OMG this episode is terrifying. The final scene where someone finally decides to stand up to Anthony is cringe-inducing, gut-wrenching and hopeless. And no one can do anything to stop it.
I’m really excited to write my own version of this one, mostly because this episode cheeses me off something fierce, and I want to swoop in and save everyone 😛 Better believe that kid is getting what’s coming to him. Honestly, this is the only one that is likely to end up more of a fanfic than an adaptation, at least this go-round.
Whew! Just writing this entry has made me really excited to start writing! And I only have to wait one more day! I’ll list my word count below. Happy Writing!
NaNoWriMo Word Count
—-Nov. 30, 2015—-
Looks like I’m getting a new winner’s shirt! WOOOO!