What I learned about writing from Jurassic Park

Dinosaurs have eaten my brain!  Every time a Jurassic Park movie comes out, I just get sucked even more into the dinosaur world.  I really should have become a paleontologist…  On November 27th the Jurassic World trailer, the 4th installment of the Jurassic Park series, was released.  If you haven’t seen it, click here.  Please don’t come at me with all of the inaccuracies.  I have already seen them, vented on a paleontology blog, and left it go in anticipation for the June 2015 film release.  I am a diehard JP fan after all.

Cloned Dinosaurs: the perfect muse (c) Sarah_Ackerman

Cloned Dinosaurs: the perfect muse (c) Sarah_Ackerman

Coincidently, on the day that the Jurassic World trailer released, at The Sarcastic Muse, we posted about books we are thankful for.  I was told – at the threat of having my “experiments” set free – that there was a 2 book limit.  Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton was sadly cut from the list.

Therefore today, I am saying poo-poo to the other muses and dedicating this ENTIRE post to the wonderment that is Jurassic Park and the epiphanies I had whilst reading it…

I can remember the first time I held the book like it was yesterday (cue wavy visuals for a flashback scene):   I was a wee lass entering my middle school’s library for the first time.  The scent of old books was pungent on the air while the sounds of harps gleefully filled my ears, this place was my equivalent to heaven.  Expansive collections of books lined the room from floor to ceiling.  The card catalog towered in the center of the room, begging to be rifled through.  While the rest of my classmates shuffled about, not quite sure what to make of this treasure room, a white paperback with the silhouette of a Tyrannosaurs Rex paperback caught my eye.  I couldn’t believe what I had just seen —  Jurassic Park was a book?!?!  A few months prior I had just seen the thrilling movie of the same title on the big screen.  Lo and behold, here it sat before me in written form.  In my 10 years of life I was never more stunned with happiness: someone turned that beautiful movie into a book!

I was so naive back then.

Needless to say, I scooped up the text and devoured it in two evenings.  Once finished it, I sweet talked my parents into procuring a copy for my collection.  They were hesitant to allow a girl of such an innocent age read a gruesome book filled with dinosaur feasting carnage, but they really had nothing to fear.  I turned out somewhat right in the head…

After I got over the initial shock of realizing the book existed BEFORE the horribly inaccurate movie (velociraptors are in reality the size of a large chicken!), I continued to re-read the book and have done so every six months since my eyes first graced the story’s pages.  You may call me obsessed… and you may be right… but my obsession is so much more than that.  It is a paradox.  My absolute favorite book in existence is horribly flawed!

Epiphany #1: Make the Imagination Reality

I have so much useless dinosaur facts crammed in my noggin’ that unless you are a fellow paleo-nut, you most likely don’t care. Reading Jurassic Park opened my eyes to the creative liberties that authors can take with their writing.  Crichton made a lot of errors with the dinosaurs and the science of the cloning.  If you look at his story with a scientific eye, the whole story is preposterous and almost impossible to finish.  However, if you turn that scientific mind off, you fall into a brilliant world of genetic magic filled with horrific monsters that want nothing more than to feast on your flesh.  It is really a fantastical story that broke the mold of Sci-fi / Fantasy / Horror stories of the 1990’s.  Crichton took those fiction genres to a new level  with Jurassic Park, despite being factually incorrect in almost everything.  In the realm of fiction, an author can do almost anything – as long as they make the story believable (and can quiet the fact-checkers).  Crichton accomplished this.  Jurassic Park is a completely believable work of fiction.

Epiphany #2: Flaws will happen

The flaws in the 1st edition of Jurassic Park are abundant.  There is not a chapter that survived my rebellious teenage years of correcting errors with a red pen in my copy of the book.  The typos, grammatical issues, and even a character mixups (Genaro hands himself a grenade to instead of to Muldoon) are evident within the pages.  At first I was a little disgusted that something could be published with so many problems, but then I realized the severity of my criticism.  There is nothing in this world that is perfect.  And Crichton wrote one hell of a story.  All of the flaws, while many, were honestly minor in comparison to the entirety and magnitude of the novel.  Minimal flaws are acceptable to readers as long as the plot and characters are strong.

(If you have major flaws and a weak piece of fiction… then that’s another story and you should probably get some help to rework your story before publishing.)

Epiphany #3: Carnage and Memory

Jurassic Park paved my road with blood.  The macabre, I have been intrigued with that my whole life, but not so much with the gore.  Crichton’s book was the first “gory” book that I had read… once I got my hands on King at the age of 12, it was all downhill from there, but that’s another story.  Crichton’s descriptions of the dinosaurs hunting, killing, and eating is mesmerizing. He accomplished “show, don’t tell” with all of his action scenes.  Every little sentence seems to be planned out on how to evoke the strongest emotion of fear or thrill out of the reader.

There is one scene that stands out to me because of the language of the prose and the emotions that flare from reading it.   The scene is when Tim slides the baby Raptor over to the group of adults.  As the reader, you think that the adults will be lovingly distracted by the little cutie… but no!  They freaking EAT HER!  Crichton’s depiction of the “baby raptor happy meal” was so visual that his words burned like a film into my memory, and I can recite the scene almost word for word.  The scene was rather poetic, down to the little tiny blood splatters that paint the floor when the two adults play tug of war with the baby, pulling both of her legs in opposite directions…

Oops, sorry, this is The Sarcastic Muse blog and not my personal horror blog!  I will refrain from anymore gore (and spoilers).  I should probably wrap up this post before I face the wrath of Robyn and Michelle for getting Chris all riled up over scary stuff.  He and I are cut from the same cloth.  It is never good when the two of us are on a horror tangent at the same time…

If you are a writer and a fellow JP-nut, you must read the book.  If you are not a JP-nut, read it anyways.  And read it twice:  First time for fun and the second time with a critical writer’s eye.  Then sit back and contemplate on how the two reads affect you.  Do you have the same conclusions as I have?  Or do you have something entirely different?

What are your feelings on “creative liberties”?

Are you able to look past flaws (typos, grammatical errors, etc.) in a story if the plot and characters are compelling?

Do you have any books that you have read that have affected you in this way?