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Archive for January, 2008

Yes, happily for me the chap who is the centre of what I think is a one-man play keeps blethering on the moment I get in front of a keyboard.  In fact he’s doing so well that I can already map out a path to the end of the first draft.  I’ll even put a fiver on my being able to rest my typing fingers some time on Friday … before having to put them into action again on the first redraft.

Anyway, the result is I’m feeling rather typed out, so blog-wise this will have to do for today.  À bientôt.

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So, on Thursday I blogged about the problem of having too many ideas.  Then, that night as I lay in bed, a character started talking to me.  Now this character, or somebody like him, had been wandering around in my mind for a while,  in fact I mentioned him here, but this time he was very insistent.  I started to hear more and more snatches of his address to an audience of (ironically enough) would-be writers.  Eventually, much to my other half’s chagrin, I dragged myself out of bed at oh-my-God o’clock and schlepped up to the computer.   Since then I’ve been spending my time producing … something.  I think it’s probably a play.  It certainly looks vaguely like one.  It might even be a reasonably presentable play.  At present I’ve no idea whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.  What I do know is that I need to write it and I’m enjoying writing it.  I’ll get back to you on how it turns out in the end.

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Go to any Q&A with writers or watch/read any interview with a writer and the question “Where do you get your ideas from?” will come up.  This is strange as it is a very, very bad question.  Ideas come to all of us all the time, even if the idea is only “I think I’ll sit down and watch the telly.”  Ideas with the potential to be stories also come to us pretty regularly, even if the idea is only something like “I wonder what my neighbours are doing that means they have to make such a DREADFUL FRICKING ROW???” – right there is an idea for a story, all the writer has to do is run with it.  Save in the case of the profoundly mentally ill, each and every human being is a walking ideas factory – all that is necessary is to spot the ideas as they come along and write them down.

In fact most writers I know have no problem coming up with great ideas.  It’s much more of a problem to try to stop coming up with great ideas.  The moment one sits down to engage seriously with one’s current idea another even better idea for something completely different comes along.  This is, as you many have guessed exactly what’s happened to me.  Just as I was drifting off to sleep last night I came up with what is (IMHO) a really rather marvellous idea … which has led to me spending today playing around with it rather than knuckling down to the things I’m supposed to be working on.  Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

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So …

I’ve hit something of a brick wall.   Ideas are bubbling around for the internet project, which is nice, but the novel keeps running into blind alleys … where it proceeds to assault itself, steal all its own money and then make off into the dark.  The internet project is going to be a mix of vlogs and blogs, allowing readers/viewers to get the kind of sense of each characters’ inner state that can only usually be found in novels.  As the vlogs/blogs won’t be explicitly linked from the beginning, it will be possible for readers/viewers to find their own way through the story.  I suppose it’s a modern take on those Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks from the 80s, with their “Do you attack the troll?  Turn to page 10 for yes, Page 118 for no” … only without the page turning, or, indeed, trolls.

The book on the other hand is beginning to really annoy me.  As I explained before, it began life as a treatment for a  TV series (NB series not serial – although it had an overall story arc, most episodes would have been self-contained).  As such I could get away with a general indication of location, characters and some hint of a story arc without having to go into too much detail.  To pitch a novel (or, indeed, a series of novels) I’m going to need a much more detailed outline of the plot … and every time I think I’ve got things roughly in order I find a character popping up in the wrong place.  At present he keeps doing the equivalent of  Sidney Carton deciding to run off with Lucie Manette rather than sacrifice himself on the gallows at the end of A Tale of Two Cities.  As he’s my favourite character, as well as being the vector for the underlying thesis of the story (which is a potentially rather pretentious plea for rationality), this is causing me all sorts of trouble.

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So, where were we?  Ah yes, work was proceeding “but not necessarily apace”.  Actually, that’s a little unfair – writing is proceeding slowly but preparing to write is actually beginning to come together.  Reading around a subject is always the writer’s best friend and let no one tell you otherwise.  For one thing, it’s a great way of not having to put anything down on paper (at least nothing beyond a few scribbled notes), which is always desirable, but it also sets off surprising new avenues of thought.  At the moment I’m using the quite extraordinary The Secret Commonwealth by Robert Kirk as my background reading.  Its author was a Scottish Episcopalian minister in the late seventeenth century who appears to have genuinely believed in the sprites, spirits, elves, brownies and other creatures of which local legend spoke.  The book itself is a brief treatise on the nature and habits of these creatures as revealed to Kirk by tales and by some of those among his flock whom he understood to be possessed of “second sight”.  In transforming folk tales and fairy stories into a “serious” (if wholly unbelievable) work, Kirk lifts the various beasts and boggarts into a brand new realm.  His insistence on the existence of parallel realms, of human reality and the “reality” of The Secret Commonwealth of the fey, is exactly the device I was planning to work with in the novel and his explanation of the relations between the two should prove very useful.

Although Kirk’s own story is not the one I’m currently writing there is definitely something there that I might want to write about in futuree especially as local tales held that he was struck down by the little people themselves and he reappeared in spirit form on at least two occasions.  In any event, his book has given me a neat plot twist which has resolved some difficulties I was having with the last section of my story, so I certainly owe him something.

And now a quick aside: when I popped around the corner to the organic food shop (great, reasonably priced local produce plus wholly ridiculous rock crystal candles, reiki sessions and homeopathic remedies) I discovered that one of the assortment of oversized-4×4-armour-plated-pram pushers who were clogging up the place had “Duelling Banjos” as their ringtone.  It may just be because I watched Deliverance fairly recently but I did find that rather disturbing.

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No Posts Today

Hmm … well I did have a post for today, all written out.  But then I looked at it and decided that I had no business sharing it with the rest of the world.  So I’ll let the blog lie fallow for another day, apart from saying that work continues on the novel and the internet drama – though not necessarily apace.

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Okay, I confess – I haven’t really got very much work done today at all.  With both my sample sketches and internet trail now having wung their way to the appropriate people, I’m finding it very difficult to get to grips with either the novel or the internet drama.

The problem with the internet drama is fairly straightforward: it’s a newish idea and I haven’t yet had time to pin down the plot or, indeed, most of the characters.  At this stage it’s probably best to leave matters to my subconscious for a little (in fact only this morning I woke up with the firm idea that the girlwho forms the initial centre of the story will be betrayed by her own father, though for the best possible reasons).

The issue of the novel is more complex and comes back to the  reason I gave in my first post,  fear of the consequences of actually letting this story make its way out of my head and onto paper.  I care about this project a lot and that just makes the fear all the greater.  So perhaps you’ll understand that I must view my trip to the bookshops to grab some “research” material on various forms of mythology with some suspicion.  Am I really researching or am I just procrastinating?  Who knows.

I can at least say with some certainty that I am procrastinating now, so I’ll stop it and get back to some real work … probably.  In the interim, here’s a snatch of something completely different I was working on, an extract from something I keep planning to work up into a play.  The character speaking is a cynical hack, now about 70 years old, who has been forced to hold a question and answer session.  At this point he’s talking about his youth …

And then I went to university.  In my mind I went to Oxford.  I sat on the fresh mown grass of the handsome back quad of a fine old college and smoked oval cigarettes while chatting about Kant and Wittgenstein and scheming to get over the wall at Somerville and into the knickers of some posh, bright girl with long, blonde hair and glasses she could remove to reveal bright blue eyes.  Do any of you know Ingrid Thulin?  Wild Strawberries … the Bergman movie?  Well, it turns out the girl of my dreams when I was turning twenty looked exactly like Ingrid Thulin … even though I wasn’t to see her or any of her movies until years later.

Anyway, Oxford never happened for me.  No quads, no Ingrid.  Interesting story actually … to me at least.  You see, the headmaster of my good, old grammar school was an Oxford man himself.  “Univ” I think it was he’d been to … University College to those of us not Oxbridge trained.  He had an arrangement with the old place … a guaranteed scholarship for one boy from each year.  Well, as head boy I thought it belonged to me.  Never occurred to me it might belong to his son instead.  I remain appalled more at my own naivety than at any injustice.

Anyway, I went to University College, London instead.  While there I failed to gain any sort of education either in the school of academe or in the school of hard knocks.  Although, in truth, I did discover on my first day not to trust a cabbie.  Nigh on a quid that journey cost me, and almost an hour, and all to get from Euston station to diggings on Gower Street.  I could have walked it in 3 minutes.

With such an inauspicious start you may not be surprised that I didn’t last long.

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