Friday, 31 December 2010

The Last Day Before Tomorrow

Cats are possibly the heroes, or perhaps they are the villains.  On the desk are currently the urns of my own pet cats.  I don’t particularly want urns on the desk where I write every day, but they were on the windowsill, and have left rather worrying stains on the wood, presumably from the sun bleaching the varnish or some such, and I don’t know where else to put them. 

I loved The Cats very much.  I find in hindsight that my affection for the felines is greater than I hold for most people I know.  And as such, I don’t feel able to have another pet.  But that doesn’t stop me from petting other people’s cats, which makes me a crazy cat-lady. 

I spent some of Boxing Day giving attention to the cat who was obviously distressed by the presence of a toddler in his house.  Generally in the presence of children, I find myself drawn to the pets of the family, again establishing me as a crazy cat-lady or hamster-lady, or whatever. 

Although a childhood incident where I tried to give attention to an old dog who was ignored due to a new puppy and the stupid dog bit me has somewhat put me off dogs.

That and the vivid nightmare of hellhounds hunting me down, that I had so frequently as a tot that I eventually became convinced it really happened; I am only guessing now that it probably didn’t. 

The ‘memory’ I have is being alone in the hallway of The Childhood Home, The Family were possibly in the living room at the far end, I was in the dark.  I pressed The Face against one of the bottom panels of glass in the front door to see outside.  A huge angry vicious black dog ran straight up the path to the door, right at the glass, right at me and terrified me beyond reason and the memory cuts out abruptly.

After this, I had repeated nightmares in which a huge black wolf sent from the Devil, or who was the Devil, was going to kill me, right up until I was in my mid teens.  The clues that this might actually have been imagination first occurred a few years ago when I saw The Neverending Story in which there is a huge black wolf-like creature hunting the hero to death, bearing a startling resemblance to the thing in my nightmares and memory.

And last year when I moved house, I went through The Old School Work, throwing away anything that wasn’t a story or a drawing (why would I want a maths book from 1994?).  I found a drawing of a dream I had done in Year 3.  Two black wolves with huge sharp claws and teeth, dripping in blood, smashed through the glass in the front door and prowled the house, hunting for me.  The image of the dog at the glass in the door is very similar to that in the memory, so perhaps it all started as a dream.

However, I would have been about eight when I drew this picture.  Was I this old when the memory happened?  I thought I was younger.  This drawing doesn’t mean that the dream started the memory.  I know I had repeated nightmares for a long time, so it could easily be this was simply a nightmare inspired by the memory.  The fact that I had it several times would only make it a more likely subject for a drawing. 

I did see the start of The Neverending Story as a child but I have a very vivid memory that I turned it off when the horse died, which is before the wolf creature turns up.  So maybe it did really happen.

Add that all to that episode of Eerie, Indiana, I’m just not comfortable around dogs.  Although I did used to pretend I had a pet lassie, called Cod.  For some reason. 

Anyway, for Christmas I received a bird feeder, that when the ground is soft enough, I shall erect.  I like birds like those funny birds with the cartoon legs, and other silly little tits.  I like crows because they’re like little people.  And I’m rather fond of pigeons, despite most people’s hatred.  I’m also a fan of squirrels and they eat the same sort of thing. 

But if I stick a bird feeder in the garden, that makes the cat the enemy.  I shall become one of those insufferable old people who moan about cats pooing in their gardens, as if birds don’t poo all over the car (and on people’s heads).  Poo on the ground is a lot easier to sidestep than poo falling from the air.

And on that note, so another year is come.  Though the names of the years have held little meaning since leaving school.  Back then, one had to copy it off the board every day and there would always be a confusing first week back after Christmas in which people kept writing the previous year.  But these days I have little cause to think about the date.

I won’t make resolutions; the ol’ L-A-Z-Y stands in the way.  But I will endeavour to increase the efforts towards publication instead of living in a sort of fictional cocoon. 

I wrote a little more of Working Title: Afterwards and had some idea of where it was going.  But seeing certain images of certain scenes yet to come does not prepare me to write them. 

I was rather proud last year that Christmas meant so little to me that it didn’t get in the way.  This year, it was all-consuming.  Since the last blog entry, every day up until Boxing Day revolved around preparing for and celebrating the holiday.  I managed to send cards, deliver gifts and visit with friends.  I even went to church.

I had the good fortune to speak to someone who is not an embittered atheist, which is refreshing in my line of friends and I took to opportunity to ring in Christmas Day among believers.  But as it turns out, church is exactly how I remember it and there’s a reason I don’t have a religion.  This is a shame, because that’s just another social arena in which I failed to meet anyone new.

I’ve tried book readings, acting classes, the job centre and church.  In The Head, I build it up, and reality is always a let down.  Perhaps going more than once might help, but apparently, I’m easily dissuaded.

Monday I woke up ill.  Or rather, at five in the morning when I finally went to bed, I felt ill.  This did not stop me playing on The Sims for three whole days.  I got two new (to me) expansion packs for Christmas and on loading them up remembered that The Sims is addictive. 

Being able to create little people and control their lives runs a little too close to writing and can be dangerously absorbing.  Unlike writing, it leaves me with nothing to show for the efforts or to share with others, being entirely self-involved, and it becomes necessary to forcibly break away.

Yesterday though, having been reading The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (another gift) I had a hankering to pull out the detective story, Working Title: Better Late Than Never about a dead detective returning to solve crime.  I did and went through it filling out the plot, but most people who write detective fiction have some background in police work.  I have none and really don’t know what I’m talking about.  Still, I was saddened when night drew on and I had to stop.

This day however, I was less inclined to look at it.  Filling out bits of plot is easy enough.  Writing the thing is what now lies before me and I’m just not dedicated enough.  Or perhaps it is this malady that hangs over me, stuffing up the brain as well as cutting off the voice. 

I’m not enjoying Summerscale’s book as much as I had hoped, mainly because I didn’t quite realise what it was.  I knew it was a true story, but I thought this meant ‘based on’ not ‘an essay about’. 

I am pleased to discover I am not a ghoul for true crime.  Working in a bookshop showed me how true crime is the biggest seller these days.  Apparently, I find it disturbing and not something I wish to learn about.  It’s always nice to discover when I have normal human emotion.

Today I found a hankering to write The Decoy Stories about my experiences of acting.  I’m not sure why, but I do remember it going around the head last night while I was unable to sleep due to the pain in the throat.  That and the word ‘somnambulist’. 

I’ve been typing away at the latest instalment of the semi-autobiography, only to notice a few gibberish words cropping up, and sentences with the guts missing, and I have finally deduced (a cold slows the senses, right?) that the keyboard keeps cutting out in the middle of sentences.  I think the batteries may be dying (damn you, wireless technology).  The mouse died twice yesterday since I don’t have any more rechargeable ones to fill it with.

So I had to give up and come down here to the laptop, at which point I thought I might as well update the blog.  The short story so far lacks dialogue, wit and that passion that would keep the reader engrossed.  It’s just a list of random, heartless paragraphs.  That’s fine as a work in progress, but this jolting departure in the middle of writing has sort of sucked the excitement from me.  Writing on the laptop is uncomfortable because the table is too high and the room too cold.  Besides, I’ve never written well when I’m ill.  It’s all a bit hallucinatory rather than gritty.

I seem to be sinking into self pity again, a state which infuriates me.  I have no time for people who moan about their own problems, but this sticky, sluggish illness really does seem to be stopping me up.  It seems with no audible voice, the inside voice is also stifled.  Or perhaps a mushy brain and a childish sulking about no messages from friends over the holiday have got the better of the ambitions.

Still, I did very well, present-wise this year (this I truly believed until The Housemate returned with four times my haul).  I even got a Woody doll.  It’s only been a fifteen-year wait.

AND DEAR LORD ABOVE, I have just received the New Year’s Eve gift from the ever-faithful Housemate.  It’s a Matt Smith figure in a fez and with mop.  This day suddenly got really good.  Forget the cold, let’s party.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Oh No, She's Here

One busy morning, Mother Novelist came floating down out of the ether, and said, “How’s the novel going?  Because if you’re writing gibberish, you’ll be in a lot of trouble.”

So I said, “I’ve written about sixty pages now of Working Title: Afterwards.  I’ve been a good little writer.”

And Mother Novelist said, “Well okay then.  Keep at it.”  And off she floated.

And I looked at the computer.  Yup, sixty pages of the same thing happening over and over.  Wander around some woods, get attacked, escape, wander around…  What am I doing?  The next twenty pages I’ve already written, but I’ve yet to re-read it.  And then what?  WHAT?  Tell me.

I don’t know.  I’m writing a novel and I have no idea what I’m doing with it.  The last sixty pages are probably a complete mess.  For a start, the seasons change randomly.

How can I possibly write a story and not know where it is going?

Everything else has had some simple thread at the heart of it. 

Working Title: The Road To Confidence: Hannah learns to be a con artist. 

Working Title: Rigor Morris: the medium attempts to cure the mortician of being undead. 

Working Title: The Unadulteress: Bertie gets together with/breaks up with her husband. 

Working Title: The Shovel, PI: The Shovel solves a crime. 

Working Title: Evelynland: Evelyn, uh, hangs around with the bad guy for a bit; aha, see no thread, no wonder I struggle with it. 

Working Title: Donald Benton: Superdork: er, Donald, um, is a loser; again no aim, no wonder I’ve no idea how to end it.

But this one’s the worst yet.  I can’t keep writing it until I come up WITH A PLOT.  But I don’t know what the plot should be so instead I keep writing it.  I don’t even feel that this is the project I want to be working on.  It feels like a place holder until I figure out what I do want to do.

What do I want to do?

When I log on to blogspot/blogger whatever it’s called, first I check the blogs I follow for updates, then I post my thoughts, and then I click the magical ‘next blog’ button to discover some fascinating tale from someone anywhere in the world.

I’m faintly disturbed by how many families have blogs and post up pictures of their kids.  Haven’t they seen Red Dragon or One Hour Photo?  But today I seem to have somehow slipped into homemade jewellery hell.  Click after click after click, all homemade jewellery blogs.  I must have gone through twenty.  Have I slipped into a loop?  How did I get in the loop?  Why is there no way out?  Okay the same blogs are now coming round again.  Fine.  Have it your way.  Forget other people’s stories; I don’t want to hear them.  No more blogging for me today.

What do I want to do?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Flashbulb

In 1937, Neville Chamberlain stalled.  War was inevitable, but he put it off by making bargains, giving us time to prepare.  That’s one way of looking at it anyway, and since it’s history, all there are are ways to look at things.  Nothing will ever be concrete fact.  But in ’38 he went and said that old ‘Peace in our time’ quote and we look back on him as a great bungler, an idiot of our time.

You have to be very careful what you say.  Although having the most stressful job, during the most dangerous time, while dying of cancer, probably somewhat negates the ability of foresight on quotes that will go down in history (besides, what did we want him to say, ‘war is coming and we’re all gonna die’?).

I worry that I’ll write something stupid in the blog.  Something people will call me up on.  Because I’m writing this on my own, I don’t need to qualify my statements, and if I’m suddenly asked for examples, I’ll panic.  It’s not a big deal right now, as I’ve only just started and I could probably count the readers on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to plug a leak in a dam. 

It's hard putting up the (working) titles of my stories.  Somehow putting the full names scares me.  Like putting their names in print somehow puts them at risk.  Or puts my word down that I'm going to really get them published, instead of just playing around on the computer.


It’s astounding to think I once wanted to be an actor.  Not just once, but for about seventeen or eighteen years of The Life planned on becoming an actor.  Me, the great coward.  I would have keeled over from a heart attack at the first audition.  Thank goodness for the poor exam results that sent me fleeing to writing, and the saving grace of The Life. 

What is a saving grace?

But I can’t hide forever, not even as a reclusive writer.

Something I’ve been putting off, blog-wise, is reviewing films.  I can’t help reviewing films when I see them, and until this year, I generally stuck my thoughts on flixster.  Since I now have my own space to write in, I should probably move them here.  But I know I disagree with a lot of people, and I believe firmly that my opinions are valid and intelligent, that’s why I hold the damn things, but if I say I don’t like a famous film, then this tends to really annoy rude people who feel the need to tell me I’m stupid.  Frankly, since I’m the one actually thinking and not copying what I saw on a poster, I doubt I’m the stupid one.  But still, that cowardice is there.  I’m afraid to share my thoughts, because it’s a lot easier to disagree with someone in print than it is face to face.   

Last night I watched Se7en.  I wasn’t impressed.  It also wasn’t the greatest idea to watch it before bed.  Not with my imagination.  The next two films on the shelf are Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.  They’re about the war, I’m interested in the war, the ms Working Title: The Road To Confidence is set during the war, I want to research the war.  I don’t, however, want to watch depressing three-hour films that will give me nightmares. 

I wish the mind wouldn’t do flashbulb horrors.  What that means is just when I go to open a door to put some laundry in the basket, or reach out to flick on the light so I can see the way to the bathroom, or move a chair that’s in the way, the mind comes up with the most horrific, scary image it can.  So now if I open the door, there will be a recently murdered loved one, if I turn on the light, inches from the face will by the psychotic visage of Mr Hyde, if I move the chair it will somehow have skewered me in the brain.  I have to do the action anyway, but now I’m scared.  What kind of imagination does that to a person?

Scary, depressing or gruesome films do not help.  Especially when I haven’t been channelling my creativity into my writing.  It’s going to bubble out in unpleasant ways.  And why haven’t I been writing?

Ah, Christmastime.  Mistletoe and wine (both missing from The Home, because I have no idea where one would buy mistletoe, am fairly sure it is poisonous, and would only feel mocked by the distinct lack of people to kiss under it, and because I live in a teetotal environment, believing that fun should always be had without the need to alter one’s mind via drugs.  Oh yes, I’m a preachy git.  No wonder there’s a lack of kissing).

I spent Friday trudging around the city, ostensibly to look for shoes (I’m supposed to pick out a pair for myself for Christmas but I hate shoe shopping because I have troll’s feet and no shoes fit me and always cut me up) but mainly just doing nothing, other than wasting several perfectly good hours of the day.

I spent today decorating the house in traditional tacky style, desperately emptying the boxes of all their decorations, not because I like the look of the decorations, but because unless I put everything up then it’s a failed task (I’m actually wearing a piece of gold and green tinsel around the neck; it’s my favourite piece of tinsel and every year looks more like someone has shot and skinned it).  And now as I sit staring at it all, smugly pleased with the fake holly I’ve wound up the banister and the fact that I fitted three angels on the top of the tree, I do wonder why I’ve bothered. 

No one will be here with me on Christmas Day.  All today really amounts to is another day not writing.  I could at least have tidied the place up a bit.  But putting up decorations, that’s creative.  Cleaning the house?  That’s anti-creative.  I can’t make excuses for that.

A saving grace is the redeeming grace of God.
Oh, it’s him again.  Busy this time of year.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Is Coming (To Get You)

This is our house, the one in shadow, without a glimmer of Christmas decorations.  Oh, and the patch of ice just in front of the door.  Oh yes, we’re ever so welcoming.

I can’t believe it.  I started to write the Christmas cards at 4.30pm.  At 10pm, I still haven’t finished.  There’re only twenty-four of them.  And I haven’t exactly been writing anything very interesting (I’ve learnt to stop doing that, as family members never have a sense of humour; although I’m still quite pleased with the year I printed out pictures of all the characters from The Producers and put Father Christmas hats on them). 

Select a name, pick the design I think they’d prefer, write the to and from bits, pick a different adjective for the ‘and a happy 2011’ bit, pick a sticker in a vain attempt to personalise it without actually having to write anything (rather limited as I only have Back To The Future Part II, Doctor Who series 3, Looney Tunes, Garfield and Toy Story and while I can think of several people who like all five, most people I know have no feelings about them at all), decide whether to put in confetti (if they have small children or pets, then no), write their address on the envelope (discover I don’t have their address and try to get in contact), put on a stamp (or decide whether I’ll see them in person), move on to the next name, lose pen for the hundredth time.

At least it is vaguely creative, I suppose.

I only started doing it as a break from the computer.  I’ve written another scene for Working Title: Afterwards.  Why did I decide to make the protagonist mute?  WHY?  Okay, I know why, but how did I think this would work for a whole novel?  Me, my thing being dialogue.  That’s what I’m known for.

To the extent that I am ‘known’ at all.

Character interactions are another of my specialities.  And there aren’t any characters.  Not yet, anyway. 

Most of my stories end up as a dynamic between a man and a woman (purely because that avoids all those annoying he said/he said moments) and since they’re often antagonistic, I’m worried each story will seem too similar to readers. 

There’re the con artists in Working Title: The Road To Confidence, the medium and mortician in Working Title: Rigor Morris, the husband and wife in Working Title: The Unadulteress, the child and evil lord in Working Title: Evelynland, the dork and his princess in Working Title: Donald Benton: Superdork.  All these relationships revolve around one character wanting to be near the other whether they’re welcome or not.  At least with the princess and the dork the gender roles are reversed.  The premises are different, the catalysts and goals are different, the characters are (mostly) different, but still, those relationships boil down to a same basic theme each time. 

People have occasionally accused me of writing romances.  I really don’t.  I am a sucker for a good romance, but that’s not the level I’m working on.  I can remember numerous short stories I wrote at university where people just assumed the ‘he’ and ‘she’ were about to become a couple, despite me writing nothing of the sort in the actual words.  Now how can they blame me for something they have inferred?  Just because I tend to write a male and a female who bicker a lot doesn’t mean that’s romance.  If romance was that basic, I’d be married a million times by now.

The only pair up there that actually have a romance is wife and husband, and they are married, so it’s allowed. 

The only other recurring character I really have in Working Title: Afterwards is the villain.  I’m just worried that I’m doomed to write the same thing repeatedly.  I like investigating relationships between characters, but in this case, there’s not very far it can go while remaining believable.  They hate each other.  Not secretly like on some level that they don’t understand, but speciesist hatred.  There was supposed to be some kind of stereotypical respect among generals thing going on, but well, that’s a cliché and besides, it’s all different now.  I probably should work out where this story is going before I write any more.  Humph. 

Today the last piece of my snow-dalek melted away.  He lasted about a week and a half so that’s impressive.  Daleks are made of sturdy stuff or I’m a genius snowman sculptor.  Both, I think.   

And last night I both started and finished the Christmas shopping.  Mostly, anyway.  I also discovered what an abundance of 11th Doctor merchandise there is.  None in the shops, but practically everything online.

I realised that I want every item of home wear there is if you can slap Matt Smith’s weird face on it.  But before I go all out and redecorate the house, perhaps I should consider I’m being a little premature.  What happens if I go off him?  What happens if next year isn’t very good?  After all, somewhere in the back of the wardrobe, I have a poster of David Tennant that I never want to see again.

I know how it’ll be.  So long as I am not given a single Matt Smith item, he will remain wonderful and I a fan.  The second I get something, after weeks, months, perhaps even years of hints, the show will go stale and he’ll forget how to act and I won’t want it any more.

That’s why it’s so much safer to be a fan of something that’s already finished.  I never, ever, ever get tired of gazing upon the talking Captain Blue doll.  Ah.  What’s that Adam?


Colonel White, Captain Scarlet is badly hurt.
You don’t say?  Fascinating. 

SIG, I’m all right, my wounds have healed.
Oh shut up, Captain Scarlet, who asked you?  You know, Captain Blue does just as much dangerous heroics as you, and you know what?  He has to do it without dying.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Satirist's Sign

The muttering was indistinct but it sounded like I said, “I’m being positive.”  If it’s true, and I did say such a strange thing, it certainly caught notice of the satirist who controls reality and a swift retaliation was sent my way.

Today was a failure.  But then, I am a failure; we all know that.  There’s something reassuringly familiar about failing, a sort of nod from the sky that everything’s A-okay.

Let’s just say the interview portion of the day didn’t go so well.

Then it was off to the job centre.

A guy got on the bus.  Now I have this psychic ability; I can tell when someone is going to the same place as me. 

When I was doing jury service (most gruelling, soul destroying two weeks of The Life) the first morning a woman turned up at the bus stop and I just knew she was also going to do jury service so I helped her with which bus to catch.  Of course, she turned out to be one of those people I know within two seconds that I can’t stand.  Very confident, but actually just rude, thinks she knows everything, is a moron.

So I knew this guy was going to the meeting.  Sure enough, although he got off at a different stop, he still arrived at the same building and we both went to the same meeting.

It wasn’t a very point-full meeting, but it did mean I didn’t have to be interrogated like a criminal for a change.

I left, caught the bus, there he was again and he sat next to me.

But he didn’t say anything.

He sat next to me, after sitting in a room with me for the last hour; he should have said something.  So I thought I would.  God was giving me a sign.  If I wasted the opportunity, then he might not send another.  Except the last time this happened, it was that jury lady and I ended up stuck talking to someone I hated.  Thanks for that, by the way.

So I waited.  And waited.  And now it was socially awkward to start speaking.  By this point, God has his head in his hands, despairing at how hopeless I am.  Here he is, giving me a chance on a platter, and I sit there being English.  Coincidences like these are there to be taken advantage of.  Reach out and pretend to have the confidence you bestow on your characters.

So when the journey was half over (so if he was a freak, I wouldn’t have to talk for long), I launched into the speech.  He responded, but not greatly.  I don’t think he was hugely pleased.  After all, if he had deliberately sat next to me because he fancied me, then he would have started the conversation, not sat there for ten minutes ignoring me.  My conversation did not rise above ‘Yeah, so the jobcentre sucks, doesn’t it?’  Hardly the most riveting, memorable way to start a relationship.  His stop arrived.  The conversation, such as it was, was over.

And I grinned.  God had given me an opportunity, I hadn’t wasted it, and it had still gone nowhere.  That is what being Hillesque is all about.  If it had gone well, I wouldn’t know who I was any more.

It was a fitting end to the fitting start.  I didn’t get a job and I didn’t make a new friend either.  The status quo remains.  The show hasn’t been cancelled.

And I saw several of those funny birds with the cartoon legs. 

(Friendly cats that rub the ankles, actors whose eyes are too close together, small fluffy dogs with big black eyes, free samples through the door, pigeons searching for evidence, displaying action figures on shelves when you’re too old, squirrels doing ninjutsu, water in a whiskey glass, crows just staring, these are some more of my favourite things).

Then I got in and finally had lunch, at which point I smashed The Plate by dropping it on The Foot and threw The Sandwiches on the dirty, dirty floor.  But there’s a perverse enjoyment to smashing things, and The Foot hasn’t fallen off, and I don’t think I swallowed any broken china.  Although the spread was crunchy, so I couldn’t really tell. 

It was a good failure.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Job Interview

It wasn’t anybody’s birthday today, so I didn’t take any long drives to run short errands.  But tomorrow morning I have an even longer drive ahead of me, to somewhere I have never been before. 

I’m feeling calm about the interview tomorrow.  Not confident of success, but almost looking forward to the adventure.  Something to write about, eh?  That excuse means on some level, I can even enjoy bad situations.  Not that tomorrow will be bad.  No indeed.  I’m being positive. 

I have a job interview, a meeting at the jobcentre and it’s the signing on day.  When I get home, I have a couple of jobs to apply for that run out the day after.  After all that, there should still be some time to do the whole ‘freelance’ thing. 

How difficult is it for a freelance writer who worked in a theatre for the last four years to get a job in an office?  Exceedingly, apparently.

Still, maybe I’ll see one of those funny birds.  I think they’re called piebald wagtails or something.  What they should be called is ‘those funny birds with the cartoon legs’.  They run about so fast and they look like a child’s drawing of a bird.  They’re a sight that always makes me smile, no matter how stressed or distressed I am.  Like shiny five pence pieces and sunbeams in clouds, these are a few of my favourite things.  Take it, Julie!

My Stance Against Black-And-White Villainy

Can I ask why I can’t always write?  Why I must occasionally devote the time to other things?  And why, if it must be so, does it make me feel so depressed to be away from creativity?

Yesterday was one of those sucky days when I had to devote the time to other activities and not only did no writing, but didn’t even have time to think about writing.  What’s life going to be like when I get back on the ‘being employed’ wagon?  A day without writing leaves me feeling down.  Several days without writing drain the meaning from life. 

But today was better.  I had to take a long drive to run an errand and that gave me time to think, although I did notice myself getting dangerously far to the right on the motorway, so tried to think less, concentrate more.

I still don’t know where the story Working Title: Afterwards is going exactly.  That’s the one about humans not being the dominant species any more.  It’s not as if I have a complete blank, but rather that I’ve had many ideas over the years and I’m not sure which one I’m going with in the end.  But I might as well write some of the start while I figure it out.  There’ll be endless editing and rewrites later anyway to make it all feel more structured and like there’s an actual aim.

Bit of a concern is that I am currently writing a section in which the protagonist, who’s mute, and a baby, who’s a baby, are wandering around some woods.  You know what that’s not?  Full of riveting, witty dialogue.  Still, I thought I’d plough on and see how it goes.

Made the mistake of reading the first three pages (which I rather like) to The Housemate.  He didn’t like it.  He said it was nothing like anything else I have written.  Technically that’s not true, because I came up with this in 2004 so it’s like at least six years of my writing, but my strength does generally lie in dialogue and humour, and those are a bit lacking right now. 

He said it wasn’t funny.  I think it depends how you look at it, but I probably do get out of my depth without humour.  Not that I generally write roaring comedies, it’s just that I have quite a sardonic tone, and supercilious characters, and while I can be serious within that set-up, without the set-up I’m more likely to skirt the line of dullness.  But I’ll still see how it goes.  It’s too soon to give up.

I also watched The Jungle Book.  I haven’t read the novel in many years, but I’m sure it wasn’t a) Tarzan or b) The Mummy, so I doubt the film was very accurate to the source.  Didn’t enjoy it terribly much.  I liked the animals, but the rest was dull or trite.  Cary Elwes was playing a ridiculously evil character. 

Although, let’s be clear, despite being really evil and having lots of ‘ooh he’s going to get his comeuppance’ dialogue, he is one of those villains who wants to marry the female lead and make her rich.  I’m sorry, a brave and handsome soldier loves you and wants to make you rich?  I just can’t get behind this problem. 

It’s like in Pride and Prejudice; sure, it’s a bummer getting two marriage proposals from guys you don’t like, but over here in the ‘no marriage proposals at all’ camp, it’s difficult to really get any sympathy up.  I wish I were at the stage when I could moan that all the people who fancied me just weren’t up to the standard. 

So anyway, it was actually funny just how daft the evil plot was.  I really can’t stand black and white villains and heroes.  Poor Elwes never gets anything to work with.  Plus, much like when I caught some Enterprise earlier (snooze) and couldn’t help immediately exclaiming lots of Quantum Leap things at Scott Bakula, it’s hard to watch Elwes in a film where he swordfights and there’s a big pit of quicksand without ignoring the story and characters and pretending it’s all The Princess Bride. 

I’m sure actors hate that, but I don’t care.  I’m not so fond of actors (most of the close friends are actors (the ones who aren’t writers) and they’re the least reliable people I know) and I love characters, so let’s typecast all the way.

Which reminds me, apparently my favourite character from The Bill (how I miss The Bill, sob), the actor who plays him, Andrew Lancel, is now starting Coronation Street.  The Alias who got me hooked on The Bill in the first place asked if I’d start watching.  Uh, much as it pains me (because I love him), no.  I love the character, and presumably Lancel’s going to be playing a different person, and besides, I quit watching The Bill for at least four years while he was still in it. 

It went like this.  I moved to university.  I tried to follow the parents’ advice and not be myself.  This lasted all of ten minutes and then I gave up and was as sarcastic, geeky and weird as ever. 

I bonded with the flatmates to varying degrees.  But I didn’t quite gel with the Welsh one, because I happened to suggest that the Welsh flag was camp (limp wrist, eyelashes, sticking out tongue — come on) and I did not yet understand the fierce patriotism of the Welsh (that came later, when the verbal abuse started on the street (“Are you English?  Then **** off”)) but since The Alias left the room, I figured I had offended her and apologised. 

Soon, after an argument with another flatmate, I decided that The Alias and I should be friends, and the best way to do this was to watch TV with her. 

So I watched the Welsh soaps, in Welsh, and just made up what the hell was going on.  And we watched The Bill.  And a new character joined, DI ‘sulkypants’ Manson, and I fell in love.  This was funny, because The Alias who I was bonding with over this hated him. 

Still, I watched and watched and around about Easter or something, I had reached the limit.  Every cop in the programme was insane or a criminal of some sort.  Except Manson, who sulky and mean as he was, never broke the law. 

But I just couldn’t take it any more.  It was ludicrous.  The Bill was a soap, and I was only watching it for one character so I often had to wait three episodes at a time for him to even be in it, and then when the signals that he was blatantly going to start an affair with the one character I hated most became impossible to ignore, I finally gave up and I stopped watching it.  And inside, I missed my sulkypants, but I got on with The Life.

Until last year, when they revamped The Bill and advertised it everywhere.  I just couldn’t go on any more without it, I rushed back and I couldn’t believe it.  They’d made it good.  It was a sterling show, no longer a soap, no longer trashy, this was serious detective drama stuff, it was brilliant and compelling, I watched it every week loyally, and I loved it.  And best of all, Manson was still in it, so I felt forgiven for abandoning him for several years. 

But then came the dark days; ITV cancelled my favourite programme.  It carried on for nearly a year after the news at least, but eventually, earlier this year, The Bill aired its final episode (and damn it, Manson did it again and started dating the one character in the whole programme I couldn’t stand, old ‘boringpants’ Grace, but never mind).

And yes, I miss it, because I don’t have anything else to watch.  And yes, I miss Manson, because he was my favourite character for a long time.  But no, that does not mean I am going to watch a soap.  I can’t stand soaps.  I stopped watching The Bill because it was too soap-like and I returned to it when it left that image behind and became excellent drama. 

That’s the resolve.  I’ll try not to crack. 

I miss The Bill.

Anyway, pants though The Jungle Book was, and starved as Elwes was for a decent character (hmm, how shall I play this scene?  Unspeakably evil?  Okay, let’s go with that) it did whet the appetite for my children’s novel Working Title: Evelynland.  Mainly because I fully admit that in my head, I have cast Elwes as the 'villain'. 

It actually came from the trailer for Ella Enchanted, odd because when I finally saw the film, it was awful, whereas the book is very good, but the character Elwes plays in the film isn’t even in the book.  Anyway, I really enjoy the supercilious sneering superior Englishman Elwes is so good at.  Less keen on his American because his accent’s so flat, but he’s still always likeable. 

This is more than I can say for the films he’s in.  He’s generally by far the best thing in them, though.  Let’s see, of the ones I’ve seen to date, did I actually like any? 

The Princess Bride — It’s an okay film with huge cult status, never quite as good as one remembers and the book is better, but it is ultimate Elwes.

Glory — It’s an okay film but it is a war film so y’know, it don’t turn out good for most of ’em, that being the plot, so is really depressing.  Still I’m pretty sure Elwes is nicer than Matthew Broderick in it, which is like opposites.

Days Of Thunder — Frankly the film was so bad I’ve expunged it from the memory, but the three or so minutes Elwes (giving evil sneery glares) was on screen was a welcome break from having to stare at Tom Cruise.

Hot Shots! — It’s as good as you find a good spoof, but is also ultimate Elwes and he gets the best lines.

Dracula — This was also so awful I expunged it.

Robin Hood: Men In Tights — Um, well, it’s as good as you find Mel Brooks…  But hey, look who’s the lead.  Hooray.  Ultimate ulitmate Elwes.

The Jungle Book — It’s a pants film.  Evil sneery Elwes drowns and/or gets eaten by giant snake.

Twister –– It’s an awful film.  Evil sneery Elwes gets exploded in a tornado.

Liar Liar — Meh, it’s an okay film but Jim Carrey’s as insufferable as ever, but Elwes is hilarious as the nicest man in the universe.

The Pentagon Wars — Um, well, it’s okay…  Very cheap, but hey, it's pretty cool and Elwes gets to play a Mr Nice again and Kelsey Grammer is in it, so it has watchability.

The Magic Sword Quest for Camelot — Dear lord this was ghastly.

Cradle Will Rock — A sprawling mess, this is good in places.  One of those places is in Elwes’s performance; it’s hilarious.

Shadow Of The Vampire — Creepy film I didn’t enjoy.  Elwes gets his neck broken.

The Cat’s Meow — Um, it isn’t brilliant.  Aargh, Elwes gets shot in the head!

Comic Book Villains — Weird and disappointing film.  Aargh, aargh, Elwes gets shot repeatedly.

Ella Enchanted — Hugely disappointing bad film, the book is excellent.

The Bard’s Tale — Might be good, if you don’t get eaten by wolves repeatedly…  Okay, it’s a computer game and I haven’t completed it yet, mainly because I got to the final bit and then left uni, somehow leaving the disc behind.  I have since got a new disc but never got round to playing it again, because if I’m on the computer I should really be writing.  It’s a hilarious game though.

Back to the point, when I wrote the baddie in Working Title: Evelynland, it’s Elwes who speaks when I write the dialogue.  Okay, that sounds weird, but sometimes it helps to cast an actor in a roll in my head. 

Anyway, the aim of the story is to teach children that there’s no such thing as black and white when it comes to people, only grey.  No one can be ‘completely evil’ because everyone does things for a reason.  And today I wrote a whole new scene for it and this The Housemate did like.

So, despite the lameness of yesterday, today was productive for two separate stories.  Although I’m not sure which I shall continue with for the next few days.  Actually considering I have a job interview on Wednesday, I shall probably have to focus the energies elsewhere.  But it’s always healthier to fit in a little writing.

I miss Manson.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Plan

Thank you for buying into your own delusion that if you set a plan you’ll actually follow through on it.

I did walk to town.  And there wasn’t any ice.  There’s plenty if I go right at the end of the road, but none if I go left.  Both ways get to town eventually, and right is a busier route, so I don’t really understand that.  Weather came under geography and I never was any good at that.  History, now that was my kinda lesson.

But anyway, I went to town.  Do you know where is a bad place to plan the plot for a story in which humans are going extinct?  In a shopping centre two Saturdays before Christmas.

I did think about the story on the walk there.  Not in a very structured way, but I figured there was plenty of time for that.  There’s never anyone on that stretch of pavement, so it’s a good place to get lost in thoughts.  Then I arrived.  I had £10.  I thought that would easily cover a whole bunch of Christmas cards.

I was an idiot.  I bought the local newspaper, a pair of tweezers, a video of The Jungle Book because I recall Cary Elwes is in it and I can add it to the list of awful films Cary Elwes is in (why do I do this to myself?), and twenty-two Christmas cards.  That’s all I could afford with ten pounds.  The worst part is, in the attempt to be able to afford another pack of cards, I deliberately picked up a pack that had been miss-priced.  I did this in a charity shop.  So now I’m going to Hell and I still don’t have enough cards. 

And the walk home, which at least would be quiet, found me knackered from walking around trying to find a good price so I was unable to think about the story at all. 

And then I spent about two hours updating the Amazon wish list.  Don’t know how it took that long.  A pointless activity since most sane people have already bought their Christmas presents.  Still, all I really want is a satnav, a Woody doll and a sonic screwdriver wii remote.  What’s the guessing I don’t get any of those?  Not to be ungrateful, of course.  It really, truly is the thought that counts.  Which reminds me, I still haven’t sent The Brother his last year’s Christmas present.

Eventually though I did settle to the plan.  I’ve got quite a detailed idea now of how the first bit will go.  What I still don’t know though is where it’s going.  I don’t even know how much of the story this first bit is supposed to be (are we talking prologue, about half, or everything bar the finale?).  And I can’t really write any more until I know that.

Maybe I’ll work it out before I fall asleep tonight (I definitely won’t).

True Who

Among the ruins of yesterday’s sulking, there is a gleam of hope.  I read the start of Working Title: Afterwards, the ‘humans are no longer the dominant species’ story, and it was actually quite good.  It wasn’t consistent, but considering I thought it was all tripe, I had a nice surprise. 

I’ve probably gone as far as I can just typing without planning.  And planning is much more boring than just writing as I go.  The plans never stay the same anyway.  I think in every one of my novel mss, what I originally intended as the focus of the plot has ended up as a minor subplot that may be cut altogether in a later draft. 

I believe strongly in starting a story as late as possible.  And I’ve certainly done that here.  I have reams of back-story (originally intended to be the story) that no one will now hear.  So what I have to decide is what is the actual plot going to be?  Major question that involves me sitting down and thinking, and I’m sure to get restless and distracted.

If I sit down and think, people tend to come over and say irritating things about me staring into space.  So I have to close the eyes.  And then I fall asleep and the plans turn into gibberish.  A good walk is more conducive to thinking and it’s good for the emotions too, plus the body, so overall, a good idea.  However, it is freezing outside and there’re clumps of ice all over the pavement.

Still, I should probably pop down to the local town to buy some Christmas cards from a charity shop.  If I walk, that’s half an hour each way so that’s a good long think and plan.  Or maybe I should just send e-cards.  That’s more environmentally friendly.  But who cherishes e-cards?  No, I’d better stick with the first idea.  As always, I meant to do the cards early this year and yet again didn’t notice it was December until last night when it’s already a third of the way through. 

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the holiday.  I do like all the pretty lights, decorations and music.  I like the magic of commercialism and Christianity come together.  But the actual day is just a day and when it comes down to it, I’d rather be writing.  Although I’m actually almost looking forward to Doctor Who this year.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to it before.

My relationship with the show is rocky.  It was around when I was a kid, and therefore I had a soft spot for it, and Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor.  I recently read a story I wrote in Junior School I think, in which a girl was living with an avuncular but slightly darkly dangerous genius she called Professor in an old air-raid bunker and they had wacky adventures.  I’m sure that was heavily influenced by the whole Ace/Doctor thing. 

Then when they made the TV movie, I watched it and was traumatised by the sight of my Doctor being shot to death.  I didn’t recover from this for many years.  The Stantz re-introduced me to the McCoy years, and attempted to get me into the Peter Davison stuff, since I was a big Davison fan of The Last Detective and Campion.  But his Doctor was lame.

Along came 2005, passing me by.  I caught a bit of the new stuff and didn’t like it, and mostly tried to ignore it.  I didn’t enjoy the 2005 Christmas special.  But eventually, in the last days of uni, The Friends and I decided to for once actually sit down and watch it with The Housemate who normally had to go sit on his own and watch it.  It was the cyberman episode and was so terrible we nearly laughed ourselves unconscious.  But after that, I had a soft spot for the show again and actually tried watching it on a weekly basis.

I thought David Tennant terribly cute (though I never really believed he was the Doctor), but I couldn’t stand his companion and couldn’t wait for her to die.  Shame, turned out she was lying and she didn’t die at all (I never really wanted her to die, because then the Doctor might actually miss her).  What a nasty, selfish little character Rose was.  I quite enjoyed the 2006 Christmas special, despite it being so noisy, flashy and fast I was nearly sick.  And I especially liked Donna choosing not to go with the Doctor.  I too wanted to slap him.

I started series 3, but was disappointed that the Doctor seemed to have had a lobotomy and was now a miserable little git.  I fair fell in love with Martha, but not so much for what she brought to the show, but because I felt so cripplingly sorry for her (I always fixate on the undervalued characters).  The Doctor treated her like dirt and I began to loathe him.  I sat through the series for Martha’s sake.  But when she left, so did I.  I skipped the 2007 Christmas special; I actually had to sit in the kitchen on my own to do this. 

I watched a little of series 4, mainly to catch Martha’s pointless return and leaving again.  I was saddened that Donna had joined the Doctor after she was so strong for telling him to get lost the first time around.  And he continued to be a nasty, whiney little worm.

I don’t know exactly when, but I began to want to know about previous companions.  I wanted to know which had been the best.  So I started at the start.  I’ve now seen every William Hartnell episode (bar The Crusade), even the ones that don’t exist (thanks to the painstaking efforts of geeknerds on the internet).  I’m really quite shocked how good it was in its first three years.  The ideas are all much more imaginative than these days, there are many genuine surprises which again, never happens these days, and William Hartnell is ultimate when it comes to the Doctor.  Because he is the Doctor.  And Ian Chesterton is clearly the best companion ever.  Just my luck that he’s the first companion ever. 

So at some point I still have all the other Doctors to sit through.  I got as far as Patrick Troughton’s first story but was too traumatised by my Doctor’s death.  Again.

I did watch the 2008 Christmas special, and the Easter one.  That was so awful, I skipped the next special, but by Christmas 2009 it was back on again.  I didn’t follow a word of it, although that could have been because there was food to be eaten and presents to be opened.  Then came New Year and Tennant finally shoved off, which I wasn’t altogether happy about because I hated the Doctor so much by this point I had been hoping for the last three years that he might decide to stop being a total jerk before he quit.  But no.

Then along came Matt Smith, and I didn’t care.  Only then Matt Smith was amazing and did everything right.  The material’s a lot better these days; somehow even when it doesn’t make sense, I don’t mind.  There’s still some rubbish floating around and yet Smith is such a good actor he saves every scene.  I’m astounded, but deliriously happy.  And now I would actually call myself a fan and I happily tune in weekly. 

I’m a fan of the first Doctor (True Who) and the last Doctor (New Who).  So bring on Christmas 2010.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Failure

You’d be amazed what rubbish I’ve been churning out for the last few days.  I currently have… 102 story ideas and I can’t find one I actually want to write. 

I’m flitting through the In Progress folder, hoping for inspiration.  There’s one file here titled ‘Pirates steal Christmas’ so I opened it up to see what I’d got.  That’s it.  That’s my idea.  I have three words.  What am I supposed to do with that?  Why did I even bother writing that into a Word file?

So far, I’ve had a go at two post-apocalyptic dystopias and a superhero story.  I don’t know why I have two dystopias.  I don’t enjoy the genre.  Although that may explain a desire to write one I would enjoy.  I think I’m having the same trouble with all three ideas.  They are set in worlds that are completely different to this one and I don’t know how to handle that. 

In Working Title: Rigor Morris, the novel I’m trying to get published, there are spirits and even zombies, but these aren’t the norm.  Only the main character, the medium, sees the world differently.  Everyone else is us.  So they react naturally.  And I can write one character who is different, because that’s where the story comes from.  But what if it was the norm?  I don’t think I’d know where to begin with an out-and-out fantasy story. 

I generally write about the real world, just from a slightly tilted point of view.  Even in Working Title: Evelynland, my children’s story, although the main character ends up in a fantasy story, she’s still from the real world, so again reacts to it as a real person would.  And even then, I’m struggling with it.

I wish I could handle entire fictional worlds.  I want to overcome this fault.  But I don’t know how.  Somehow it drains my authorial voice and style and it all becomes rather bland, because I’m drowning in all this dumb set up.  In fact, now I think about it, I’ve noticed other (unpublished) writers of fantasy or science fiction have a weakened narrative tone.  Perhaps they suffer this trouble too. 

At least I’ve noticed my problem.  I’m sure practice will help, but it’s hard to get involved in a story that even I can tell is dry.  Besides, on the post-apocalyptic side of things, that’s hardly a very cheery atmosphere, and I tend to write quite sardonically, which doesn’t seem appropriate when people are dying.  Bums.

Another theory could be that all three stories I have failed to get into came from ideas I had pre-epiphany.  The Epiphany happened at the start of 2005.  That was when I realised who I was and how to write.  Everything before that was pointless preamble.  Yeah, this theory makes me feel less stupid than the one above.  It’s not me at fault, it’s just the old-me hanging around and clunking up the narrative. 

What we have here is Working Title: The Silencers, which was originally inspired by a scary dream I had as a teenager.  See, I knew I’d had a useful dream…  There are a lot of characters, which is one problem.  And I’ve been trawling through random (terrible) scenes to try to work out what the actual plot is supposed to be.  Definitely one of those start from scratch affairs.  But then, is this story interesting enough to even bother with?  I’m not sure it is.

The other dystopia is Working Title: Afterwards, and came to me one day in the first year of university, when I arrived at the train station after Christmas to find no one waiting for me.  I carried my belongings all the way up the hill to the hall of residence.  No one was in.  So obviously, I pretended everyone in the village/uni was dead and that I was on the run.  It's also partly inspired by a dream, which I may have had later; I was walking into work and I passed a man, some higher up, and I turned back and caught his eye, and I knew he wasn't human any more.  But all I have for that is a lot of big ideas, and I’m not a big idea person.  I write detailed characters who snipe at each other, a lot.  I don’t write revolutions.

Then Working Title: Super Complex, the superhero story, has a plot, but the characters are all a bit bland.  And what the hell do I know about action heroes?  And why would anyone want to read what is a primarily visual medium?

No, I’m forcing myself to write these.  I need to find something I can just slip into and I’m beginning to panic.  What good are 102 pointless ideas I can’t handle?  I’ve written six mss, please don’t tell me that’s all I have in me. 

Oh, third theory.  The same as theory 1, except perhaps it’s not that I can’t handle an entire fictional world where I set down the ground rules but that I lack the confidence to believe other people would put up with it. 

You have to really invest in a fantastical story and trust the author, and I can just imagine The Housemate reading one paragraph and giving up with a “Huh, what?  Why?”  That’s what happened when he read Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.  And I respect The Housemate’s opinions.  Well…  I respect his writing anyway, and that’s near enough the same thing.

But then, maybe I’m still feeling bruised from some recent negative feedback I received on what I considered to be good writing (Working Title: Rigor Morris).  I like criticism in the long term, but this wasn’t helpful, it was just ignorant (offensively racist even).  

I’m a terribly pompous person and I know I’m a good writer.  There was The Epiphany after all, and then the 1st at uni.  I can’t fail at the only thing that ever felt right.  So I won’t.