Tuesday, 14 December 2010

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.

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