Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Return Of The Dork

The view from the window is marginally more interesting than usual.  As I work on the writing, forgetting to take breaks so I murder the eyesight and turn the brain to mush, I can glance to the side out of the huge bedroom window and if I crane the neck I can see the bird feeders.

Unfortunately, I accidentally seem to have made them squirrel proof, even though I only really wanted them to encourage squirrels (the best animals ever) into the garden.  I saw one just now.  They’re so fluffy and springy, which are the best qualities in an animal. 

It bounced and crawled so fast and insanely, it’s hard to believe it’s real.  Over a roof, along and down fences and over bushes so thin it looked like it was hovering in the air.  But it can’t get at the seed feeder because it’s on a metal pole, and although the peanut one is on the fence, it examined it and ran off without eating anything so maybe it can’t get them out. 

I also saw a raven/crow/rook/whatever walking along the roof opposite.  Totally gravity defying of course.  Immediately after I saw two tits actually using both feeders, so I’m quite excited. 

Then a pigeon, a magpie, a blackbird and a tit had some sort of stand-off in the garden, but it didn’t go anywhere, so then I got bored and went back to writing.  I don’t know how bird watchers do it.  I have a low opinion of them, just thinking of that scene in Mr Hobbs Takes A Vacation when James Stewart has to go out with a bird watcher who’s a total nerd, takes it really seriously and makes him do a stupid walk.  You’ve always got to side with James Stewart.  I only like looking at birds because they’re funny.

I watched Star Trek V last night and really enjoyed it.  I’m feeling extremely hostile towards an incredibly negative review of it in the film book.  Still it seems to be written by someone who doesn’t like Star Trek.  DUH, DON’T WATCH STAR TREK THEN. 

There’s the old rule of even numbered Trek films are good, odd numbered are bad and last time I watched them I kinda agreed.  But this time round, I figure it’s more, 1 is awfully boring, 2-6 are really fun, 7 can get lost (because it kills Kirk), 8-10 who cares, 11 can go to hell (because it kills all of Star Trek ever and rewrites the timeline).  There, nice rational review I think.

I’m listening to the Jaws soundtrack, which consists of dun-nah-dun-nah-dun-nah, and then the tracks that don’t are boring so I skip on until another dun-nah-dun-nah one.  Only you only need to hear it once, so a whole soundtrack is kinda redundant.  Gremlins uses the same tune in every track, but the Gremlins theme is cool.

You know who else is cool?  Captain Kirk.  I hate that stupid review.  It doesn’t even make any points or criticisms.  It’s just a sarcastic list of stuff that happens in the film jumbled up with the reviewer’s attitude.  It only works if you already hate Star Trek.  If you go into it open minded, it doesn’t make any sense.

Oh my God, I’m moaning about a negative Star Trek review in the blog.  THIS is why when I tried Internet dating the only guys who hit on me played D&D.  And they called it that too.  Not dungeons and dragons, but D&D, like I should know what the hell that means.  Shoot me now.

Still, fiction-wise, Kirk’s got to be the second greatest hero of all time.  The first being Sam Beckett, naturally.

So on to writing, that thing I’m supposed to be focusing on here, I went to a writers’ group recently.  Since I’m writing in public, I’ll be polite.  It was not hugely productive because it was just a preliminary thing to decide what future groups should actually do and was grossly overpopulated.  There were two mingling sessions, wasted on me because a) I’m a writer and therefore socially retarded, and b) I only knew what half the group did and none of it was relevant to me. 

These people were either scriptwriters, which since the utter failure at scriptwriting at university…

Tutor: But you must be careful with this scene or the audience might giggle.
Me: Uh, it’s a comedy.
Trouble there was the tutor was a huge cliché, wrote melodramatic dramas about being gay and only liked melodramatic dramas about being gay.  The only plays I like are insane farce or huge musicals; I just don’t get serious drama on stage because it’s all so silly. 

…I have little interest in it and regard it somewhat contemptuously; I’ll eight sentence structure YOU. 

Or they had never written a thing in thirty years but believed everyone has a book in them.  You know who says that?  Non-writers. 

Besides which, turns out I’m a terrible ageist.  I consider anyone younger than me an arrogant young whippersnapper and anyone older a patronising old fuddy-duddy. 

Never trusted the elderly as a child, especially men with beards (just what are they trying to hide?) so never felt keen on Father Christmas or the Seven Dwarfs. 

But I remember clearly when I was five that I considered six year olds to be so experienced they were twenty (twenty being the perfect age of maturity) while I had no idea what three year olds were saying to me and regarded them as rather worse than gibbering animals. 

I actually ate my lunch with the teacher because I was afraid of the children.  I found children infuriating because they were so stupid.  This from the child who was afraid of other children, couldn’t tell the time, didn’t know what a post code or date of birth was, and was in the slow reading group.  I felt superior because they thought farts or underwear were funny, whereas I’d already developed a dry sense of humour. 

But once I went to university that put me off the idea of older people being full of maturity and intelligence that they could share with and teach me.  It’s amazing how a mature student can really make you want to punch them in the face.

And this group were mostly old enough to be my grandparents.  Undecided whether to return.  I don’t think anyone there wanted to be a fiction novelist.  They didn’t even know what ‘workshop’ meant.

On my own ‘haven’t written anything in thirty years’ front, I had a passable dream-story idea recently, so have noted that away so I can never do anything with it because it probably won’t make any sense when I look at it again.  And I’ve expanded on another idea that is impossible to write because it’s entirely visual film references.  I’ve attempted to rewrite the Working Title: Rigor Morris synopsis a million times.

But, on the ‘dear Lord don’t let me turn into a mature student who’s never done any writing in thirty years’ front, I’ve been going over the novel ms about the dork with delusions of grandeur, Working Title: Donald Benton: Superdork, and might actually be making some progress. 

The Slayer visited and I trapped him in a room and lectured him for an hour on the story, and it was so refreshing to have someone to bounce ideas off.  He really made me see my own themes better.  That happens a lot.  Other people seem to get my themes better than me.  They are the themes I intended but I just can’t verbalise what I mean, whereas they just cut straight to it.  Yeah, great writer.

Anyway, I might actually now have a concrete ending, rather than one I rewrite every time I look at it, like some kind of horrible raggedy cuff that’s been darned so often there’s no original material left and it pulls itself apart. 

But on reading the ms all the way through, although I perfectly enjoy all the reality stuff, the fantastical delusions are rubbish.  They work better later on, but for the whole first half, they just don’t mesh with the story.  I feel like I could pick it up and shake it and the fantasy sequences would fall out and the story wouldn’t be affected.  I kind of get bored reading them, ‘well this is all very well but it’s not real so can we get back to the story now please’. 

Actually, I recently read The Neverending Story by Michael Ende and I felt like that then as well.  Loved all the Bastian real life issue stuff, but was slightly bored by the Atreyu adventure stuff.  Still, on getting to the end (eventually, 400 pages, are you insane?  Hello, slow reader here) I was very impressed with the intelligence and complexity of the story. 

It would really have helped to read it during the third year at uni.  I did an independent study, writing what has since become my children’s story Working Title: Evelynland and I read lots of children’s books either because they explored the idea of fiction and reality blurring and the genre of entering a fantasy world, or because they explored the relationship between perceived evil and good and the relationship between child and villain. 

The Neverending Story would have been perfect material to study, because it does exactly the kind of thing I want to, with the child actually ending up in a story that they know is a story.  And even to some extent blurs the lines of villains and heroes, as Bastian certainly becomes a villain towards the end, and although very different from what I want to do, it’s fascinating stuff. 

I will now try to recall what I thought of the books I did read, keeping in mind this was five/six years ago.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner.  I had completely forgotten this book existed.  I didn’t really like it.  I thought it was weird, confusing, disturbing and the ending was a let down. 

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce.  This is one of my favourite books.  It’s well written, clever and satisfying.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I enjoyed it and thought Dr Livesey was kick-ass cool.  I thought it was enjoyable and exciting although I was unsure about the deliberately archaic style.  I’m afraid it’ll be a bit of a let down when I read it again.  Wow, has it really been five years? 

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  I read this a lot as a child so I enjoy by default, but it was actually better than I remembered, funny, weird (this time that’s a compliment) and sweet.

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett.  This is one of those books I think I may not like when I read it again.  I think I was overly impressed at the time because I’d read so much rubbish it was refreshing to read something well written; it’s probably quite preachy.  But at the time of reading, I thought it was clear, concise and intelligent.  Nothing like Pratchett’s fantasy stuff.  Wasn’t so keen on the ending though.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.  I didn’t like it.  I thought it was like two separate books had been jammed together.  The fantasy half was good and funny but I just didn’t see why Artemis Fowl was in it.  I found him boring and I didn’t like him and so I thought the ending was a let down.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.  I enjoyed this quite a lot, especially Mr Darling, and Hook too.  I wanted Mr Darling to be in it more (the whole acting like a child then blaming the children thing is deliciously twisted), and I liked that Hook kind of ultimately wins, because he never sinks to cheating, whereas Pan does.  It’s funny and some of the ideas are amazing.  But it’s weird at times, because despite the whole we all know Barrie was odd and spent all his time with kids, the text seems to suggest he dislikes children (Pan is not a heroic figure).  And obviously, the ending is quite depressing.  Although none of that’s to say the almost sadistic weirdness isn’t infectious.  Still, don’t know whether it’ll work the second time round.

The Sorcerer’s Appendix by Andrew Harman.  I liked this when I was a child.  But as an adult, I was disappointed.  It was like it wasn’t the final draft, as if the wrong copy had been sent to the publishers.  It was full of typos I never noticed as a child.  Probably because it was set in a larger world with other books, there were scene switches and sentences that made no sense and characters who popped up for one scene and vanished.  I found it confusing to follow because it was set in two time periods and it was so Pratchetesque it just felt like a rip off.  I liked the character Snydewinder, because he was in it the most and was funny, so I disliked the ending.  Why is Snydewinder punished but not his kingdom when he’s only following their orders? 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.  I thought it was pretty excellent (unlike the film adaptation which surgically removes everything and is rubbish).  It was witty and had a fascinating and original father/daughter relationship.  I didn’t think the ending was as good as the rest of the book though.  Not sure why it has to become Cinderella.  It’s fine that it does, but it feels a little tacked on, even though it is presumably the premise of the book.  And it should be longer.  More of Ella’s witty adventures as she travels about, trying to find the fairy who cursed her.  And her dad Sir Peter should be in it more.  Still, I hope it’s still good when I read it next. 

Warriors of Alavna by N. M. Browne.  Not my sort of thing at all.  I liked how detailed it was but I thought the opening was dreadful.  It was the most confusing POV I’d ever read.  I hated the male lead and there wasn’t a satisfactory ending.  Ursula and Dan must pass through a mist to get home to their time/dimension.  As they walk through, they wonder if they have become too barbaric to live in society and that’s where it ends.  WHAT?  They are killers now and they’ve been away for a year.  You can’t end a book there.  I had no idea if I liked it or not but in hindsight, I’ve no desire to go near it again.

Stravaganza: City of Masks and some of City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman.  I hated this so much, although I did like one character in it, Enrico.  I thought it was boring, the fantasy world of Talia was the dullest fantasy world ever concocted, it was sexually inappropriate, confusing and annoying, tacky and depressing.  It was boring to start with, very good in the middle (where it should have ended) then the ending sucked.  And it was a trilogy so it didn’t even tie up.  I thought Enrico was the only character with a personality and the others could all jump off a cliff and I wouldn’t blink. 

The Divide by Elizabeth Kay.  This was all right, but nowhere near as intelligent as it seems to think it is.  The first time I read it, I thought the scenes were far too short and didn’t go anywhere but I still enjoyed it.  It reminded me of a better City of Masks.  I was disappointed it was the start of another trilogy, but it still had a proper ending and so was more satisfying than City of Masks.  I have since bought the sequels but having re-read one and read two, I’ve got rid of them and I’m in no hurry to read three.

A Game of Dark by William Mayne.  Uh, this was witty and I peripherally liked some of the characters, but I was confused, finding it difficult to get into.  Sometimes I hadn’t a clue what it meant or was describing.  It was odd, never went into character depth and the ending wasn’t satisfactory because I had no idea what it meant.  Shame because I was really into the book by that point. 

I meant to read Inkheart/Inkspell by Cornelia Funke but never got round to it. 

But I did buy The Neverending Story, but I never read it.  I’m thinking 400 pages may have been a deterrent considering I was writing three dissertations at the time.  (Well, three stories.  I love writing courses).

It’s embarrassing reading the journal from the study because I come across as so arrogant and therefore moronic.  I think I probably do here too.  I always do in hindsight, and then I think I’m fine, but once I get to hindsight again I realise I’m just as bad as ever.  It’s not that I am really arrogant, it’s just I get so excited getting to express my opinions (no one ever listened to me when I was a child, waah, poor me, poor me) that I sort of shout them out without going into depth.

Uh, but anyway, Working Title: Donald Benton: Superdork…  I have a theory that if I write each fantasy sequence with an arc, like I have with each chapter/story of the reality side, then they will feel more like a parallel plot and not just random alternate scenes that serve no purpose.  It does mean rewriting a quarter or more of the book, but heck, what else was I going to do this weekend?

And amazingly, I still like the ending.  This one’s stuck for more than two days.  Perhaps it’s a keeper.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's that Barrie disliked children. He'd been QUITE fond of them, actually. Preferred their company to that of adults, one might argue. It's just that he liked to draw attention to the complexity of emotions found within children. (Note that the adults in the story can be said to act 'childish')

    Here are two more Pan stories to read...
    A story based on Barrie’s own idea for more:
    And a great 'What if?' adventure (but it's not for the kids!): Click!


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