Sunday, 19 April 2009

Starting Science Fiction

For some reason I haven't got much writing done this week. Maybe it was returning to work and being on frantic catch-up or still adjusting to the clocks changing. Whatever it was, this post is my most creative activity this week.

So what am I going to write about while my cat tries to push the laptop off and repeatedly turns the Caps on. The little @@%%$$. Well how about where my love for Science Fiction came from.

When I was out playing there were a handful of things that could drag me in. One was to watch an Apollo launch or landing. Not fiction I know, unless you believe those stories of secret filming in the desert. No I don't, I have a life. I would sit in front of the black and white TV with my Mum while she explained what was going on.

Another was Captain Scarlet. Forget Stingray or Thunderbird, that old Captain was cool and I still do Mysteron impersonations if I get my hands on a few torches. Each week I sat there, eager to see how he would escape those impossible, guaranteed death situations. OK. I was young, alright? My faith that he was in real danger each week was as indestructable as he was. And then there was Captain Black. I'm sure Darth Vader was based on him. I watched the remakes too but they just weren't the same. No strings for a start.

Dr Who has been part of life since, well my life started. The sofa was kept away from the wall just for Saturday night where we junior members of the family would hide. Peeking around to find out what the screams were about then diving back with horror. Nobody in the family would dream of missing it, right up until they cancelled the show. I was horrified when I heard it was to be reworked. How could they touch it? It was sacred?

Dave read all the advanced info because I couldn't bear to look then kept telling me it would be fine but I insisted the kids watched some of the originals before they saw the new stuff. Thankfully my fears were over nothing and it is now as regular a family event as the old stuff was. I think the highlight was the Daleks moving from their ships to the Satellite 5. I saw the trailer and screamed. "Oh my God they %%&& fly in space." I don't swear as a rule but well, that one deserved it.

I can remember watching the first trailers for Star Trek and wondering what on earth it was. I'd never seen anything like it. Again I was hooked. The gang of kids I played with were all fans too but when we built our own spaceship (a tree that had a convenient wall round it) I was always Captain Kirk. Can't remember if it was because I knew the most, because we'd picked up on the filtered down equality stuff or just no-one dared to demote me.

And Dad would make sure I watched any old movies that were on. Quatermass, Day of the Triffids, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds. Of course I was already in when they came on. The Mother Police on the estate would soon be whispering if any Mum was so slack as to let their child out after dark.

I would also run in to watch Marine Boy but the less said about that the better. Just pretend you never read that bit, OK?

But... you cry... that's all TV and Film. Well I did move onto books and devoured them but even an advanced reader takes a while before they can handle Azimov and Heinlein. Let alone Philip K Dick and Harlan Ellison. So my love of SF started with TV.

Don't know if this post counts as creative now I've done it so lets just call it a stream of conciousness. Have a great week.

Monday, 13 April 2009

End of Easter

Well the week off is over, I'm munched buckets of chocolate and now its back to the day job tomorrow. Sob. Hope all you bunnies had a good Easter.

I didn't forget my writing this week.

My black comedy feature "Blood, Sweat and Tears" is now renamed "Shepherd's Ruin". Feels a more appropriate title with the major changes I've made to the story. I've done about 30% of the re-write on it.

I've started on the first draft of "Rain On My Parade" my comedy drama feature. This is about 10% done.

I even started on "Life to the Full", my drama feature. This has been blocked out for quite a while but I've now got down to writing the first draft.

Forgot to say I also submitted my synopsis of my horror feature, "Valley of the Moon Dancers", into the Euroscript Competition. A while until I hear.

I wrote a short radio play. This is a spooky one. And I've been playing with ideas for my young adult novel.

Sounds a lot but what I've actually been doing is jumping from one project to the next whenever I get stuck. I do wonder whether it would be better to plough on with just a single project but I hate to do one thing at a time.

Even when I watch TV I have to be knitting or reading or writing or tapestry or anything. It's what I find hardest with long haul flights. You can't take knitting needles or sewing on the flight in case you attack the crew with a lethal purl stitch. The curse of multi-tasking.

So how is everyone's workload doing?

Sunday, 5 April 2009


Well it's time for my weekly post and I sat here wondering what to say. I haven't done much writing this week. Very naughty I know but blame it on the bugs that are lurking around this Spring. It is Spring isn't it? I know it's sunny outside at the moment but they are forcasting torrential rain for my week off. Typical.

Anyway, back on topic. How do I get inspiration for my stories. When I sat down and thought about it I came up with the list below but to be honest I rarely make a concious decision to go somewhere and look for a story. It's usually hindsight that shows where it came from. But when I get stuck I know the list below will help me out.

1) Music. This is top of my list because it is my main source of ideas. I listen to a piece of music and pictures appear in my head. I then take these images and expand on them. It doesn't really matter what type of music, and I have catholic tastes. But it does need to generate an emotional response.

So forget elevator music and most pop. Classics, soul, blues, alternative rock are much better. But not under any circumstances Country and Western. I'm sorry but its going to be many decades and several lobotomies before I can handle that. Not that I'm anti-country, just I want a wrist-slashing ballard that comes from deep angst, not cos Pa sold the prize bull and now the cows are in Moo...rning.

2) Dreams. I used to get a lot of nightmares as a kid, immersion heater daleks and shopwindow dummies springing to life. So my Mum taught me to control my dreams. Of course we didn't know there was a fancy name for it. I can recall my dreams very clearly and go back into them when I want which makes a great place to play with ideas.

I find this is most useful at the beginning and end of a project. At the start I can play with ways of telling the story. At the end I can act out scenes and get the dialogue and emotions right. I have to keep a torch and notepad by the bed though to write ideas down or I'll never get any sleep.

3) Travel. I have to do this a lot and I can't say I enjoy it. Airports and hotels get to look very much the same after a while. What keeps me sane is people watching. Catching a snapshot of their lives and filling in the blanks. Why is that woman trying to handle a business deal on the phone while feeding her toddler processed gunk from a jar? What made that security man think shouting in English would make anything clearer to the Indian lady that can't speak a word of it? How did they all get into those situations?

4) Morning Papers. One writing course I attended started with a couple of days improvisation. My first response was...oh dear. I'd once been dragged to a drama school class by a mate and after one session of being a tree and walking round a room saying Cro...Co...Dile and I swore never again.

But instead of walking I decided to give it a try and discovered it was great fun. And suprisingly hard too. Learning to hold the emotion in until it just has to burst out. To let others control what you do and say. It helped a lot with how people really talk and status games as well as stopping you editing your ideas too early.

The improvisation part was run by Dylan Emery of Grand Theft Impro and I believe they run courses in London so it would be worth checking them out here. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself. You won't be on your own. And the things people say when they are under pressure and have no time to think it through first. Hmmm Freud would have a field day.

Anyway, when I get really stuck I use the Morning Papers excercise. Just let yourself write anything until the flow is underway. You can always bin the early stuff.

5) Real Papers. Especially old ones used for packing. I like to think of it as recycling. I have a pile from the late 60s and early 70s that my Dad collected. Some are local papers and these I find are even better than the nationals. They have more of the wierd stuff. Odd adverts and little stories that were important to the community. Small scale stuff but that's what I like.

6) Brainstorming. I've had a few sessions with groups, coming up with a communal idea and it is great fun as long as everyone is prepared to have their ideas binned occasionally. It is awful if you have one individual plowing ahead with their idea and you are all expected to tag along. When it is working well the ideas seem to flow faster and you can bounce off each other. Not literally but I suppose that could be useful if you are working on an action film?

I have tried groups where everyone is in one room and I found these the easiest. Long distance groups tended to be a lot slower, even when emailing back and forth live. Sometimes you just need to see the whites of their eyes. However both forms were fun when you were working with people you trust. Haven't tried it with strangers.

So that's were I get my inspiration. What have you found works for you?