Monday, April 7th, 2014
Another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into. Following Robin Bell‘s own excellent blog post the baton has now been passed for me to answer (in writing) questions about writing, my writing… and not make myself sound like an idiot in the process (see my previous blog posts).
The idea of the Writers’ Blog Tour is for the bloggers to answer the same four seemingly simple questions and then pass the challenge on. Here we go.
1.) WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
This Blog challenge has turned up at a very odd/interesting moment. Unfortunately, I very recently lost my job and have just this weekend finished my contribution on the film I have been working on for the last four months. While I work out what’s next in the long term, in the short term, I have plenty of freedom and and opportunity ahead. It’s exciting and scary and exciting. And scary.
My immediate options are:
- Start a second draft of the horror feature I made up as I went along last year (as recorded at the time in my #horrordiary posts)
- Write the pilot episode of my ‘Watchmen of dinner party murder mysteries’ mini-series.
- Write the definitive (yeah, right) draft of my beloved film noir pet project that I’ve enjoyed returning to since university.
- My high-concept/low-fi sci-fi stage play idea.
I want to do all of them and I will. It’s just a matter of which order. I’ve also been toying with the idea of trying to write prose, starting with a short story. I’ve been re-reading Joe Hill‘s amazing 20th Century Ghosts collection as well as stories by Ernest Hemmingway and I think I might finally be ready to have a go. Eep!
2.) HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
Not entirely sure which ‘genre’ that is. But if you follow the Writers Blog Tour back through its chain (which I highly recommend for insightful, inspiring stuff), this is the question that brings out the modesty or embarrassment but I think I have an easier answer. It’s because I can’t write like the people I’m trying to impersonate.
Whether I’m trying to rip off Mary Shelley, Mike Carey or Richard Matheson (or any number of other personal heroes) the fact that I will never be able to write quite like them is the hope I have that I’ll work out how to write like me and just work from there.
As ‘they’ say, if we all wrote from the same outline, we’d still have completely different scripts. But that’s just my opinion. And after saying I do stuff differently, I’m gonna do what Robin did when answering this and ask for a second opinion. Once again, I’ve asked Heather about any common tropes she sees recur in my writing:
I write good female (and male) characters and always pass the Bechdel Test. (Phew!) In my opinion, Heather is largely responsible for this – my wife is very much another hero of mine and so my characters probably owe more to her than they do me. Also, this is getting pretty sickening, eh? But it’s hard not to get inspired by Heather. I mean this is what she looks like on a simple Sunday afternoon walk. She’s ridiculous. Ridiculous!
She also says I write funny. (Yay!) I long ago gave up straight comedy but, while I never want my characters to not take things seriously, they hide behind a barrage of humour, even if highly inappropriate. I’d agree that my characters more often than not consciously try to be funny. Sounds familiar.
And apparently my characters also always try really hard to do the right thing because that matters more than they do. (Ooh!) This is the one that made me think. It’s probably true that, if I wrote A Christmas Carol, my Scrooge would WANT to change from the beginning, to better himself. For better or worse, I guess that’s always been my way into characters. When we meet them, they’re rarely happy with who they are. If there’s a chance they can do something worthwhile, maybe it’ll be okay.
I doubt I’m the only writer who does that. But I guess I do it my way.
3.) WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
The glib answer is ‘because it isn’t there… yet’. The slightly pretentious one? Well, it’s because I’m a massive coward.
I genuinely believe that genre/escapist tales can provide just as much insight into human drama as every gritty kitchen sink or slice of life; no more, no less. The more sentient black holes, impending apocalypses or anthropomorphic romance I throw into a plot without looking too closely, the more honest or personal it usually ends up being as the love, hate, fear and confusion (even when faced with something impossible) has to be a plausible reaction.
I’m a coward. I’m in no way saying that all or any genre writers are. But I am. I can’t sit down and directly face my thoughts on stuff. With me and my self-destruct system, I’m unable watch a story on the news without blaming myself for it. For everything! This means there are a lot of potential barriers in my head when I try and think about stuff. But characters seem to be able to get through unobstructed, the sneaky fictional bastards!
I try to write what I know. But often it turns out better if I try to find out what I know by writing. Yup, my writing is all purely selfish.
4.) HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Hmmn. Process. I should probably have one of those. In fact, possibly I have too many. I dive into a blank document, I index card the heck out of an idea to find its structure, I write outlines, treatments, scriptments, I bullet point every possible idea I have for the project and then see if any of those pieces stick together, you name it and I’ll have tried it. I’m happy to say that in the last year or so, a problem I haven’t had is sitting down and getting on with it, for which I’m grateful.
Again, turning to Heather for help, the answer to this is that it usually involves getting stuck. Every time. Which I also forget. Every time. It’s a crucible. While I can happily churn out pages, it isn’t until I get critically stuck, start to agonise and then want to give up because I can’t do an idea justice and genuinely lose all confidence that the script actually comes to life. It has to get struck down by the Darth Vader of doubt but usually returning more powerful than I could possibly imagine. Which is a bit of a relief really.
So that’s me. Robin also nominated the fabulous Lisa Holdsworth on her Deadlines and Diamonds blog who will have a much better post answering the same questions today as well. (Make sure to check out her other posts!)
I’ve also asked three writers chums to continue this chain of self-interrogation and they all said yes. Clearly they all had other things they should be doing too! But this is great because I love following their progress so wouldn’t mind getting to see inside their heads a bit too. Keep your eye out next Monday for posts from these fine individuals:
Laura Anne Anderson (@missread) is a writer of screenplays, prose and copy. She completed a Screenwriting MA a few years ago and has since had several shorts made, a feature optioned, and has won some competitions. She’s new to the land of novel writing and is currently working on her second book, a science fiction novel for Young Adults set in her home town of Edinburgh. http://landerson.co.uk/blog/
James F. Wright (@chuckspear) pays the bills as an Associate Producer at NFL Network in Los Angeles, California, but spends his off hours reading or writing. He’s been a comic book fan since he learned to read as a kid, and only recently has made a serious go at writing his own. He co-created with artist Josh Eckert The Geek Zodiac–a fun way to approach astrology—and his culinary coming-of-age crime comic series with artist Jackie Crofts, Nutmeg, will debut from Action Lab Entertainment this fall. He suffers from crippling procrastination but is working on it. http://wordsthatfit.tumblr.com/
Claire Weaver (@cweaver) is a screenwriter, journalist, occasional artist, apocalypse expert, occultist and fearless zombie killer. When she’s not busy banishing demons back to Hell, she goes on adventures with her musically-talented and alchemist husband, Luke, and their two cats from outer space, Robot and Gadget. http://claireweaver.blogspot.com
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Baton passed. Thanks for listening. You’d make a good counselor!