Here I am, back again with fresh inspiration! I’m not exactly good at leaving this series until September, am I? It might have been a lot longer before you heard about my ECP again had it not been for the fact that – somewhat ironically – I’d been really struggling with how to move forward. As you might expect, those of us on my course are told to avoid cliches in our writing like the plague. Unless, of course, we can do something different with them and turn them on their heads. In my state of blind panic, convinced that every one of my ideas had been done a million times before, I’d completely forgotten about that and had resigned myself to struggling until my return to Winchester – until a friend stepped in with a reminder to do something different.
So, the current state of affairs is as follows. My original idea – concerning two people locked in a relatively trivial disagreement – seemed much too basic. There was nothing different about it that made it stand out from countless other similar stories that have gone before, so I thought about how I could raise the stakes for one or both of my characters. In doing so, I’d be following the advice I’d been given, and potentially improving the piece’s dramatic effect. Take the scenario I have at the moment – two people in a problematic relationship, arguing about their feelings. It hadn’t occurred to me until a few days ago that doing something as simple as changing their ages could put them in an entirely different position in life, taking an even bigger risk, so at the moment I have Mark, a younger man locked in a heated confrontation with Jackie, the older married woman with whom he has been having an affair. As they talk, they’ll reference Jackie’s husband, who we then meet in the second script, facing his own much more severe issues all alone.
Even this new concept might still seem too much of a cliche at first, but I’m confident that there’s room to experiment with it even more. It’s certainly the clearest direction I’ve established so far, and the fact I’m now likely to panic much less as this process continues is a welcome relief. I feel much better about writing focused test material now – everything I’d attempted up to now seemed rushed, unnatural, hastily typed from a place of desperation. Let’s hope that won’t be as much of a problem going forward. It definitely seems like I’m on more of a roll, which can only be a positive.
OK, so I know I told you that the next update on my ECP would come in September, but sat here, watching first practice for the British Grand Prix in the comfort of my room, I had something of an epiphany about it. You might recall that in Part 1, I discussed the possibility of writing a pair of small scripts, connected by a shared theme. I intend to stick to what immediately came to mind – the subject of longing – and to demonstrate this in two very different ways. In the first, two characters will come to blows over something relatively common or trivial, treating it as though it’s the worst thing in the world. In the course of their disagreement, they’ll talk about their friends, the people on the outside of the situation, who – unbeknown to them – are themselves struggling with a kind of longing that’s much more severe. Maybe they’re at risk of losing jobs or homes, or they’re struggling with secret issues or addictions, but none of the people closest to them have given them the support they need – so engrossed are they in their own comparatively petty squabbles.
At this early stage, that’s quite literally all I have so far, still the bare bones of an idea. Having said that, though, it’s enough to push me on towards the next step, namely actually writing some test material and something resembling a first draft. Once I’ve made what I deem to be good progress, I’d like to devise at least one alternative concept, in case my tutor doesn’t think either or both of the aforementioned ideas are worthy. In any case, it certainly can’t hurt to expand my options. I’m sure all writers, budding or experienced, can agree that facing a blank page is daunting – but I evidently have more than I need to get started, so that’s left to do now is get typing and see what appears!
Towards the end of July, I wrote about a script for a short film that I was gradually developing from a short story I’d written last year, Warm Leather. Knowing how badly I procrastinate, I was doubtful that I’d manage to get it finished anytime soon, but I’m now pleased to report that I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime – I have a complete draft! I typed the words “fade to black” on Tuesday last week, and quickly shared what I’d done with a small group of friends. They may have been slightly biased, but the feedback they gave was largely favourable, so for now I will stick with the draft I have – my next objective is to send it elsewhere and see if I can find some more informed advice.
After so many years of only managing to write snippets of script, it means rather a lot to me to have committed to this one through to the end, even though it’s only 14 pages long (quarter of an hour in length, rather than the half an hour I had anticipated). It’s given me a solid starting point to develop and grow the story where necessary, and if nothing else, it’s been good practice for the “Creating Short Screenplays” module I’m starting in Winchester next semester. I couldn’t be happier with my progress so far, and if I can find the right place to send it next, then who knows? Maybe this won’t be the last update I give you…
The last few weeks have seen a marked lack of inspiration where this blog has been concerned, so for creative fulfilment I’ve had no choice but to write something else. With more scriptwriting modules looming next year, a screenplay seemed an appropriate project, and Warm Leather – the short story I wrote just before Christmas – seemed to be the perfect source material to use. Before it existed as prose, it had been a very rough short film, and now that the story has given me a better idea of where everything in it is going, I decided that it was time to redraft it in its original form.
In order for me to get at least one new draft finished, the script currently sticks as close as it possibly can to the story. I have removed certain lines of dialogue that feel awkward in hindsight, but otherwise I am simply imagining each scene as if there were a camera present. At this moment in time, I’m almost eight pages into a film that I wouldn’t expect to last more than half an hour if I was actually making it. That might not sound like a very long script, but as a general rule of thumb, one page equals approximately one minute of screen time – so the completed product should be around 30 pages long. Don’t forget that as I have an alarming tendency to procrastinate, eight pages is arguably quite an achievement!
As is the case with many other projects, I’m hoping that if I maintain some kind of routine, and write a little bit more of the script every day, I’ll have a draft done very quickly – something complete to show for my efforts if anyone asks to see it. Then I can re-examine it more closely, and make any initial improvements. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Surely I can stick to that plan…
Ever since it was decided that I would be going to university in Winchester, I have tried to increase the amount of time I spend writing, so that I can be as experienced as possible in my chosen field before I start. The first three months of 2017 saw just eight posts published on Third Time Enabled, but so inspired am I twelve months on – in no small part thanks to the adventure I will embark on in September – that double that is here for you to read so far in 2018. You can at least be assured that these “The Pull” posts will continue until my arrival in Winchester, and I’m sure that as always, there will be much more to come besides.
I’m not just talking about this blog. Since Christmas I have also been working on a script for a short film, of which I almost have a complete first draft. In addition, I have missed writing about Formula One since my abrupt departure from F1Today back in August, and ahead of the new season getting underway next weekend I am considering getting back into the game. I spent part of this afternoon browsing the Internet for F1 websites looking for knowledgeable volunteers, and I quickly found one that I believe could be an open door for me. In fact, you join me as I am peering at a contact form for it, in front of the Punta del Este ePrix on TV. An email demonstrating my enthusiasm for my craft and the sport, and my previous experience, could pay dividends. I’ll never know if I don’t try, I suppose.
Whatever endeavours I attempt will be united by their contributions to my ultimate goal of versatility as a writer. Regardless of whether the task at hand is a poem, an epic 300-page novel or anything else, I need to be able to work comfortably and confidently. Anything I try on the way to my target will be enjoyable, such is my drive to excel in what I do, but to combine one passion with another once again – in the form of F1, the fastest and most dramatic narrative on the planet – would be even more of a pleasure. Let’s see what this email brings, shall we?
The annual Doctor Who festive special on Christmas Day finally saw Jodie Whittaker make her long-awaited debut as the Doctor, replacing the outgoing Peter Capaldi in a burst of orange light. It was a fantastic send-off for Peter, who has been a brilliant Doctor and ambassador for the show, but its closing moments – depicting an explosive regeneration and Jodie plummeting to Earth from a fiery TARDIS – were an introduction to an even more exciting era to come (previously discussed here).
Finally seeing the Thirteenth Doctor take over as the star of the show actually gave me goosebumps as I sat slumped on the sofa. We may have to wait until the Autumn, but that fresh new Doctor Who dawn will be the very next thing to greet us. The corresponding feelings of eager anticipation have only really come to me once before; whilst I obviously look forward to the start of every new series, I haven’t been this excited since 2010, when Matt Smith took over as the Eleventh Doctor for Series 5. If you ask Will, he’ll tell you I hold that particular run of episodes in very high regard. At that point, everyone in and around Doctor Who also found themselves looking at a changed animal of sorts. Much like now, there were plenty of new faces in the cast and production team, and what came from them was a series that I believe is yet to be topped.
Any of its thirteen episodes could easily have stood out as a favourite, and all were memorable – although, in my opinion, the modern classic “Vincent and the Doctor” (written by Richard Curtis) is a particular highlight. I remember watching the series on first broadcast very clearly. It felt – and still does feel – like Doctor Who was a new programme, closer to five years old than fifty. I’m not criticising how it’s been before or since, because I owe an awful lot to its complete 55-year history. I just think that Series 5 had an especially vibrant quality that may not have been the same had there been more continuity from Series 4, David Tennant’s swansong. Change is a good thing, more often than not, and with it there was increased vitality. Eight years on, Series 11 has a golden opportunity to bring even more, with new crews in the TARDIS and behind the camera. I may have said all this before, but I reckon that conveys just how excited I really am. When the Doctor comes down to Earth with a bump, I can’t wait to see what adventures will await her. Blessed are the writers who get to find out first.
As a pair of budding writers, Will and I often discuss the ways in which we hone our craft. He does so in his screenwriting degree (being in his third and final year already), while I do so mainly here, on this blog for all of you. I find the idea that each writer has their own individual style very interesting, because – in my case at least – it was developed subconsciously. Not for one minute did I think “I want to write in this way” or “I want people to take this from what I write”. I obviously never fully recognised what was influencing me in each piece of work, but it was there, albeit in a behind-the-scenes role that almost allowed my supposed style to shape itself. But is it the same for others? What are their styles, and do they come about in the same way, or are they more consciously designed?
Before I go any further, I should explain how this train of thought came about. It actually emerged from a “senior moment” for Will, if I can call it that. When we were exchanging our latest opinions on one another’s writing, he happened to enquire after a blog post I had written comparing our respective styles. The only problem was that it didn’t exist – but I swiftly decided that perhaps it should. So, upon announcing this post’s imminent arrival, I asked Will again what he thought the differences between us were as writers. In a nutshell, he believes trial and error is at the heart of his own creative process. When he is writing a script, the dialogue he uses will most likely come spontaneously, but everything else he writes is derived from his own personality. “I often don’t know how my sentence is going to end as I’m starting it,” he says of the way in which he talks. He redrafts, of course, but you never quite know what the destination of his material is going to be – and that’s what makes it such a rollercoaster ride to read, with comedy and drama often in unequal measure.
The fact that Will was able to properly explain his writing style would suggest that he’s been able to actively build it to some extent. I, however, have much less control over the direction of what I produce. I told Will that whenever someone compliments my style I never quite know how to respond, because although I appreciate the fact they like it, I have no idea what I actually did! I suppose it’ll always be interesting to keep on finding out. “You seem to analyse every word you write,” Will said to me, “leading it to be more straightforward.” Then he paused for a moment. “Not straightforward, but streamlined,” he added. Streamlined. Blimey, that’s a cool way of putting it, whether it’s true or not. I’ll take that!
The central character that I created for Excludable was one Jim Rossiter, originally named Jake. He was “born” on 30 March 2013, the day I started writing, and from the outset he was intended to be an alter ego in the truest sense of the word. Like me, he used a wheelchair (although I never specified his disability) and tended not to be very forthcoming towards those around him, because he was always afraid of being a nuisance. He could be dishevelled at times, and was prone to overthinking and the occasional social faux pas. Despite these shared qualities, however, I was very careful not to make Excludable a script all about me. When somebody once asked me if it was, I quickly clarified that it was only about someone like me – a relatable character in whom I could place some of my most closely-held thoughts and feelings without it being obvious they were mine.
It seemed to work pretty well. Jim became not only a reliable fictional confidant, but also a decent testing ground for new ideas I considered putting into his story. I spent so much time thinking about Jim and his progression through Excludable that he became almost like an imaginary friend, albeit a more useful one. If something particularly thought-provoking happened in my real life, I might find myself thinking of my new project: “Jim could do that”, I would say to myself. It took a while to piece something together, as you all know, but I knew the waiting and endless thought would pay off in the end, and indeed it did. I am the biggest critic of my own writing, and especially of this, but at least I’d finished it. Some of my rawest and most personal emotions had manifested themselves creatively onto paper, which I would now have to hand whenever I wanted to develop it. And it might never have seen the light of day if I didn’t have Jim at the centre of it – a character perfectly placed to finally show me, after so much time spent thinking rather than doing, what I was actually capable of completing. All that’s left now is for you all to meet him one day.
I wrote my first feature film script in the space of 14 months, between March 2013 and May 2014. It was titled Excludable (although that was always meant to be a working title, since it’s clearly not a real word), and it might not have been a masterpiece but I was very proud of it. I hadn’t started this blog at that point, so it was in many ways the most personal thing I’d ever written. Will seemed to like it – all 73 pages of it – and I was committed to making the idea work after his ever-reliable feedback. I therefore started working on a second draft, and had even written a pitch that I sent to a production company for a radio series based on the concept. That old devil called writer’s block would soon put the brakes on proceedings, however, and a change of laptop just over a year ago accidentally caused me to lose the entire script. I still have the pitch, which I am confident will come in very handy one day – but the script is gone forever, inaccessible on my new computer, and that means that I am now eagerly pondering its replacement.
I do, however, have one other complete script I can showcase, even if it is just a single page in length. It was written quickly in September 2015, when I was required to shoot a short advertisement for a product of my choice as part of the college course I was on after my A-Levels. Having held a lifelong affinity for the brown and sticky stuff, I chose Marmite, but I was struggling to figure out how to tackle it in an original or memorable way. I thought about it long and hard for at least a week, seemingly getting nowhere despite watching a whole host of past adverts in search of inspiration. It was my tutor who eventually suggested that I use the famous “love or hate” debate surrounding the spread to portray a group of Marmite lovers at a support group gathering, discussing their shared issue as though it was something sordid or taboo. This was something of a eureka moment, and I agreed with it immediately, recalling an advert I’d seen in which a man was implied to be pleasuring himself to footage of Marmite on his TV screen. I thought that if I approached it carefully, the idea could give me just the memorable quality I’d been looking for in my advert.
I got writing soon after the discussion with the tutor. It was only one page, as I’ve said, but a lot of thought still had to go into it, as it needed to pack a punch and sell the product to the audience in the space of a minute. I can’t say I was entirely happy with the finished piece of work – for me, dialogue is an area that will always need improvement, and admittedly, the view of a support group that I presented was probably nowhere near as realistic as it could have been. Far from being supportive, gentle or encouraging, the leader of the session was a cold and ruthless man who had little time for anyone else’s stories and was determined to berate them and their relatives for their introduction to Marmite. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t quite happen in real addict gatherings. I’m also in doubt as to whether they end with leaders and visitors alike licking Marmite jars in an ecstatic frenzy, but if nothing else the script may still turn out to be a useful basis for another idea one day. I left my course the day before I was due to film it. I don’t know how happy I would have been with the end advert, but I might feel better if it resurfaces in another form one day, knowing that another complete piece of my work is out there for the world to see representing my portfolio.