Tag Archives: Sci-fi

Wrestling With Werner Herzog

24,000 words.

An amount which seems like so much but also, at the same time, seems to little as well. It’s not even halfway.

I am firmly at the stage right now when the whole thing seems like a complete misadventure. If I’d have written this as a ninety minute script then I’d probably have done a first draft by now and be onto rewriting a second version. I’d have typed THE END at least once. It would have existed as a full text. I would currently be thinking about how to pitch it as a small, easily made sci fi movie.

Instead I am far too deep in to quit now, I’ve already described all the locations we’re going to visit (a symptom of this story originally being designed to be an easily filmed ninety minute sci fi movie) and I have one character who was only added to the planning stage to provide a small chunk of comic relief actually now having a fully blown part of the story that does seem to make him the most human of all the characters.

Also, if I’d made the script then there would be no guarantee that anybody would pick it up. At least as a book I can publish it myself if needs be. Trust me, the outside world is getting the chance to read this one somehow.

Which is strange because he’s almost all alien.

Such are the people I’m dealing with here.

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When You Hear The Beep 

I seem to have developed a complete inability to start writing before lunch. Today also involved another trip to a supermarket to buy food. There’s a new one opening three minutes walk away from my house on Thursday so at least I won’t need to drive as of next week.

I tried to get started this afternoon but ended up putting it off again. Then I had to pick my son up from school. I then get an hour before starting dinner to ask him how his school day went.

I got started at around 10pm. This is far too late especially considering I have work in the morning so can’t go too late. I got another solid 500 word chunk done again but I’m left imagining how much I’d get done if I actually sat down in the morning and began then.

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Tug Of Love Baby Eaten By Cows

4505 words.

Not a mighty total, nothing to get greatly worked up about and certainly far less than many others have perhaps done in a similar time. My only yardstick is that I can sometimes write pro wrestling reports n a day that knock on the 5000 word mark but for those I’m just detailing what has happened not making it up as I go along. By the end of this chapter each character will have had a little bit of the limelight, we’ll have had nearly all of the locations, one of the chapters will have been the first flashback of the collection and we’ll have had our first instance of something ‘not of this Earth’ happening in the water around the town. For this reason we can leave behind a lot of the clunk and just get on with telling the story. After this point we start to clank these characters together and see if they can rub each other up the wrong way.

The strange thing about the last couple of weeks doing this is that it’s become something of a small scale addiction. I’m not yet seeing the book as ‘work’ more just having fun with it and therefore I’ve been wanting to do it. As a result of this I’ve felt far more comfortable with the tag of ‘writer’. How often, when describing yourself as that, does it feel slightly stupid? It feels like something you just dabble in, like you have no right actually comparing yourself to anybody that does this for a living. Well this past two weeks I’ve been writing, taking it seriously and getting some progress out of it.

And it’s felt great.

 

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The Hooligan With A Golden Heart

There are  sometimes those moments when you realise progress has been made but it wasn’t obvious until now. Today I was asked about the book’s plot. A workmate wanted to know what he might be letting himself in for.

I kept it fairly brief,  giving him the first few beats. As I was speaking it dawned on me that I was talking about this story in a confident manner. There were no ‘and then something happens but I’m not sure what yet’. It felt fantastic, especially as before I’d have said it wasn’t ready. An unofficial, relaxed pitch session has told me it bloody well is.

This story is tired of waiting for me.

So let’s get to it.

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From Troubled Beginnings

The Snowflake Method (TM) has detoured slightly. I’ve probably hit step 5 when I got really bored of just expanding on everything I’d already done. A sentence was fine, a paragraph was okay but knocking onto four pages was a bit of a step too far. I was wondering if I had to detail when each character sneezes once I’d got to the third page. I’ve done the part where you have to break the story into paragraphs with a disaster at the end of each. This has probably given me a much greater idea of the overall story and how to work towards what I hope is going to be a satisfactory ending.

One big problem I had was that I was reluctant initially to introduce the more ‘strange’ parts of the story. I was still in screen mode thinking that this would be expensive and might ‘not look good’. It took me a bizarre amount of time to click that it doesn’t really matter. I can pretty much do anything. Beforehand there was a resistance to go into realms of ghost or aliens as I thought it needed to be more grounded in reality. Then I remembered the fact that I have a dead ten year old returning right at the start. Reality be damned, let’s ride with the weird stuff.

Another thing I’m enjoying about all of this? The fact that what I write will be there for all to read. When I’m writing scripts for the screen there’s always part of me not really going at it 100% because there’s a high chance that nobody will want to make it and it’ll sit gathering dust. Having the ability to shape your own story directly is a very powerful driver.

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The Pit Of Man’s Fears

Whilst chugging through the script for Parallel (and chugging is the only word to use currently) I’m becoming overwhelmed by the feeling that this whole thing might never clear the hurdle waiting at the end. I might take the time to polish it and get it readable but there’s the risk that it’ll be rejected at the end. A couple of weeks ago I put Order For Burning up online in an effort to pitch it again. I’ve heard nothing back. Perhaps the timing of this means that I’m reflecting on Parallel a lot more than I would usually. I can make it a solid story but will that be enough?

As a result I’ve been thinking about writing in other formats. For a long, long while I’ve toyed with getting a book done. I’d never truly put anything towards it because I was always of the opinion that I was a screenwriter, that nothing else should occupy my time. Films were pretty much the be all and end all of any career I might possibly have. Anything else just seemed like a waste. Then, for the first time in many years, I took a break from writing ‘EXT. DARK FOREST. NIGHT’ and began to write a couple of short stories. I’ve found it quite liberating.

For the last few years I’ve always tried to write scripts that could easily be made on a smaller budget. When I was at college there were plenty of hopeful writers who would jump in and start their first script with The Matrix as a starting point (it was 1999, give me a break here). Alongside driving our script writer tutor up the wall it meant that all these stories would usually only ever be concepts. The thought of actually just writing something not featuring space ships, other dimensions and mysterious creatures never really occurred to any of us. It was only when we were shown a few examples of movies which concentrate on human interactions rather than large scale action. The two that stuck out for me were ‘Mystery Train’ by Jim Jarmusch and ‘Chungking Express’ by Wong Kar-Wai.

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Mystery Train, a film with three interconnected stories in the same hotel. Yes, that is Screaming Jay Hawkins.

Most of the films I’ve written since have been on this kind of vibe. Partly this is because they would be easier to make if somebody picked them up (as Robotics was, being set pretty much in only two locations) and partly because it’s practising for being more disciplined in writing. The problem is though that there’s always a barrier to actually having a finished product with scripts. It needs another step before getting to an audience. Writing stories or a novel means the end result is direct, from author to audience. It’s something that really appeals to me right now. There’s also the chance to expand settings and characters without having to worry about putting it up on screen afterwards.

I won’t be abandoning Parallel completely, it’ll be bubbling along as I go by but I was perhaps investing too much into the one project as far as responses go. I’ll still be trying to write something like The Twilight Zone, as it always has been.

 

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Hand Crafted

My old laptop was rocking Windows Vista as I’d never bothered to upgrade it. It had reached a new level of clunky, often collapsing in on itself and giving me the blue screen of death. The barrage of ‘this software is no longer supported’ kept coming up like the cockroaches surviving the nuke. I backed up the stuff I needed (surprisingly little actually) before cleaning out the hardware and retiring the old girl to the hills. A short drive out to the retail park meant I could pick up a new laptop running something a little more up to date and quicker. My scripts made the jump across to the newer version of Celtx.

Whilst it’s good to have a new piece of tech to hand I’ve found myself trying to avoid staring at my screen wondering what to write next by returning to notebook for a while. You may recall a few weeks ago I mentioned a text adventure game that I’m trying to get working. After many attempts at trying to write it on software I gave up and bought a small notepad. After writing page numbers in the corners I now have a prototype, physical booklet which kind of works as a demo/introduction to the whole thing. It’s complete with small diagrams as well. Sometimes it’s really good to just get down to writing without formatting and having constant pop ups disturbing the process at hand.

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Now to do the same thing working out the rest of Parallel.

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Devil Storms

I took a look at Parallel again. Well I took a look at the four or five pages that I’d done a few weeks ago and promptly scrapped the lot. I’ve started again, this time starting the story on Earth at the Mission Control building as they guide the penultimate scientist down from the space station to terra firma. This leaves our remaining scientist alone up in the sky until the shuttle can turn around and get her too.

There are flaws in this already. Why should there be a shuttle that can only take one person at a time. Surely any project like this would be funded to a large degree and be able to fit all of them on board? The only thing giving some kind of reason for this right now is a very simple one. This expedition to the stars is not only in the near future but also very British. I don’t want the massive NASA missions that we’ve seen in movies before with hundreds of technicians running around massive computers. This is something on a much smaller scale with just about enough funding to get the thing off the ground.

I had toyed with the idea of having a huge Union Jack flag proudly displayed on a pole in the room much like the American ones displayed either side of the President during speeches at The White House. I then began to think that it’s not something we Brits would do. We would simply be uncomfortable with that level of bombast. I’ve therefore settled by having a very small flag on the desk of the lead technician. It still means the same thing but it’s more in keeping with nationality in this film.

The other slight trouble I have is that all the characters you meet in the first few minutes are white men. Our scientist in the sky, whose journey back home is the bulk of the movie from then on, is female and in her early 40’s which isn’t often a profile seen in a movie like this. The trouble is that it takes a few moments to get to her currently and I’m worried it’s a bit off putting.

 

But still, we’re off and running again.

 

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Paper Air

Do something constructive.

So I’m hauling ideas together for the next script. It’s back to my usual science fiction after the detour that was witch burning last year. It’s also something which I hope can be filmed on a fairly low budget. At the moment I’m aiming for a maximum of four characters and probably only two locations.

It’s based on the theory of parallel universes, mainly about what would happen if every single possibility that could happen was happening at the same time. I’m also trying to tell the story in real time as the main character has an hour and a half to resolve the situation. I’m completely unsure as to if this will work well or not at all.

I’ve spent time the last few nights just taking notes with a pen and paper. I’ve yet to touch a computer with regards to any kind of prep work for the script. It’s been a strange feeling because it comes across as just scribbling and not really doing anything constructive towards anything. The first five pages of the script actually existed beforehand as I blasted through them before Christmas but, since reading though it a few nights ago, I ended up deleting the whole thing with the intention of starting again afresh.

I have a week off work coming up, hopefully I can get a major part of it done then.

 

 

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Red Rum

So what exactly are we doing here then?

Not sure, maybe it’s a writing exercise or an experiment.

You’re just struggling with whatever it is you’re supposed to be writing aren’t you?

On the contrary, I awoke this morning with the aim of making it to fifteen pages of the current script, I’ve just hit sixteen so I’m good for the day.

Why not just keep going?

I thought about that but it would mean I’d get to the end of today and realise I’d spent all day writing. I’m back in work tomorrow so I’d feel it about lunch time.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?

Yeah, pretty much like that. Today was a good day to start the script proper because my wife and son are off down to visit the in laws for a few days so I’m on my own in the house. Well, I’m the only human anyway as I still have the cat here.

What’s the cat’s name?

Raul.

As in Spanish Raul, the footballer?

No, we got him as a result of somebody who worked for my Dad. She was moving in with her girlfriend who had a dog so she had to give up the cat. When he arrived at our house he still had his ‘equipment’ intact. He was at the back door wanting outside and I told my wife we couldn’t let him out because he’d impregnate half the neighbourhood. He was like that guy off the Irn Bru adverts.

Which guy?

The guy who says “Hello ladies, want to come to Raul’s house and make sandwiches?’.

Nope.

This guy!

Right, enough about the cat. What questions do you hate being asked when people find out you write?

Probably the usual ones like ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ and ‘have you written anything I might have seen?’.

Okay, so where do you get your ideas from?

Not you as well.

Just roll with it.

Alright fine. Pretty much everything I write is me attempting to recreate an episode of The Twilight Zone. I usually like strange stuff, the ordinary becoming the extraordinary. I’m currently trying to do all this whilst avoiding the usual science fiction markers.

What like?

Little green men and any character saying something along the lines of “We’re into the asteroid belt outside the planet Infidium’.

Have you written anything I might have seen?

Cheers for this.

Anytime.

I probably haven’t to be honest. Unless you were attending any student film screenings in Carlisle around the early part of the millenium or you’ve seen a film about a guy trying to make a robot version of himself to replace him at work at a film festival lately.

No, I didn’t see that.

Well that’s all I currently have. I’m working on more though, most of which are detailed in this blog.

I don’t really read it.

Not many people do. I think it’s just because it’s really hard to write something interesting about the writing process because for the most part it’s a complete grind. There’s a lot of looking at blank screens, going back, changing everything and then spending days worrying about it. It has all the hallmarks of a really private, internal thing which you’re trying to drag out into the light. Also, writing seems to be a thing most people believe they can’t do.

How do you mean?

Well, you’ll talk to some people and upon discovering what you do they’ll firstly regard you as some kind of alchemist. They think it’s impossible to take an idea out of nothing and make it into something. Then comes the inevitable “Oh I couldn’t do that” or “I’ve often thought about writing a book”.

You believe they should just get on with it?

Exactly. I reckon a lot of good writing is all about learning how to cope with bad writing. A whole ton of people will just sit on an idea because they don’t see any worth in it or because they can’t see past the blank screens or notepads in front of them. As a result the entire thing goes to waste. It’s all about just biting the bullet and going for it. The first few drafts will always be utter garbage but the key is to not go back. Make a mental note of the fact you’ll go back later and change stuff but for now it has to just exist.

As opposed to an idea?

Yeah, once you’ve got that then you can work from there but there’s a big difference between having characters, dialogue and locations floating around your head to it being down on a page. Quite often it feels like a massive weight has been lifted when I type ‘The End’.

Do you enjoy writing?

Mostly I do otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I like the problem solving stuff which is usually worth suffering the days of struggle for the eureka moment when it all comes together. Those moments are the best, reading back through something that flows right is amazing. I had the same attitude to video editing back in college, I liked taking a raw material and making it into a story. You’re pretty much performing an illusion, you’re suspending the audience’s disbelief. When it comes together it’s pretty magical. More people should write because it’s one of the best things you can do as a human.

Where do you usually write?

In an ideal world I’d have a room to go to but I’m currently sat on the breakfast bar in my kitchen with the back door open to let some air in. It’s been really hot lately.

I write here mostly.

I write here mostly.

So you’re finished writing for the day, what now?

Hoovering, cleaning my bathroom, getting dinner together and then the World Cup final.

The rock and roll lifestyle lives on.

Hey, you can’t beat a good bit of hoovering.

 

 

 

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