Friday, 28 November 2008

Chapter Four - Welcome to the Village

This would appear to be the most difficult part of the entire book – the mutual introduction of the Joshuas and the rest of the village. Having written sitcom episodes I know that the introduction of the characters is crucial – they need to be introduced succinctly but giving a early representation of their characteristics. Considering that there would be 30-40 houses in the village this could ramble on over 3 or 4 chapters.....

So I broke from my original plan and I used the device – devices are great in writing – of a letter from the Rev Julia describing their main neighbours which Kate reads over breakfast the next morning – more of a filmic device but it should work in narrative form.

As a result, I spent a great deal of time and ingenuity getting the tone of this chapter right.

1½ pages : 440 words

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Chapter Three – The Joshuas lives unpacked

The initial shock of arriving in Much Bickering is intensified somewhat as the removals men unload the Joshuas’ pantechnicon into their new house – Beckside House. The house, empty and cold for some weeks, no longer exhibits the allure to Nick and Kate of a property in need of some renovation; it looks like a broken-down wreck in need of major and expensive surgery.

The 3 girls however are very excited not only by the size of the house but also by the extent of the gardens and outbuildings and the sense of great space.

Throughout a long day’s unloading and unpacking Nick and Kate keep reminding each other, rather unconvincingly, of the ENORMOUS potential that they’ve bought.

With the departure of the excellent removals men Nick and Kate are ready to collapse where they sit, but they haul themselves up to their sparse bedroom and by 9 the entire family are fast asleep......

But within a few minutes Nick is awoken by intruders....who turn out to be neighbours – the Reverend Julia and her Scots boyfriend Archie – with a tureen of soup to welcome the Joshuas. (Nick and Kate realise that none of their doors have any locks)

At the end of my day I decided to sketch out a ground plan of the property in relation to its place in the village and the north York Moors.

4½ pages : 1180 words

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Chapter Two - On the road north

As the Joshuas are loaded into their car with all their emotions and memories of their past life each family member has a flashback to a distinct memory of their past. And straightaway I wrote this extended scene in ‘screenplay’ form. Bugger!

This road scene is one full of placement of memory, finality, emotion and expectation. It also gives a physical description of each member of the Joshua family and their characters – with particular reference to Nick often up against the might of 4 different females.

The chapter ends descriptively with the Joshuas estate car rolling into the quiet Yorkshire village of Much Bickering – quite a polar opposite to the bustle and noise of inner-city London: it’s a shock!

4½ pages : 840 words

Monday, 24 November 2008

Chapter One – Goodbye House

“This a story that begins with tears and ends with tears” how I started the book. I rather liked the idea that the tears were of totally different emotions from completely different situations. But then I left the opening paragraph as I wrestled again with the names and the ages of the main family.

As I began again with a new opening line I also had new protagonists – Nick Joshua and his wife Kate. I managed half a page of descriptive prose about the Joshuas leaving their home in London. But as soon as I started on dialogue between Nick and his daughters I reverted to writing in ‘screenplay’ mode.

As a result I finished the day with a page of narrative, a half-page of dialogue and a lot of crossings through and scattered notes: in all a rather unsatisfactory first day’s work.

1½ pages : 350 words

Friday, 21 November 2008

The hard work starts next week......

After the dramatics of Act 3’s conclusion, today was one of reflection and contemplation.

What began as a one-word throwaway idea and then 8 simple sides of concertina paper has now become 11 complex sides of concertina paper. What started as 15 chapters is now looking to end up as 25-30 chapters. I’m happy with about 80% of the plotline and I hope to solidify the remaining 20% next week.

When I started out, there was one aspect of the project of which I had doubts – whether I could convert my natural instincts for ‘screenwriting’ into a narrative style. I’ll find out on Monday when I start Chapter One, the narrative, in earnest.

Thursday, 20 November 2008!

Reflecting on Tuesday’s introduction of the 3rd villain, the manner of his introduction seems rather contrived so I’ll have to get those tiny brain cells energised in the coming weeks.

There is then an inexorable 10-minute concluding scene with a dramatic, life-or-death climax.
Cue – Rainstorm...turbulent sea...villains...Sarah and Bella in peril...stunt persons...police...Nick missing...storm building ...lights...can we afford a helicopter...and of course Murphy – makeup...lights...crayfish sandwich ...cameras...ACTION!

The End!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Act 3 – the stakes ratchet up

At the start of Act 3 the villains come to the fore. They have a decision to make and they don’t need much time to take it. Murphy goes missing. The Nickkates are very distraught as Murphy holds a secret. How will it end? Happily?

Originally, I saw some of Act 2 in act 3 leading to a fairly linear conclusion. Now, the villains bring in a new character who is delighted to get his mitts on Murphy. The introduction of this character throws a curve into the plot and adds another element to the outcome.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Act 2 – with Murphy centre-stage throughout

Act 2 is really Murphy’s Act. All the other characters appear to be secondary to Murphy as he is at the centre of the action and he drives the plot along.

The action is cranked up during this Act and becomes more dramatic. Towards the end of Act 2 there is a large set-piece – the village summer fete – at which one of the girls lets something slip...and Murphy is put in potential harm’s way. I have 2 plot-points that look a little creaky but I’ll deal with those later. Right!?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Summertime, and the living is easy

Well, it certainly is not for the Nickkates, as Act 2 begins.

It is May and the first few scenes of Act 2 involve Murphy’s integration with the Nickkates and the village. Murphy’s character is paramount. As Act 2 rolls along the plotline seems to be a simple sequence, but a revelatory scene puts a great deal of pressure on the family; this propels the plot in a different direction and towards further problems by the end of the Act.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Murphy introduced

Within a week of starting the project I wrote a complete scene that introduced Murphy. Now, as Act 1 has been completed in sketchy form I’ve had to spike that scene. The crux of the scene is right but I’ll need to place it a scene or two later and carry out a major rewrite of it.

Murphy’s intro is the most crucial scene of Act 1 and the tenor of it has to be right. Murphy and his meeting with the Nickkates throws them off kilter. There is a great deal of family resistance to ‘rescuing’ a dog and it is Bella’s surprising insistence that sways their decision. That decision ends Act 1.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Not just one villain...but two!

As the story unfolded I clearly saw the villain of the piece – he was an old Etonian/Harrovian Yorkshireman and landowner (stereotypes abound!?). The man is like many who get boarded from the British shires to Eton (or Harrow or Stowe or Radley) many of these men return to take over daddy’s estate. Our villain is one such.

I had intended him as a socio-cultural villain who is just a bit irksome in his lordly/xenophobic way towards Nick and Kate, which made the relationship between the family and Murphy difficult, I have an extra plot twist which makes him dangerous. He also has a compliant footsoldier who carries out all the dirty chroes.

As Act 1 closes, in mid-April, so the villain’s intentions are ramped up.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Act 1 becomes weightier

I’m having to write this blog summation of the novel in 3-Act form rather than chapter form as, in my mind, the plot follows a typical 3-Act screenplay: this may change when I start to write the book itself in Chapter form.

Now that the 5 main (family) characters have been fleshed out, I’ve rewritten the supplementary characters and some of their characteristics. The plotline is developing with further details and character notes as I reach the conclusion of the Act 1 plotline.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Act 1 – the narrative tightens

By the end of the week I have filled 5-6 pages of concertina paper sketched out in much firmer detail than the first draft.

I began by looking again at the 5 main (family) characters and I have now written out full character notes. So they are......

NICK, early 40’s, photographer
KATE, late 30’s, journalist
SARAH, 11 years old
BELLA, 9 years old
SCARLETT, 7 years old

I then spent time looking at the opening scene, which lays the foundation for the entire story. This scene runs through Chapter 1 and it needed to introduce the characters, it needed to explain the premise for the story and in needed to make an impact.

At the same time I had to look at the time of year for the setting of the story and that has to be the Spring so that the story concludes at the end of summer/beginning of autumn.

I also started to alter some of the peripheral characters. For example, the ‘retired reverend’ has departed to that cast in the sky and been replaced by a young female vicar and her boyfriend.

One character that I’m not happy with is the villain and I’ll have to deal with this next week. Do I really need a villain!?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What a day, What a man

I defy ANYONE to watch the entire film of Barack Obama speaking in Chicago in the early hours of this morning, and NOT be moved by the man and his words.......

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The SECOND concertina draft begins

This was my desk first thing this morning......

Today it was back to a lot of making tea, sitting and staring, thinking, making tea, staring, thinking intensely, making more tea.

It reminded me of a reply that Raymond Chandler gave to someone who asked him about his writing inspiration....... “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Now, where’s that box of Elastoplast?

Monday, 3 November 2008

A cast of characters

After last week’s efforts and with the young Refugees back at school, today is the beginning of the second stage of the novel.

A leisurely day it turned out - I looked again at my 7 sides of concertina paper – much scrawled in pencil and red pen – and felt good about what I’ve done so far. Then, I started using my new Murphy-headed Exercise Book. On the first page I wrote out the 15 Chapter headings. Page 2 has a list of characters and 2-line sketches of each of them: the list includes a retired reverend, a know-it-all family, an elderly widow with cats, an emotional vet(!?), a goth postman, a local squire/landowner and 3 generations of a family of farmers....none of which may finally end up on the page.

Now, for a fresh sheaf of concertina paper and the REAL plotting will begin.