You Are Currently Reading Words I Have Written About Writing, And About Me Thinking About Writing… For Now. But I Seek Your Opinion.

Rather embarrassed to find that, despite it occupying a fair amount of my waking hours, I haven’t really said much about writing recently. Which is odd, because – as regular readers (or even those with constipation) will know – things rarely spend time in the tumble-dryer of my mind without receiving some kind of airing, howsoever tangled, here on the blog.

Anyway, questionable laundry analogies aside, here are a handful of writing-related thoughts from recent days:

Firstly, I did enter the Red Planet competition this year, as threatened; my entry was called ‘Reader’, and features a chap who starts to see ghosts – rather annoying for him as he doesn’t actually believe in ghosts, but life’s often like that, isn’t it ? I’m quite pleased with the premise of it, and I’m also very grateful to Chip Off The Ol’ Blog for taking the time to look at the first ten pages and to give me some feedback. All his comments were perfectly sensible, and as more seasoned folks know, the aim of notes is to help you make the work better, which has to be a good thing. I’ve certainly learned from the whole experience.

Secondly, I’ve now finished reading Adrian Mead’s e-book ‘Making It As A Screenwriter’. And re-reading it, and reading it again, trying to digest every nugget of information from its virtual pages. If you haven’t heard of this book (and I’m rather late in posting about it, I’ll admit, compared to many other bloggers), you can buy it by clicking here, and it only costs about £9 including VAT. Very good value indeed for money, especially as all profits go to the charity Childline, but more to the point it’s one of those books where the number of useful bits of info and advice make it worth its weight in… well, if not gold in this unstable economic climate, then certainly chocolate.

It’s not one of those theoretical books which turns screenwriting into a mechanical process, telling you to put a reversal of fortune on page 37 and that sort of thing, it’s a refreshingly-real world book about the business of writing, the practicalities of submitting material and getting to chat to other folks in the same boat, from someone who knows the business. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and as you can see if you click on the link above, I’m not alone – proper writers who’ve written some kick-bottom TV shows say the same thing. And it’s made me think a lot about my approach to writing – particularly the way I’ve been submitting material – and suggests some actions which I hadn’t thought of, so it’s proven very useful indeed to me, and I think it would for most writers.

Thirdly and finally, one thing which I’ve been mulling over in the last couple of weeks is that of intent; not the old pseudo-academic thing about authorial intent (and whether the author’s aims necessarily count for anything ), but rather that of one’s own aims as a writer – whilst I’ve previously realised that I’m better off writing stories I’d want to read (and more, importantly in motivation terms, to write) than trying to write a self-consciously ‘literary’ work, I’ve recently been thinking about the way that this manifests in terms of the themes I choose.

Oddly enough, this was provoked by seeing the poster for (though not having seen it, nor read the book) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, the film adaptation of John Boyne’s book. Perhaps I’m over-impressed by the way that the film poster suggests the contrast of the simplicity of children’s friendship and the horrors of the Holocaust, but it set me to wondering why it is that I rarely (if ever) seem to find myself writing stories which deal with big, weighty, issues of this nature.

I may well be incapable of writing work which doesn’t simplify or trivialise such things, but my ‘writing reflex’ often seems to be towards the smaller and more personal aspects of things. I wouldn’t want to write something preachy and heavy-handed which was little more than a rant (yes, I know – that’s what the blog is for, ha de har har), but given that bad things like war exist, I’ve been wondering exactly why it is that I don’t find myself wanting to say something about it – in a manner more akin to, say, Slaughterhouse 5 than Stalingrad. The same for prejudice, intolerance, the injustice of the fact that people are starving in the world, and other bad stuff like that.

Granted, most of us want a healthy measure of entertainment in our books and TV shows and films, but I don’t think that ‘telling a story’ and ‘raising points to ponder’ need necessarily be mutually exclusive, as long as you can avoid it turning into a polemic. Maybe I’m over-simplifying it, or even under-estimating the issue, so I’ll open it up to you good people; if you write, what’s your approach to this sort of thing ? And even if you don’t, do you prefer your entertainment to be just that – entertainment and nothing more – or do you like it if it comes with the odd idea or notion to take away with you?

I’m genuinely interested in other folks’ opinions on this, so please do click the Comment button below, and let me know where you stand on this. Thanks.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m going to be awkward and state that I don’t really like straight ‘entertainment’ as such (the word conjures up hellish visions of shows like Blind Date, Hole in the Wall and anything involving Ant and Dec) – that said, I don’t really enjoy dramas that wear ‘issues of the day’ on their sleeves either. If it’s murky and complicated and morally grey, then I’m happy (for instance, I love Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES – not really a film that was made with ‘entertainment’ in mind). Then again, I’m a bit weird like that. Too many David Lynch films at a young age, I reckon…

  2. The stuff I write – as unpublished and unfilmed as it may be – is invariably inspired by something that hits me with enough force to make me turn on the computer and thrub some keys. For me, there has to be a theme, a purpose, a message. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a world-moving message or even a mild itch message. In fact, I tend to only skirt the deeper, more complex issues. As you know, I’ve just written a drama that has, at its heart, a rant against prejudice and which touches a truly sensitive subject; that of so-called honour killings (if ever there was a misnomer …). But the drama itself moves at a pace, doesn’t become entrenched in polemic and even has a series of comedic moments. Good drama – not that I would be so crass as to suggest that’s what I write – doesn’t have to be ponderous, heavy and brow-beating. Nor does it have to be fatuous, shallow or have anyone from Eastenders in it.

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