Category: Writing (Page 1 of 23)

If I Name This Post ‘Sextuple Mumbo Jumbo’, That’ll Increase Traffic To The Blog, Right?

I think it was the late (and in my estimation rather great) Blake Snyder, author of the screenwriting book Save The Cat who came up with the concept of ‘Double Mumbo Jumbo’, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a bit recently.

Double Mumbo Jumbo, put simply, is the idea that “as an audience we can only buy one piece of magic per movie” (or, I’d say, book or play or other medium). Where Blake says ‘magic’, I like to think this equally means coincidence – for my money, Spider-Man 3 suffers from Double Mumbo Jumbo in the plotlines relating to the Venom symbiote (to non-comic geeks, that’s the black costume-thing which bonds first with Peter Parker and then with his rival) when it happens to land first near Peter Parker’s moped (if memory serves; I’ve only seen the film once, and don’t plan to watch it again, even if it means verifying details for a blog post) and then it’s roaming ownerless again when Peter Parker’s workplace rival is out and about in the area.

I think the second story in Pulp Fiction suffers from this sort of coincidence problem as well, though I know a lot of people hold that film in much higher regard than I do.

It’s not just a problem which you see in films, either (though the example I’m about to give was, I think, adapted to film): the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind is very well-respected and was given to me with strong recommendations by a friend, but when I read it I couldn’t get past the fact that the main character had no personal scent (which struck me as being biologically unlikely) and also had an extrememly sensitive ability to detect odours.

This felt like a cheat to me, as if the author realised that someone with a truly super-powered nose would be unable to smell anything beyond the scent of their own sweat and clothing. I didn’t buy it, and as a result the rest of the book felt hard to swallow, built as it was on a foundation that I didn’t find particularly sturdy.

This has been on my mind a bit recently, because in the novel I’m currently writing (due for completion about half an hour before the heat-death of the universe, longtime readers might suspect) I have various ‘secret’ government agencies and bodies, and I don’t want to have too much stuff that looks like a fudge – whilst I’m confident that most readers will accept that there are bodies within government and the military which don’t appear in annual reports and budget publications, I don’t want to make it look as if I’ve made them ‘secret’ just so I haven’t got to do the research on Home Office heirarchies and departmental responsibilities and the like.

In a strange – though hopefully understandable – tangent, thinking about the concept of Double Mumbo Jumbo has partly explained to me why I find the following advert irks me more than it probably should:

The advert doesn’t really make sense to me on any level – and yes, I know it’s meant to be a bit out there and surreal, but consider the things that we’re supposed to accept:

  • He’s so fond of sausage rolls he’s cloned a miniature dog to say what he can’t
  • He carries the miniature dog in a jewellery box in his pocket
  • He had it in his pocket, but initially wasn’t intending to hand it to her (note how he turns away at first)
  • The ‘garage lady’ accepts what appears to be a gift of jewellery from a customer
  • The miniature dog speaks english (with, I think, the voice of Mathew Horne)
  • The dog knows which button to press on its (also miniaturised) keyboard to start the music (which is either drum and bass or garage, I think – I’m not bothered about either of those choices really, though I hope it’s the latter as it would be appropriate given the setting of the advert)

It just feels like the advert-makers have hit the ‘random’ button in an almost cynical way, as if throwing diverse stuff together like that immediately equates to something surreal and/or clever. The main problem I think I have with it is that for someone who’s “just a bloke”, and apparently incapable of expressing himself, he’s gone to a lot of trouble (and a weird kind of trouble) to express his gratitude.

In fact, within this universe where we can create speaking miniature animals to perform tasks we humans can’t, I’m surprised that there are petrol stations at all, as the normal rules don’t seem to apply; surely the pumps dispense some kind of liquid boulders, and the ‘garage lady’ is in fact the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, wearing a human outfit to disguise the fact that he’s come back as an oversized moth (I’m aware that many insects’ tracheas don’t function once they get above a certain size, so this is an inherently unrealistic proposition, but given that the shruken dog apparently suffers no difficulty breathing despite his size and being enclosed in a small box, it seems all bets are off). Actually, it’s strange that this bizarre world they inhabit has sausage rolls and money in it at all really. What are the odds of that?

I can live with the odd quirk or wrinkle to things – and as I understand it, much of the ‘magic realism’ school of writing is based on the world as we know it reacting to strange and unusual things happening – but it needs to be balanced, I think. The Queen in Alice in Wonderland boasts “sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”, but that advert seems, to me, to be a case of Multiple Mumbo Jumbo, and so I can’t swallow it (then again, as a vegetarian, I was probably unlikely to swallow anything related to sausage rolls).

Come to think of it, no wonder the chap in the advert accepts the strange world he lives in: it’s clearly the early hours, and maybe he needs to believe the six impossible things I list above before he can have the sausage roll – that is, his breakfast.

Short Film: ‘Revealing Diary’ By The Guerrier Brothers

Videos on Thursday appear to be turning into a habit round here, don’t they?

Anyway, this is a cracking short film made by writer Simon Guerrier and his director brother Thomas, and I think it is very classsy – good and unsettling, with a very strong ending.

I heartily recommend you invent the 5mins or so in watching it – seriously, check this out:

Told you it was good. Simon’s posted an interesting write-up on the production process here, which provides insight into how it all came together.

Impressive stuff, and very good work, I feel.

Video: An Invocation for Beginnings

Doesn’t matter if you apply it to writing or to anything else, I think this video has something to say to all of us who hesitate to begin a project, or procrastinate on continuing, or in any other fashion getting on with it:

Persona Season 3 Starts This Week (And I’ve Written For It)

The third season of smartphone drama Persona launches this week (the first episode was yesterday, but don’t worry, you can catch up), and I’m the writer on one of the stories in it – specifically, this one:

It looks like the cast and crew have done a great job, so I’ll be watching eagerly – can I ask you to do the same? Persona is absolutely free of charge for iPhone/iPad and Android users, and you get a new episode every day for no charge too.

Interested? Good-o, here are the relevant links:

On iTunes you can download it here

On Android, you can get it here

Please do give it a look, and let me know what you think. Thanks!

It Doesn’t Last That Long, But It Made Me Happy

I’m pleased to be able to report that I’ve had another joke included in Newsjack, the topical radio comedy on Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC7). I’m included in the credits which you can see here, and if you’d like to hear the jape itself, the show can be listened to or downloaded as a podcast here, and it’s probably available via iTunes too (must admit I haven’t checked yet).

It’s the gag in the opening monologue, at 0’56” to be precise, about the passing of the NHS Bill. I think the show’ll be there to listen to or download for another week or so, which is probably about right as the joke itself’ll probably make less sense as time passes.

Anyway, this blog post is a shameless brag really, as I’m pretty chuffed to have a second BBC broadcast credit, even if it has been a couple of years since the first. I shall see if I can narrow down the intervening period between the second and third…

This Looks Classy

Writer and all-round decent chap Jason Arnopp done wrote a film called Stormhouse, and here be the trailer:

Looks good ‘n’ spooksome, yes?

Do tell your friends about it.

In fact, tell your enemies. Especially if they’re ‘fraidy cats.

Persona Launches Tomorrow!

I’m very excited to be able to announce that Persona goes live tomorrow.

As you may well remember from my recent posts, Persona is the world’s first continuing drama created exclusively for smartphones, giving the viewer a daily 2-3 minute drama series, with new episodes every day of the week.

You can buy the Persona App in the iTunes store (search for ‘Persona App Media UK’) for £1.19, or you can text PERSONA to 87474, which costs £1.50. A year’s worth of episodes for less than a Starbucks coffee.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of the writers for the first season (starting tomorrow, and running for a month), so if you’re interested to see what kind of writing I do when I’m not blogging (and it’s part of the reason why my blog entries have been so sporadic recently), I’d really appreciate your support – and of course, I’d be interested to hear what you think of the series (and the work I did on Jane’s storyline).

By way of a taster, here’s the trailer for Persona, which I hope will intrigue you enough to make you want to see more:

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact (unless you’re asking about what happens in the storylines; I’m either sworn to secrecy about the stuff I’ve been involved in, or appropriately ignorant about the other storylines). Thanks!

A Delay, Not A Denial

Just to update you on Persona : there’s been a slight delay in the app being approved by Apple (this sentence may hold the blog record for the most uses of the letters ‘app’), so the revised start date is currently 15 January 2011.

I will, of course, keep you fully informed.

In the meantime, though, more pictures from Persona – some from Jane’s story – are available to view here.

This is likely to be the final post of 2010, so have yourself a cracking start to 2011, and may the year bring you everything you could hope for, and a few surprises (pleasant ones, of course).

If you’re out tonight, here’s hoping your evening doesn’t lead to you looking or feeling like Lucy, the Persona character pictured here.

See you in 2011.

Persona Update: Teaser Trailer Now Available Online

As I mentioned in this post, I’m one of the writers on the smartphone drama Persona, which is coming in January 2011 – and here’s the teaser trailer:

It’s the first time I’ve seen anything I’ve written being performed, and I can’t wait to see Jane’s storyline brought to life – I’m super-pleased to see Amanda Sterkenburg in the role, as she has exactly the kind of look I was hoping for in the character.

And is it childish that I’m amused that the Youtube ‘freeze screen’ shows Jane? Very probably… but it’s true.

Not So Much A Forgotten Future, More An Overlooked One, I Like To Think

Recently, New Scientist ran a Flash Fiction Writing competition, which invited entrants to speculate about futures which never were, or could have been.

Well, I entered, but as the shortlisted folks have now been contacted and it doesn’t appear that I was one of them, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my entry with you lovely people. Waste not, want not, as they say, and hopefully it’ll amuse you…

I Still Dream Of Orgonon

Deciding that Operation Paperclip had been very successful, in the mid-1940s the US government ran another operation collating scientific knowledge, once again targeting foreign nationals resident in the USA.

An admin error put Albert Einstein and Wilhelm Reich in the same group, but the two had met previously, and got on well. They talked about how Reich had fudged his figures last time, and Einstein candidly admitted that he’d pretty much done the same in introducing the cosmological constant, and they laughed, and set to work.

Within a few months, they announced that Reich had been right about Orgone after all, and whilst the UK set up a Health Service, the USA provided tax incentives for the mass manufacture of Orgone Accumulators. By the early 1960s, there was an accumulator in every home, and the average life expectancy had increased by 23 years.

Other countries followed suit; in 1983, the UK used Reich’s cloudbusting technology to improve their weather, and other countries used the same technology to counteract droughts and turn deserts into meadows.

Global population levels, but most notably those in societies with a strong religious influence, stabilised once it became clear that channelling sexual energy served the common good, and in many countries state-funded single-sex boarding schools for teenagers replaced power plants, boosting power reserves and education levels alike.

Einstein and Reich both lived to be centenarians, though tragically neither saw Project Iapyx, and the launch into space in 1999 of the first Orgone-powered spacecraft towards Barnard’s Star.

Iapyx I is expected to report back in 2012.

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