Tuesday, 23 March 2010

When a project sprouts legs and runs

As so often happens with a project, Dirty to Me has evolved into something very different. Obviously this is a good thing. If a project doesn’t evolve then it ultimately ends up going back in the drawer (metaphorically and organisationally as I have my folders structured as On The Table, On The Mind, In The Drawer and In The Attic). Take First/Second Person?, for example, which has unfortunately gone back into the -In the Drawer - folder. I’ve done masses of work on it, the characters are developed, the idea strengthened, the different threads have emerged, the synopsis has been written and the plot has been developed but it just hasn’t started to form into something beyond the idea in my head. It hasn’t sprouted legs and run away with me in pursuit trying to keep up with it. The characters haven’t started to talk to one another, the story hasn’t started to hammer itself out, the plot hasn’t formed. The epiphany moment when themes and metaphors materialise is missing. After the epiphany point then usually the moment when the whole thing crystallizes follows but with First/Second Person I still need to help it find its legs. For now though it will go back into – In the Drawer.

Dirty To Me however has been a very different creature. I set out with it, as my first venture back into writing for performance, determined to approach my writing from a very different place. Because this is what I’d learned about my writing from my week course with Kate O’Reilly at Ty Newydd last year. The course was a brilliant week of a great tutor whose enthusiasm for writing was infectious and inspiring sessions that provoked ideas from very different sources than usual for me. I knew that if I wanted to write the kind of theatre that I enjoy watching then I had to work in a very different way. With Dirty to Me I set out with a fragment of an idea which was to explore how a relationship can reach a sexless relationship stage within a society where we are supposedly able to talk about our need for sex, talk during sex and discuss in lurid detail our sex lives with those around us.

I then very specifically set about working on the idea whilst restricting myself from thinking about characters, story, plot, dramatic moments – most definitely and determinedly not a narrative structure. All of them barred.

I asked friends to answer some questions about sex, noting down their words and images. I wanted to create a mass of unlinked thoughts and ideas. I found myself with random words, figments of characters, brief moments, all swirling around. I researched the subject of sex; sex in myth, sex in religion, sex in literature, sex in film, sex in the media. It was going to plan, figments, abstract conversations, images, film, music – unstructured chaos as I’d so carefully planned swirled faster. The swirling turned into a very definite dizziness and then suddenly the whole thing sprouted legs and ran off, characters started to talk amongst themselves with one character in particular emerging, then somehow dramatic moments started to hammer themselves out into a story and a plot, and then the epiphany moment of themes and metaphors spewed out into a ………..

-oh no, how did that happen- a linear narrative structure.

What can I say? I guess I’m just an old-fashioned narrative-structure girl at heart and no matter what I do there’s no avoiding it. Apologies Ash, I tried really hard.

I’m not quite at the Crystallize stage yet but getting very close at which point I will actually be able to do some writing.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Why would a mermaid have stairs in her house?

A friend of mine illustrates children’s books http://www.patriciamoffett.com/, recently at lunch she related the various discussions she’d been having with her editor, one was about the colour of gold being used for a mermaid’s letterbox and the other had been about whether mermaids would have staircases in their homes. I immediately wanted to live in her world. Discussing d├ęcor and lifestyles of mermaids and fairies and pirates just seems such a wonderful world to live on a daily basis.

I suppose though on reflection my world isn’t so bad if a little less delightful than contemplating how a mermaid travels from the upper floor to the lower floor of her house.

At the moment I have three ideas in development. “In development” varies from floating around in my head, to flip-chart notes (I find big pages and big pens a huge asset to pushing and pulling an idea from my head to the page), to outlining. Blogs Home is in my head, Dirty To Me is being drawn out on a flip chart and Today is the day you’re going to die is being outlined. This is alongside all the research that I’m doing around these ideas at the moment. So at the moment I’m imaginatively undertaking the following – a beginners welsh class, a history lecture on Lancashire and Welsh witches, a sex therapy session, a female stand-up sex-based comedy act, an 18 year old girl losing her virginity, being stalked, being in a 35 year marriage and only having had sex three times and being a Chinese international student on her first day at university in Wales.

Still I can’t help myself being drawn back to the conclusion that mermaids would NEVER have stairs.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Schedule

Above my desk is a schedule of writing for the next few months. I drew up the schedule at the start of the year to give myself deadlines and keep myself on track. it is the beginning of March and I'm already behind.

I am behind schedule for an excellent reason though. A few weeks ago I had an idea for a short film. At the same time, an old "thread" for a radio play idea crashed into another "thread" and thinking about these two "threads" I found a third. I usually only start fully developing a script once I have three "threads". I think this comes from something Sarah Maitland said many years ago on a short story course.

I find this a useful tool to use for just about everything. Once an idea has three different, diverging or converging "threads" then it has enough to move it from an idea in my head or in scribbled notes to start fully developing. Both the short film and the radio play have distracted me from my schedule but in a good way.

I've been trying for over a year now to come up with an idea for a short film. I wanted to write a script, with minimal budget that could, with the help of various friends and resources at the disposal of friends be filmed.

The idea is a very simple one and I've been forcing myself through an exercise in developing it - thinking visually. I've outlined the whole idea in detail then I've worked through it pulling the dialogue from it so that what I'm left with is an story presented through visal images and minimal dialogue. I've written the dialogue for scenes that I have no intention of using to get the dialogue out of my head.

Though it has struck me that the scenes that I've written could be used for a radio play so that both projects work together but also seperately as a means of exporing the different requirements of the different mediums from the same source material.

I'll keep the schedule on the wall though, its good to be taunted by it. As long as I'm writing and producing scripts then I can taunt back. Its the great advantage of writing for oneself rather than a commission. I can jump to whichever idea feels the strongest and in most urgent need of writing.