Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lock-in Day

I have to admit that I approached the lock-in day with trepidation. A whole day at the Arts Centre locked into a room with my fellow writers and also a 1-1 tutorial with Sarah Woods and Sian Summers to be grilled on the final idea pitch. Also a lock-in that doesn't involve alcohol. Also aren't there health and safety guidelines about locking a group of writers in a room together?

We'd been asked expand on our two page pitch to a fuller document to send in advance and then answer questions on it. I didn't manage to get mine as completed as I would have liked. I got most of the story down though and two of the characters break downs done and then by the Saturday session I'd got all the characters apart from two down. The antogonist eludes me slightly and in fact he still does. He's a bit foggy still but I'm getting closer to him I think. Also until the morning of the lock-in my TV journalist had eluded me, though on the morning of the lock in I watched a BBC news report on divorce stats and suddenly Pauline became clear though her name is now completely wrong.

My tutorial session was great, lots of queries that forced me to clarify things, it was suggested I should explore farce - and funnily enough I've just started to read One Man, Two Guvnors. In a happy trip through of coincidences that seem serendipitous I spotted this discussion

I have no idea what the farce formula will entail, how it will strengthen or indeed box-in my play. But I look forward to exploring farce over Xmas. As I've got my parents with me for Xmas there is already a huge potential for farce especially as my living room has two entrances and my dad is partially deaf!

I came away from the tutorial feeling confident - but that I had a mountain of trailing strings to tie together.

After the morning tutorial I spent the day focusing on plotting and moving the story as well as trying to find the undercurrents. Basically I played with post-it notes for about an hour. Post-it note work is not to be taken lightly or mocked, a hell of a lot can be achieved with precise placing, maneouvering and colour coding schemes. By the end of the day I had a pretty good idea of the whole play and worked out what the play is about which is a pretty useful thing to do ahead of starting to write.

Now all that's left to do is write the whole thing by 6th February.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Spread The Word 5

In preperation for the final session we were asked to prepare a pitch to share with everyone.

Pitch Questions
List the characters and say a little about them.
An outline of the story and plot
Themes of the play?
What is the play about?
Why do you want to write it?
Why is it important to write this play now?
What do you want your audience to take from it?

In the session though we paired up and pitched our ideas to our partner, we were then asked to query the pitch by exploring;
whether character or plot led the idea,
was there a lesser developed area of the idea,
ask 3 questions to clarify the idea,

Then we had to explain each other's idea which is an interesting process because it ends up drawing the idea into sharper focus. Listening back to my idea being explained by someone else provides a filter that seemed to define my idea and sharpen it back to me so that I could see flaws and also highlights. It goes without saying that we should explain our ideas to people to test them but also worth thinking about explaining your idea to one person then asking them to explain it to someone else. It's all well and good listening to someone say what they liked and didn't liked but in repeating the pitch back you will hear what excites them about the idea and what they leave out because it didn't catch their imagination. In fact I think my friends are likely to find that it becomes a new after dinner game at my house.

Spread The Word 4

We started the session with a Noel Grieg exercise on creating instant stories.

Three words – daffodil, cat, kitchen. Tell a story starting with the words, yesterday, using each of the words in the order given.

A few more variations;

Banana, football and telephone starting with I don’t understand why.

Computer, crocodile and toast starting with the phrase, today I would like.

Television, chicken and bed starting with, the world would be a better place.

Then we looked again at structures, talking about 3 act structures, classic five act structures which are still around but not seen very often. We talked about the conventional and obvious reason for breaking up a play into acts like change of location, or time – or the need for an interval. Also there are non-linear and disrupted structures. Within the acts are the scenes, where breaks need to be there for a reason not just because.

We then looked at action within the play and we were asked to think about our idea and describe it focusing on the action. Within that description we had to think about the conflict so something is happening but something is stopping it. Maybe it’s the main action of the protagonist but the antagonist is causing the conflict.

After a while of playing with sentences I came up with;

Hedydd is trying to get her therapy clients to talk dirty but a man with a gun wants them to come clean and admit the truth. I’ve tried to sum up the play lots of times but it was definitely easier to simply focus on the action of the play and the conflicts, and definitely good to find the “but” of the idea.

If we think about the action as how it plays into the structure then we have to think how to keep the action pushing the energy through the acts.

Moving swiftly on we started an exercise on finding the axis of the play. This is about finding the two opposing principles in the play that cause the conflict. eg justice/injustice. This is harder than you might think because though it might be easy to find two opposing words what you’re trying to do is to find two word that not only express the conflict of your play but express it in a way that is unique and also expresses why your idea is distinctive.

Then finally as we approached the end of the end of our sessions we talked about beginnings and endings. The beginning – get in there, explain what’s happening without exposition, set it all up then interrupt it all with an inciting incident.

And then endings – think of the ending as another beginning, the new status quo. Is
it a comedy or a tragedy? Does it need to end well or end in punishment.