Friday, 28 November 2008

Thursday, 27 November 2008

BBC Writersroom Roadshow

I was there, at the BBC studios in Manchester on Wednesday 26th November. We watched a couple of drama clips, and saw what makes good tv drama...the shots...the suspense....the dialogue.

The room was absolutely packed, and there were a lot of new writers there. I noticed about six other scripts in the Script Box at the end, so not that many people handed them in, unless some kept them hidden about their person until the last minute.

A lot of what was said can be found on the writersroom website, but they did expand on topics and there was a Q & A session.

There are about six readers that read all scripts going into the BBC Writersroom. The six meet up at the BBC about twice a month, sometimes more, and sit around a table.

The first ten pages are absolutely crucial. If you don't hook, excite or make an impression with good writing within those first ten pages, then, they don't take the script any further.

If they see potential, and they love your writing, they will give it a full read. After that full read, and in consultation with others, they decide whether to call you regarding development. It's very rare that a script sent in this way will be commissioned, though it has happened. No, what they see it as, is your 'calling card', the fact that you can write. They may ask you to send more scripts or ideas.

Development by the BBC can mean writing workshops, calling you in to discuss ideas and working with you on those ideas, or giving you the opportunity to work on specific dramas or soaps.


More to follow...

Monday, 24 November 2008

SCRIPTS

I'm starting this section on scripts, because I'm writing a radio drama (two-parter) and want to track the way it's going, and put up some tips, pointers, and ideas.

Before I deal with that script: I wrote a sketch for BBC's Recorded For Training Purposes, and sent it off by e mail. That was on 16th November. They say, if they like what you've done, they'll be in contact soon. Please be in contact! I'd like nothing better than a piece of my work being performed either on radio, tv, or theatre. At the moment I'm concentrating on radio. Recorded For Training Purposes is an initiative run by the BBC and encourages new writers to the medium. It can be a way in, or a step up if you like, because the best get to work on next year's series. Imagine that! one day you're doing your normal stuff, writing and writing and erm, writing, then all of a sudden you're in there with the BBC, working alongside more experienced writers, and you're a part of it!

That's one on my wish-list.

I've been immersing myself in script format, terms used in scripts, like FX, which I didn't realise until recently meant 'Effects', dialogue, exposition (or the reasons why it's best not to use much) and just about everything to do with scriptwiting.


There are some excellent BBC Blogs with a wealth of information. What not to do, what to do, who to speak to, Ten Commandments of scriptwriting, what happens to your script, what script readers look for, blah blah, but very, very informative.

More later....

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Monday, 17 November 2008

More About Dialogue - From Ian McMillan

Whether you’re writing a novel or a short story, dialogue should always serve some purpose – it should either advance the plot or develop a character, preferably both at the same time. Dialogue is never simple small-talk or conversation for its own sake – or simply because you happen to like the line! Here are a few tips that may come in useful, especially if you are currently rewriting a piece that doesn’t quite seem to work.

Always try to write dialogue that doesn’t require you to tell the reader – through narrative – how it is to be said (for example, use angry words rather than have to add “he said angrily”).
Be aware that dialogue doesn’t have to follow the grammatical and syntactical rules of English that you would use in the narrative, but at the same time avoid the ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ that practically everyone uses in daily speech (unless you want to make a specific point about a character’s indecision).

Dialogue is often a fencing match – one speaker doesn’t always let the other speak have her/his full say – but it’s not always a fencing match. Used carefully, this sort of broken interchange can help speed up the action and/or add to character development.
“S/he said” is merely a pointer as to who is speaking, nothing else. Even in a full page of dialogue, unbroken by narrative, you should only need to use such pointers at every third or fourth exchange.

Avoid full pages of dialogue, unbroken by narrative! People do not stop what they’re doing in order to speak, and speech is often a response to action, not just to another speech. Try to vary it.

Elegant variations of “s/he said” – ‘he exclaimed’, ‘she riposted’, ‘she declaimed’, ‘he retorted’ – are no longer fashionable, and are nowadays seen as amateurish. They draw attention to themselves, not to what is being said, and often contain information that already exists (or should exist) in the dialogue itself. “S/he said”, since it’s nothing more than a pointer to who is speaking, is actually invisible to the reader.
Dialect and slang should be used sparingly, just to give a flavour of how a character speaks. Slang dates quickly and dialect doesn’t travel far – your writing should be understandable a hundred years from now and 3,000 miles away.

Monday's Prompt Word/Picture - 17/11/2008



Thrill

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Wednesday's Prompt Word/Picture - 12/11/2008


When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Tuesday's Prompt Word/Picture - 11/11/2008


Scented

Rhythm Of The Trenches

Everyone in town, it seems, observes two minutes silence. The saying is that they died for us so that we might have a better life.


George is the rhythm of these young men, agonising over trench foot, or their mothers at home, sweethearts, children, echoes stuck in time, in the grime between those familiar cobbles on streets that hide bittersweet childhood memories and dreams.

They fought, and were fought by, another bunch of men with the faces of children, with tears from both sides and fears they failed to hide - a whisper from George to a boy with no name. Pretend your dead said the voice from his head to a pulse in his chest, like the beat of a far-away drum. You can go back to your girl and save your Mum. How everything rhymed; the stutter of a Tommy gun – the shower of pings on tin hats like mini-sonic booms, as minds exploded and soared to another place far, far away from the trench.

But the rhyme is not a picture-book nursery rhyme; it is a reel of crackling black and-white – before his eyes, his Father flashes by and Grandfather, too: we’ve been here before and we’ll come again.

Everyone in town, it seems, observes two minutes silence, but in George’s head silence is replaced by the soundtrack of war, through nerve-ends, it rattles down old, weary shot-at bones, and for two minutes he screams in tune with the rhythm of the trenches.

Monday, 10 November 2008

BRIDPORT 2008 - SHORT STORY - JUDGE'S COMMENTS

I've posted this here for easy reference for myself, and also because I agree with so much she's said, especially the bit about length of story. She makes some interesting comments about tenses, too.

Helen Simpson was the short story judge for 2008.


BRIDPORT – Short Story - Judge’s Comments


The first thing to say is this: if your own story is not on the list of winners, do remember that all such competition judging is subjective, and that every judge has his or her blind spots. You should also know that your stories went through a team of ten careful and skilled reader-sifters before the short-listed manuscripts landed on my doormat. Astonishingly, this short-list represented just a small percentage of the total number of entries, so if your name is here you can feel very pleased with yourself.

I found that many of the stories I read improved as they went on – after an unpromising first page or so, they would often get into their stride and be really impressive towards the end (and I include the winner of first prize in this observation). This is not ideal, for the short-story reader’s patience is far more limited than that of the novel reader, and out in the real world any story which does not harness the reader’s attention on its first page (indeed with its first paragraph, its first sentence) will likely be cast aside. The problem is easily remedied – take more trouble. Many stories on this list read as first or second drafts. Also, when in doubt, cut. At least half the stories I read would have benefited from being shorter. Short stories often are short. I smiled when I read the covering letter which arrived with the stories from head story-sifter Jon Wyatt – ‘You would not believe the number of stories that purport to be 4998 words long.’ Just because there is a limit of 5000 words for the Bridport Prize, you don’t have to meet it. Is that length the right length for the story you are writing? If not – cut!

The stories that most satisfied me had the ring of emotional truth as well as some sort of intentional shape or form. Several short-listed entries reminded me afresh that although a slice-of-experience piece of writing may be moving as a document of pain, unless it is transformed by art it is not a story. Also, the choice of ostensibly weighty subject matter (for example, terrorism and natural disasters) does not in itself guarantee a good or well-written story – in fact, perversely, it often does quite the opposite.

A surprising number of these stories were written in the present tense. The accepted wisdom seems to be that this will increase their sense of immediacy and emphasise dramatic moments. I’m not so sure – the present tense can also lead to a sort of solemn, frozen, sitting-on-the-fence quality. This is emphatically not the case, however, with the winning story, Face, where the present tense is used to recount an old woman’s moment-bymoment perceptions of a quietly devastating day. Dramatised in short telling scenes, alternating dialogue with the main protagonist’s observations and memories, Face is powered by real emotional honesty.

A Pocket Guide to Infidelity for Girls, winner of the second prize, uses both the present tense and the tricky second-person viewpoint, as pioneered by Jay McInerney in Bright Lights, Big City. This viewpoint is good for a wired-but-detached tone when describing addiction of one sort or another – here, that of a young woman’s obsession for her married lover, told with utterly convincing intensity. In third place, Little Bad, a story about parents coming to terms with their two-year-old daughter’s diagnosis of epilepsy, shows some rare, welcome pleasure in language. Even if the word play is not quite in Dorothy Parker’s league – ‘good cope, bad cope’ – the bravely wise-cracking dialogue and drily witty tone give the story extra poignancy, particularly in its second half.

Of the ten other winners, Irrational Acts contained some excellent vivid lines and powerful images, but needed work on its shape and general coherence. The Greenhouse Effect, too, rambles on confusingly – at times I was tempted to rename it Under the Influence – but after a while demands to be read aloud, its energy contained in a sort of syncopated forward momentum. On Such a Night is another story which gets better as it goes along; at first I was put off by less-than-careful writing (for example, the main protagonist is ‘self-depreciating’) but found myself gripped by the second half.
Curl Up and Dye is a blackly comic story about old age and death which put me in mind of Muriel Spark’s brilliant Memento Mori. One for You, One for Me was as short and sharp as the slaps exchanged in it; I admired its scene-splicing and vigour. On the Edge was a well-structured story about new parents torn between the buzz of city life and the sunlit patios of the suburbs (it was a shame about ‘Berkhampstead’, though, as misspellings shake the reader’s confidence in the writer). Portrait of a Lady, describing the aftermath of a husband jumping ship, is told in a fluent chatty voice with a nicely-judged edge of hysteria. Breathing is an oblique account of the disintegration of a marriage, sensitively written from a child’s viewpoint.

Finally, the contrast between two very different stories reminded me of an interesting distinction Angela Carter made between the short story and the tale – ‘The tale does not log everyday experience, as the short story does,’ she wrote in her afterword to Fireworks. The casual prolixity and naturalistic surface of Going for a Turkish lulls the reader along so that when an apparently comic character begins to issue threats it is all the more alarming. However, The Butcher and the Thief is quite different in method and approach – brief and elliptical, with repeated motif-like images of meat and fruit, this is definitely a tale rather than a short story.

Monday's Prompt Word/Picture - 10/11/2008


WINTER CALLS

Sunday, 9 November 2008

MY WRITING LINKS

Ever visited BBC Writersroom?

It has some great info on writing for TV and Radio

WRITERSROOM LINK

What About Dialogue?

Here's a bit about Scriptwriting and dialogue, written by Michael Jacob on the Writersroom Blog:

'Good dialogue is economical, with not a word wasted, and while dialogue should obviously convey information, it should be information with attitude rather than information alone. People telling each other stuff is dull, and people telling each other stuff that they should already know is just bad. Attitude is crucial.'

I do get where he's coming from when he says 'attitude'. I love reading stuff, or listening to stuff that has a bit of attitude. I love writing with attitude, and it's something I'm going to keep in my mind, rather than is this just people telling mundane stuff to other people?

So, attitude is crucial!

I think getting into the character's heads is crucial too. I'm writing some dialogue for a script and I'm trying to be that character. Trying to separate each character, one from the other. That's quite hard, I find, but essential if there's going to be real chemistry or antagonism, or fear or truth, or all of those things.


This is also said in the Blog:

'The novelist Anthony Powell felt that one of the keys to avoiding the exposition trap was that questions should never be answered directly, which is a handy tip.'

So, with that I take it he means, never give away the full picture, but slip things in as the play/story progresses, to move the play along. Show a little but not too much. Leave much to the audience's imagination.

More on this later...

Weekend Prompt Word/Picture - 09/11/2008


PREDATOR



Thursday, 6 November 2008

Antonia's: Diary Of An Aspiring Novelist

06/11/2008.

Scribblings

Here's the start of my novel diary. I've put Scribblings as the heading because that's mainly what I've done so far and lots of outlines. They're all in a small, chunky book, bought for me by my sister, Ellie, who buys me things like that from time to time, and they're much appreciated. Much has been scribbled during jouneys to and from work. Mainly to work, because on the way back from work I invariably fall asleep for most of the journey. Only once have I missed my stop. I woke up to see the familiar goings-on of the High Street move further away into the distance.

So, to make sense of the Scribblings. I've been putting that off, and now that I've given myself a deadline of three years for the novel to be published (ha ha ha - ever the optomist) I need to start putting those musings and character studies in order. I've worked quite a lot on the character studies and know who I want in there and kind-of what I want to say.

The hard bit, for me, and possibly for many authors is making sense of it all...structuring the darned thing so that it all falls together nicely, mmmmm, just like Angel Delight.


More to follow tomorrow....

Thursday's Prompt Word/Picture - 06/11/2008...feel free to write anything that my Prompts inspire


Communicate


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wednesday's Prompt Word/Picture - 05/11/2008


Shenanigans



What about Plays?

I'm writing plays at the moment (as well as novel scribblings) and have just written a radio play called: Uncovered. I plan to expand the play, edit, edit, edit, and send it in to BBC Writersroom, as they have a policy to read everything. If they like it they'll help develop you as a writer, and if anything is broadcast you'll be paid.

Hey I know I shouldn't sound surprised about the fact you'd be paid, but not all organisations promise to pay for stuff that's used. It's hard to crack, I believe, into writing for radio, but if they spot talent they'll be in touch. I don't know about you, but I think in this game you have to have a modicum of self-belief, and I seem to feel instinctively, that this could be one of the mediums where I have some success. Hope so! I can't say that I feel that about every writing medium I try. I do love trying to write for radio, as well as the stage. I think it's something to do with the drama of it, and that almost anything goes on radio. I love writing dialogue, though never used to, especially in short stories. It's certainly grown on me.

More about this later...

Antonia's Writing Blog

Here I am. 5th November 2008, my first writing related Blog. My first Blog ever in actual fact. I hope to talk about my current writing projects, and log a kind of writer's diary. I'm giving myself three years (so that's by 5th November 2011) to have written a publishable novel and to have written a successful radio play or theatre play.

I want to do lots more too, like have some short stories published, and maybe get a place in a comp or two, or three...or four!

About Me

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I offer a comprehensive Editing service for Novels/Novellas/Short Stories. Full Treatments available as well as critiques. See: http://antoniabloomwriting.wordpress.com/
 
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