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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Meeting of Many Words...

This week has been largely full of admin based distractions, so only a modicum of extra work has been done on the writing of Storyteller.  It has all been good work, so I am content.  See my second video blog for the more personal view of the week... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRKge_HzAYw

So, as recently posted, just completed new piece Sleep Inc. which I'm quite happy with.  It came into being in a lovely self contained way over the bar in conversation about my recent bout of non-sleeping.  From there I will say no more for, as with many short monologues, it is greatly made of an idea - and so that idea is best kept obscure.
So let us talk about character, which is important because that is the next phase of writing.  Having found a situation to discuss sleep problems, we have two characters in the room.  One with the problem, Mr Morris, and the other, an (as yet) unnamed specialist.  It is the specialist who does the talking, who holds a silent, one sided conversation. 
This is a technique I have used in the past, it is nothing new, but it has rarely featured prominantly.  It only ever has in an unsuccessful story Myth / The Fingers of Fate.  Not that the "dialogue" didn't work, the story round that didn't.  In fact it was the success of a few sections of really good "dialogue" which kept drawing me back to that doomed monologue. 
Encounters with Trolls of the Northern Line has seen developments - in that I have started doing detailed work on one of the characters.  There are four main characters in all, a modern day figure who is drawn into the world of the Trolls, and three others from different points in history - late Victorian, Inter-war and the original Angry Young Man of the post-war boom.  The outline of the story is now plotted, so I can start turning these elements into people.  The advantage of the fantastical setting is that I can take relatively "normal" people* and put them into impossible situations and see how well they cope.  I'm not sure how well they're going to be, but I'll let them decide.
*No such thing as normal people, everyone is a mass of weird contradictions.  I don't know why anyone does what they do, and amateur psychologists should remember that.  Analysis comes after someone does something, not before, and so must the motivation for actions of my characters.  (That's a blog in itself - will come back another time to write in detail about that...)

But, though I'd love to say I've been working hard at these pieces, this week I've mostly edited texts, as the various meetings I've bounced between has stopped me getting into writing.  I do find a good run up helps.  Having the time to get immersed - to mix my metaphors - to get going on a section. 
Except for those times when you just sit down and get on with it.  It's a fickle world, my brain.
So Wednesday this week, in a foul mood it must be said, I sat to edit a new stage version of the medieval Mystery dramas, focusing soully on the life of Christ (i.e. skipping the creation - I'm taking that as read).  It'll be in two parts for performance next year, a big community production a few weeks before the Olympics. 
Now for those who know their onions the Mystery Cycles were numerous, linked, episodic plays - some 40 or so performed together by city guilds.  In theory there's a good day or two's material - and there are four mostly extant and differing versions - and they're in medieval English.  So I've a lot of material and a lot of decisions to make.  Firstly, how much mixing and matching do I do between the different city Cycles?  Secondly, how do I present the dialogue?  I.e. How much do I update the spelling/pronunciation?
Luckily I have done this before on a smaller scale a few years back, and I do know the texts very well.  As far as the first question is concerned I have decided to largely follow one Cycle per plotline.  So for the first Act of the new play - covering the Nativity - I have chosen one text to follow Mary et al and another to follow Herod.  There is the odd change of text when one plot meets the other - the close of the Herod plotline will be a positive pic n mix - but otherwise I am being quiet consistent.
So far as spelling is concerned I'm happy to touch it but lightly.  The texts work very well once the actor says the word as writ.  These plays have a pure oral power, in addition to meaning.  It's something about the sound.  But it is early days - I've only touched the surface of one quarter of the whole - and the easiest quarter at that.  Maybe I'll come unstuck later.
!!! I wrote those words only a few hours before and already I've completely changed my mind on the text for Mary and Joseph.  There go my rules out the window.

Beyond these writerly things I had a most successful recording session on Sunday with my sound engineer Peter.  It was supposed to be only a test, but it went so well we went for a take and recorded a version of Problem Tree, from the Teaching Gods and Other Stories... collection.  Have yet to go through the takes, but had a brief listen and it sounded really good.  We'll be getting together soon for a full session - so hopefully I'll have the first recordings available really soon.

More next Tuesday...

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