Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Fourth Draft

Finally, the short story is a) 2,200 words long after being in excess of 3000, and b) feeling OK, reasonable. No. 1 son - easily my biggest but most creative critic- likes it, although it's not the sort of thing I normally write.

It's ended up in four scenes, and the biggest weakness is that each section needs to start and end on a strong statement. Apart from that,I just need to listen to the music of it. It has some nice phrases in it, but they feel diluted down by the story a bit. It's drifted a long way from my sister and her own death now.

Now the commentary! I wrote 700 words but frankly, it's still very analytical. Then I checked the assignment brief and found out it had to be 500. Somehow I have to prune it down while expanding the emotional interpretation! This is confusing - but that's where I lost quite a lot of marks in TMA01. I'm going to have another go. The one thing that has really grabbed me from the course and section 2 is Flannery O'Connor, and I want to get some of her stuff in. Not to mention the difficulty of working out how to reference CD tracks and the BRB. Still ignoring the OCA assignment.... Ooops.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Second Draft of TMA02

I realise I had intended to send this off at the end of November, but I'm on the case now. The story takes place in four scenes, at the beach, with the police, at the deceased's home and at the funeral. Four scenes is a lot for 2200 words so I tried to work on the main three and leave out the house scene, but it didn't really work. The story is about finding out about someone now they are dead that you didn't know well during life. I remember being involved in my parents clearing out my grandmother's house, when I was a young adult. There were aspects of her life that were on show that I had no idea about as a child, although she was a regular visitor and lived close by. I ended up with a box of cheap china that I loved, so retro, but I realised it was a set you collected over time, piece by piece with either cigarette coupons or a magazine. It brought home to me how short of money she was. In my character's story, she was unaware how much this person that she judged and disapproved of was so loved, so popular. How much do we really know even our own family? My brother had a fortieth birthday this year, I would only have known a couple of people there. His closest friends and I hardly even know their names, yet we are reasonably close. Yet when we are together, he says things that surprise or baffle me, that make me realise how little I know about what goes on in his life, and how little he understands about mine. At one of our deaths - probably mine, I'm nine years older - will he find out things he never knew and I never thought to tell him?

Meanwhile, I forgot about the OCA assignment even though it's 90% done. So I did the TMA commentary in first draft, it's very technical and needs to be less cold, so I thought I would have some fun with the OCA commentary today. I wrote a radio play, my first, and hope she likes it. Now I have to go back and edit it into something warmer and more emotionally satisfying. Not to mention I still have Chaucer plays to write, which would all have been easier if I hadn't slipped into a four week depression during December.

The other thing that has been slowing me down is the realisation that I do understand poetry, a bit anyway, and can actually write it. It takes forever to write, that's the difference between knocking off a few adjectives and a bit of fluffy language and actually writing good stuff - which I am beginning to recognise. Slow process but I am gaining in confidence about TMA03 and starting to collect freewrites for it. This could be fun.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Writing what you feel as well as what you know

I've now got 4 perfectly good short stories, none of which is suitable for my TMA though maybe they would be better for competitions. So, going back to basics, the short stories that I know are the best are all from emotional experiences of mine or of close friends. Since I have an incredibly rare day all alone from 10 in the morning until midnight, I have run off a painful first draft of the experience of attending my sister's funeral, as a starting point. The contrast between the funeral of a loved one who had a death through illness, with all the expectation and professional support, funeral services etc. and the service in a mortuary with an unexpected death was my base camp, along with a chance encounter. We were clearing out my sister's house when one of her friends came to the house, freaking us out because I had only heard his name and never met most of my sister's friends. It made the day more mysterious and confusing, a bit like her death.

So I wrote 2.3k words in an hour, and it flowed really easily but painfully. Now I have to make some decisions. It wrote itself in first person - not my favourite to be honest. But I know from experience that going to third person omniscient can be difficult, I tend to water down the feelings involved, distancing myself from it rather than keeping the emotions in there. My voice character is rather prissy and easily shocked, not very lovable. I managed to create settings thinly but have to improve that. First person makes it hard to conjure an image of the speaker, too. The biggest problem for me is the showing not telling that my first drafts are weak on. I need to go through and highlight areas I can work on, but it's a couple f days work before it's ready to read out loud (my personal method of working!). Oh, and I need to work more suspense in there, that's for me, to ramp up the plot element. Did I mention that it has a very conventional beginning, middle and an end? It clearly needs to start at a high emotional point, but I'm not sure how to. At least, after weeks of limping along, I'm energised by my writing again. And I have lots for my commentary!

Not to mention I have material for a poem as well! TMA03, here I come.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Short story

OK, now I'm really getting into Xmas/solstice and still really need to do both assignments - I believe I was here a month ago! Maybe I need a deadline after all...I've written a short story (my fourth for this OU TMA02) and I think I'm onto the right kind of thing. The problem is, it's a good story, based on a true story, and that's where the problem is coming in. In telling the narrative, I'm struggling to put forward the quality of writing that my tutor seems to be looking for - there isn't quite room for in depth character analysis, descriptions, settings etc. I've got it down to three scenes really, the petrol bomb through the window (it doesn't go off though), the emotional distress of the person it was lobbed at, but the twist is, he doesn't care about the petrol bomb, he just wants to talk to someone he loves who hasn't spoken to him for many years. Sounds pants when I put it like that, but I'm trying to link up the emotions in the case. I'm trying to make you see the emotions and needs of a person who has put himself beyond normal sympathy through his deeds. It's a bit of a struggle! I'm back on draft 3 now - I get stuck at this point, usually. Back to the keyboard, in between cooking for the freezer. I promised Rosie could make the pudding - she's 10 so still loves all the drama of the steaming and cooking! On the downside, it's a giant pudding for 12 people so it's going to be 8 hours on the top of the stove... at least. I could write a short story in that time, and then I'd have 5 unfinished drafts!