Friday, 23 July 2010

A363 activities 6.1 and 6.2

Working through chapter 6 I'm in new territory. I don't like plays (or radio plays, in fact) because they seem too slow to me. Reading a book you can slow down the action, read it again if you need to sort something out in your head or savour the moment. So I don't know much about how plays are staged, but chapter 6 is making me think about things like sets and theatres.

I had to start by creating a scene where the character does very little dialogue, and the action is given in stage directions.

WOMAN is in office clothes, shrugs on coat. WOMAN walks through double doors of office building to the outside. WOMAN fumbles in pocket for matches and cigarette packet. WOMAN takes a few goes to light cigarette in wind. WOMAN smokes, blowing away from main doors. PHONE rings.

WOMAN:     Hello?

Anyway, you get the idea. So, we have to develop the first idea. Her story progresses. It's bad news, even though we only hear her few words. Then she stands stunned outside. A co-worker walks past, calling her name. Finally she opens the phone again and calls someone.
WOMAN:     Hi, Sam...It's about Dad... (CURTAIN)

Anyway, it's an interesting exercise because it makes you visualise very intensely the scene you want to create. This is when I write best, when I can see it or hear it. I wonder, is this just me? Am the only one who needs to have a film or a scene playing in my head for it to feel real? By the time I've worked on a short story, I could probably pick my characters out of a line up in the dark, from behind.

I'm working on a short story idea at the moment, about a character who is represented but isn't actually present. He's the centre of the story, but he's revealed through other people. (I used this for a character sketch ages ago). This time, his estranged daughter is coming to find out about him, and his death, and she is a fresh pair of eyes, with her own agenda (blame him, blame his friends). I'm also enjoying writing the story of an old woman who wants to conceal from the world that she needs help, in case she loses her independence. She's stuck at the bottom of her stairs at the moment, but about to start her survival challenge.  


  1. I'm currently reading a book about planning and structuring a screenplay, which is really interesting. I'm planning to use the structuring tips to plan a novel.
    The book does make an interesting point, which is that novels are about the internal goings-on in someone's head, stage plays (and I suppose radio too) are about dialogue and are enclosed by the promethian arch of the stage, and film scripts are about visual images.
    What do you think? And might that help? I think the ideas need to be slightly different for each medium.

  2. I think you're right. I also think sometimes a short story which doesn't quite work comes to life when you dramatise it - and probably vice versa, though I've never started with drama. I'm comparing the book 'The Lovely Bones' with the film, and I enjoyed both. Both feature the narrator strongly, and I think you can include some of the inner drama through setting, the facial expression and body language of the actors, even the way they say the lines. Then it's difficult to know whether you're being too prescriptive in the script for the creativity of the actors/director but they don't have your vision so you need to give them some indication of what you were imagining. I don't think it's going to be my medium, frankly, but it's opened up all sorts of thoughts about the reader too, who may interpret my words quite differently to my intention.
    Are you thinking of taking a screen- or script-writing module? We have a sript-writing optional module and although I ruled it out initially I'm starting to wonder if other forms of writing actually help fiction more than I had thought. I haven't even ruled out poetry.

  3. I would like to look into script or screenwriting at some point, but I think my MA is specifically prose fiction. It might be something to look into in the future, as I wouldn't rule anything out :)