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Posts Tagged ‘waffle’

 

Well, it’s just gone 12.30 on November the 16th and the first draft of the NaNoWriMo story is, in theory, just about two thirds of the way through. The third act will, once again, open some years after the second closes so I am taking the afternoon off and seeing a movie in order to generate the sufficient sense of narrative distance (I would have done this anyway but now I can justify doing it, I hope).

As things currently stand I am on a shade more than 72,000 words and 160 pages on MS Word (this translates into about a 250-page paperback if the NaNo formula is to be believed) and feeling quite cheerful about the story itself. Somewhat to my surprise this middle section ended up being more about the characters’ personalities and relationships, and the complicated political situation the world has become entangled in (another rather obvious steal from The Kraken Wakes), than the actual main plot motor of the alien life-form. I’m worried that all this stuff is rather melodramatic and unconvincing – I thought this was going to be a story about meteorology, not the failure of couples to properly communicate with each other – but I suppose fixing it will be one of the things I do in the second draft, should I decide to do one.

At least now I can relax in the knowledge that all the characters and major locations have been introduced, all the plot seeds sown (well, a new one’s just occurred to me, but I think that’ll have to wait for Part Three, for reasons to do with plausibility and not telegraphing the ending), all the character dynamics sorted out, and so on, and I can just cruise through the scenes of collapsing civilisation and the desperate struggle to survive that are the main thing that attracted me to this story in the first place.

I’m still talking about it in terms of a three-act structure, which I suppose still just about holds water. Parts One and Two, more through luck than anything else, have clocked in at roughly the same length in both words and pages. At one point it looked like Two would be coming in rather short, and – purely for my own sense of structure – I had been contemplating splitting Part One in two. There’s an obvious junction point about six chapters in where the story skips forwards a couple of years… yes, I know this isn’t very interesting.

I may still do this, but if so I think I’ll split Part Three as well. it looks like it’ll be a lot longer than either of the other two, and there is another natural junction point some way into it – not quite sure exactly how far, but that’s the fun of it. There’ll still be a three-act structure, ish, but spread over five actual chunks of story. I think that’ll work. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

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Well, it’s just gone midday on November the 9th, and I’m about 36,200 words into the NaNoWriMo story. As the NaNoWriMo benchmark is theoretically 50,000 words for a win, it would seem I am way ahead of schedule. On the other hand, I’m only roughly a third of the way through the idea (plot seems like too strong a word for it) I came up with – possibly a bit less than that, though I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the rest of the book.

I’ve reached the end of the first part, though – the three-act structure is just one of the most obvious ways in which this story is a loving rip-off of The Kraken Wakes – and I’m about to skip forward quite a few years in story-time. Therefore, I feel it’s appropriate to take a bit of a break at this point (not too long, I still have 1634 words to do today), and so I can feel like I’m working on it even while I’m not I thought I would reflect on the process so far.

Well. From my point of view I’m finding it a bit easier to knuckle down and work this year – last Autumn days would go by when I did nothing but cruise the internet playing online games and watching strange clips on YouTube and DailyMotion, but I’ve done at least 2000 words every day, normally more than 4000, and on day four (when things really seemed to be flowing well) over 6500. It’s easy to get jazzed early on when everything is still fresh and interesting, but you do reach a point after about a week when self-doubt rears its ugly head, and it’s here that you just have to start plugging away regardless in the hope that some spark of life still inhabits the story – it almost always does, if you dig deep enough.

From the story’s point of view, everything seems to be ticking over. There has been a bit more sex than I’d expected (tastefully off-screen, before you ask), no-one has died, and all the characters are behaving roughly as planned. The problem with writing without an outline, as I tend to do, is that after a while you realise you don’t really know who any of these people are. While to some degree they will show you this as you proceed, I do suspect some judicious rewrites of early chapters (when they were still deciding who they were) will become necessary if this story is to go anywhere beyond my hard-drive. One character who I wrote in just to give the main person someone to talk to decided to make a bit for power and ended up becoming much more important and likeable than I expected, to the point of marrying the main person. Somebody else turned out to be much less sympathetic than I’d anticipated, but still a key figure. The character I’d half-expected to become everyone else’s mentor vanished without a trace after chapter six. Nearly everyone went off to Alaska for four or five chapters, which was a surprise, and I had to cold-email a NaNoWriMo writer there for some local details (they were very obliging).

I am still concerned that the dialogue is often crushingly obvious and expository, and that the balance between the relationships between the characters and the ongoing problem with the sky is not quite as it should be. But on the whole I am fairly happy with things and can’t think of a more fulfilling way to have spent the last week or so.

On to chapter twenty – and someone’s going to die! (Bwa ha ha ha.)

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So, obviously the first decision I had to make was Which one shall I write?, because I can’t believe anyone really just sits down with completely empty paper and empty head and just produces a whole long story from absolutely nowhere. (Then again I’m sure some people will refuse to believe that anyone just sits down with a vague idea for a story and a world and maybe a few characters and just starts writing and trusts that the plot will look after itself as they’re going along, but that’s what happened with Republic, the very long story (it’s not a novel until it’s printed, okay) I wrote last Autumn and that’s what I expect will happen with the very long story I just started today, which is currently called Sky (part of me suspects The Waking Sky is a better title but it’s a bit pretentious, isn’t it?).)

And I thought again about the story of the computer that gets religion, and the story about two worlds one of which is a dream of the other (but neither knows which), and I even spared a few thoughts for the very old idea about the feuding noble brothers and the mechanical man and the very odd mirror, but in the end I passed on all of them. I didn’t even bother to think about returning to the story of the solicitor who turns into a wolf, as I’ve already written so much of it it would count as a second draft, and I suspect that story has missed its chance anyway. And I ran away and hid from the idea of doing My Big Sociologically Accurate Fantasy Novel, as it’s still much too big and scary an idea (and yet it could be so wonderful if I could get it down on paper and do it justice), the research alone would take me more than a month to do properly, though I did consider sneaking into that world and looking around on the pretext of writing another story in the same setting.

So I went back to the idea I had while watching the BBC4 documentary back at the end of June. It’s a pretty simple idea (and some will no doubt say a pretty silly one) but it’s clean and straightforward (unlike Republic), and it will give me a chance to follow in the footsteps of two of my favourite authors. I don’t have to worry about the characters unexpectedly deciding to go to Norfolk or becoming so significant they demanded to be written into earlier chapters. I know how things are going to develop this time. (The mocking laughter you may be hearing is my future self, rereading this while taking time off from grappling with unexpected plot twists, probably round about next Thursday.)

And it’s weird. This time yesterday all I had was a vague idea and some maybe-characters whipping around inside my head. 4000 words and a few hours typing later, I have four characters (one of them almost certainly minor, another I’m not sure about) and a location, and a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen to them tomorrow. I’m still not sure if the main character’s love interest has shown up yet – two of the other characters have shown potential in that department, but as I’ve yet to decide upon Main Boy’s arc across all the years the story will happen in (this is one of the things I’m relying on the story presenting to me as I go along), I’m not sure who to go with.

It’s like building a tower around a whirlwind, swapping this vague but limitless chaos of potential for the solidity of words and facts. I hope that in the end the tower I build does justice to the beauty of the whirlwind, and that something of its energy remains when I’m done.

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Well, folks, good news and bad news to report. The good news is that Thunderball was on yesterday afternoon, and I have successfully resisted the urge to write a single word about it (except to say that… no. Resist), although some might say the Bond-related content on this blog is far too skewed towards Roger Moore and a dash of the Milkman is desperately needed. The bad news is that, for various financial reasons, I didn’t see the preview of Let Me In after all (I had a choice of going to that or the kick-off meeting of the Oxford NaNoWriMo group), so my thoughts on that are going to have to wait for a bit.
 
The NaNoWriMo meeting was fun and motivating, anyway, and it looks like there will be some wargaming this week should anybody still be interested in that. Did some browsing in Waterstones – they seem to be doing a special currently on the 1001 X You Must Y series. As the front coverof 1001 Movies You Must See was a still from Avatar, any faith I had in its authority vanished almost at once.

Probably not appearing in 1001 Movies You Must See is Dracula – Prince of Darkness, a 1966 movie which I’d like to write a bit about for a number of reasons. Firstly, of course, it’s vaguely appropriate given today’s Halloween. Secondly, it’s a Hammer production from the studio’s golden age, and given the company’s sort-of resurrection is upon us it seems appropriate to refresh our memories of what it used to be about.

This was Hammer’s second proper Dracula movie (i.e. the big D’s actually in it) and opens with a recap of the first’s climax, wherein the Lord of the Undead (Christopher Lee, of course) is blasted into ashes by Dr van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Ten years later, the simple villagers of the Carpathians are still dwelling in the shadow of the vampire, despite the best efforts of local abbot Sandor (Andrew Keir) to persuade them it’s all over. Oblivious to all this are the Kents, two English tourists and their wives who are touring the district. Before you know it, they’re ignoring every piece of advice they’ve been given and are spending the night at Castle Dracula. This would be fine were it not for the fact that Dracula’s devoted butler Klove (a deadpan performance by Philip Latham) has spent the intervening time collecting together all the little ashy bits, and is only awaiting a good old splash of the red stuff to trigger his master’s resurrection.

Of course, all this takes quite a while, and it’s nearly halfway through before the title character puts in an appearance. Christopher Lee gets rather less screen time than most of his co-stars and remains mute throughout (the reasons for this are disputed). As such one can’t help but think that the movie isn’t making the best use of its greatest asset. He retains a massive presence whenever he appears, but it’s an unrefined and unfocussed presence: all power, no finesse.

And if you have Christopher Lee playing your bad guy, then there’s really only one man up to the task of playing your hero – and unfortunately he was off making Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 when this film was in production. Any Cushing-Lee movie, even one of the low budget foreign ones, has a special kind of magic to it that their solo outings always struggle to match, and this occasion is no exception.

Things aren’t really helped by a script which, while always strong on atmosphere, faffs around a lot even after Dracula’s resurrection. It picks up once the action leaves the castle and the surviving Kents take refuge within Sandor’s monastery, but we’re into the final act by this point. That’s not to say that this movie is bad by any means – Andrew Keir is the next best thing to Cushing any way you cut it, and can effortlessly carry the exposition in this kind of film. There’s also a rather good performance by Barbara Shelley, who goes from repressed and chilly housewife to lascivious predator as the film progresses. Thorley Walters plays the Hammer version of Renfield, and is memorable in a small part. (Keir aside, all the good guys in this film are a bit bland and forgettable. The bad guys are much more fun.)

Andrew Keir and Barbara Shelley prepare to get all Freudian.

I’ve said before that it sometimes feels as if I’ve been watching this movie on a loop ever since 1987. I certainly don’t feel that’s been any great loss, even if this is one of those weird instances of a film being a classic (and if Dracula – Prince of Darkness isn’t classic Hammer horror, I don’t know what is) without necessarily being especially accomplished. If nothing else, it’s better than every Dracula film Hammer made afterwards, even the ones with Peter Cushing in them, so it must be doing something right.

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Mission Statement. Ish.

Why, you may be wondering, does the world need another fairly anonymous blog? Especially one with such a weird name (Since changed to a different weird name – A).  Indulge me while I explain…

For many years I’ve been producing a film-review column entitled 24 Lies A Second on an on-off basis  for the site www.h2g2.com, where it eventually built up a bit of a following. My lifestyle means 24LAS has been rather more off than on recently, but I still like the name and the concept. It was suggested to me a long time ago that I should take it solo into the blogosphere but I resisted the temptation then.

So why now? Well, the venue on h2g2 where I used to disport myself seems to be going in a different direction, which is less suited to a regular, semi-topical column. Also, I’m making an attempt to take my writing more seriously and get out of my comfort zone just a tiny bit. So I expect I’ll be using this spot to put up film reviews, but also write about other pop-cultural stuff, things to do with my writing, philosophy, and anything I think deserves to be read.

There will be long words. There will be geeky stuff. There will be bad jokes. Now that I think about it, it will be a bit like talking to me in person, but you’ll have to imagine the poor personal grooming for yourself.

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