Tuesday 14 March 2017

Well ain't that a kick in the head!

Hello there.

It's been just a wee while since I posted anything, but this is as much for my own process as it is the hope that it will provide me with some accountability.

Anyone who's read previous posts on this blog will remember that I often liken receiving story ideas to being smacked in the back of the skull. Well, it's happened again. It's a glorious moment when it happens, I still find it totally overwhelming and feel rather undeserving of it, but it is such a high. Until the "oh shit" sets in.

It would seem that a couple of recent articles I've read have been fermenting at the back of my mind. One article was regarding the debate over ethnic representation in a current West End musical, the other was about lesbian representation in current TV shows. I have been actively thinking about the TV article for a couple of weeks. The oversimplified gist of the article was there aren't enough lesbian (or GBTQI) characters on tele. Plenty are hinted at in subtext but never make it to main-text, and too many that are acknowledged main-text get killed off. I've been pondering how to write a tv series that isn't as sensational as the L Word, a show where someone's sexuality is simply one aspect of who they are. I was considering going down the Black Mirror route, episodes of independent stories of women who just happened to love other women. (BTW, massive thank you and IT'S ABOUT BLOODY TIME to the writers of the finale of Call The Midwife!)

Then on Sunday night, it kicked me in the head.

I was knitting while listening to BBC radio 4's Home Front series, set in WWI (no, I'm not convinced I'm only 30 either), and evidently, Isabel Graham's ambulance driver story line struck something with me. But then I realised, bugger, Sarah Waters already did that. Until I remembered my favourite Waters quote, not that I can find an original source for it anywhere! 

I'm sure all writers are basically the same: 
we're like Wombles, picking up stuff here and there – 
some of it our own stuff, some of it our friends' - 
but putting it to new, occasionally peculiar, but hopefully
 highly imaginative uses. - Sarah Waters

I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I created a drama series along similar lines to hers. However, I want mine to be broader. I want to start 2 days before the Blitz and see how the Auxillary have to scramble to cope with their new circumstances, I want to see how different subcultures and ethnicities interact in these most terrible of events, I want to tell the most bizarre stories that actually happened in that time.

And now the "oh shit". Research. 

I suspect I'm going to need to steep myself in this one, just like I did for The Pirates Daughter, but oh boy is this one broader. I'm going to have to start with novels and memoirs I suspect and then work backwards to find source material. Today's research unearthed a nice little article with Deborah Burrows, author of Ambulance Girls, which sounds like a brilliant place to begin. But this whole research thing really isn't going to be easy. There's so little record of working class gay culture in the 1940s, or about ethnic minorities in London during the Blitz, that just finding a solid place to start feels like a daunting challenge in itself. 

If anyone can offer any help, please please please do!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

This is not just my story

Today something wonderful happened. My play told me it was ready to be written.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but more and more lately I'm finding that it's true. I'll come up with an idea for a story, a play or whatever, usually just a skeleton concept, character fragments and some hint at what actually happens, but then it doesn't go any further. So I just forget about it, presuming I'll come back to it someday. Then, months, sometimes years later, out of the blue it'll come and smack me in the back of the head.

"Forget what you wrote down before," it tells me, "this is how the story is supposed to go!"

And it's usually right. 

Very often, the story is a stripped back and streamlined version of the original. I had a bad habit back in the day of trying to add too much drama to my stories, adding in storylines and subplots that just didn't need to be there, and that usually I didn't know enough about.

The best known rule of writing is:


And what do I know? What I have experienced. 

My most recent writing projects, primarily plays, have been stemming from my own life events, and I'll admit that scares the hell out of me. I'm putting myself out there for the world to see and judge, but it must be happening for a reason.

As I move into old age (and yes, 30 is old age!) I need to deal with my baggage, and writing is apparently my catharsis.

The play that got written today, has been on my mind for a good 8 months or so, ever since my friend Emma decreed she was going to hold a short play festival about mental health. I had an idea almost straight away.

Originally, it was going to be a monologue, someone else's story, and that's certainly still a road I could go down. But as my brain ticked over on the idea I knew that I simply didn't know enough to make that play idea work. Sure I could have researched it to death, but why do that when there are other sources to draw on it. I knew I had to write my side of this particular story.

Some years back I was in a relationship that proved somewhat damaging, those of you in the know will no doubt be pointing out there are several that could be classified thus. But this one had some particular trauma points that have stayed with me in a fundamental way. It seemed only appropriate that writing a show for a mental health showcase could be my own therapy.

The story resisted for a long while. I knew pretty much what I wanted to put in it but every time I sat down to write, nothing came. So I just left it alone. On Saturday, for no reason what-so-ever, it handed me the opening sequence. The next day it threw me a few more lines, the next day the same, and I knew it was almost ready.

I don't know why but last night, the night this play is based on came back to me quite vividly. I was desperately trying to get to sleep, knowing I had only a four-and-a-half hour window before I was back up for work again, but my mind kept on replaying snatches of conversation, small actions, facial expressions, and for the first time in years I allowed myself to cry for the events of that night. Eventually I was lulled into a dreamless and heavy sleep, rudely awakened before 6am to return to work. 

I thought nothing of those events throughout my first job this morning, but my brain must have been tick tick ticking on it nonetheless. By the time I arrived at my second job I knew something was ready to move, and fortunately the job was a slow one, couriering exhibitor cargo from the entrance of the conference building to their stands, a mindless job, leaving my head free to tick away.

The above small notebook has become my constant companion of late, it fits in the pocket of my work trousers, so now whenever I have a thought about any stories I can take note instead of presuming I'll remember it later. Heaven forbid anyone ever gets hold of this thing, I'll be sectioned immediately the content is so dark. And so between exhibitor arrivals I started jotting down lines. This went on for a couple of hours until the arrivals dwindled down to practically nothing and I just sat on the floor of the security entrance and just let it flow, my pencil barely stopping. I had been concerned that when the story was finally ready to hit paper I would find it distressing, but scribbling away I found myself at peace. A calmness settled over me that allowed me to just keep going. 

I finished writing an hour before the end of my shift, and I was eager to get home to type it up, my first edit pass, and get it off to my favourite first reader. But typing it up proved to be more difficult. I was more agitated, I was emotional and yes I shed a few tears. I have no doubt that my current state of ongoing sleep deprivation had a substantial hand in this process, perhaps helping me let my guard down enough for the story to flow freely, but the job is done, and the story is no longer in my hands.

The current PDF is only 8 pages long. Onstage perhaps it will run about 15-20 minutes, I'm not sure. Now that it's written I realise how heavy the subject matter actually is and now I'm fearful it will be deemed unsuitable. Only time will tell. My only hope is that if it does make it to the stage, at The Hope Theatre in March 2016, is that all who see it will be gentle in their judgement.

And now, the sweet oblivion of sleep beckons, and I am want to yield.
Good night.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Hello again!

So it seems that I have returned! While things were lovely for a while with my WordPress blog, it didn't last and ongoing problems resulted in the site being unusable. As you'll see I have copy-and-pasted some of the posts from the other site over here, sadly I had to leave some lovely comments behind.

I hope to start posting again soon, my writing has dipped away quite drastically over the last year but the stories are still there, occasionally trying to get my attention.

There is plenty more happening in life nowadays, more I want to put out to the Universe, so I hope that you'll indulge me with patience while I try and get my thoughts back together.

Hear Me Universe!

So I've had a crisis of belief lately...actually strike that, I've had an ongoing crisis of belief since I started writing again, something like five years ago. The belief I speak of is whether or not I have the right to call myself a writer.
I'm a pessimist at heart, I have been for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, I know what I am, but as for believing it, and acknowledging it to the world... that's a whole different matter.
I mean, it's not like I haven't been writing stories since I knew how to write. They might not have been that great, but...and at the age of twelve I started writing my first screenplay, a year later I submitted scripts to both Xena: Warrior Princess and to Star Trek: Voyager! Needless to say neither got any response and I get red-faced reading them now, but I WROTE them!
At 17 I finished writing my first stage-play...it's still under revision, but I WROTE it! The end of my A-levels and my first attempt at university killed off my writing instinct, but once I dropped out of uni I began another screenplay. It's still not finished but I WROTE it.
Since then I've written a dozen short stories, I've got screen-plays, stage-plays, more short stories, and plenty of novels bashing around my brain. By contract, I'm even a staff WRITER for Milliver's Travels.
So you know what? FUCK IT!



FGC#14 The Knot

As time passes the knot in my stomach loosens, the weight in my chest gets lighter, and the dark cloud that's been over my head for months is starting to disperse.
Tonight has done me good. The comfort of old friends, a change of scenery, being surrounded by inane chatter and cheesy music. I've even managed to laugh.
I squirm and wriggle in the corner of the seat, trying to escape Alison's insistent fingers as they dance across my ribs and belly. I refuse to give her the satisfaction of laughing out loud but squeaks keep escaping my throat.
"All right! All right you're right! She's hotter in Fifth Element than in Resident Evil!"
She relents and sits up, straightening her top. My arm snakes around her shoulders and Alison leans into me, one hand on my knee, the other clutching her plastic pint glass. I give her a squeeze, enjoying the solid weight of her body against mine. We're comfortable friends. Goodness knows I wanted more once, but when I saw how good she and Monica were together I forgot all about it.
"One of these days she's going to get bored of me and we all know who she'll end up with."? Monica winks at me over her drink and I feel the corners of my mouth pull up as everyone else at the table laughs. It's been a while since smiling came easily.

A flash of auburn catches my eye and my heart skips a beat as I look up. This has happened three or four times tonight already. Only this time it's her. Kira. She's smiling. I've tried so hard to forget how beautiful she looks when she smiles. Now that smile isn't meant for me. It's for the short haired girl pulling her to another table.
I shrink into my seat, I want to be invisible. But when Kira kisses the short haired Michaela the knot in my stomach tightens savagely, the weight in my chest threatens to bear me through the floor as the black cloud over my head encroaches on my vision.
Pressure on my knee draws the rest of the world back into focus.
"Are you ok?", a soft voice asks by my ear. Alison is the only one in the group to have met Kira.
"I can't be here right now," I inform her and stand up, muttering my apologies to the others, knowing Alison will explain everything. I hold my breath as I walk towards the exit, taking measured steps, trying not to run, keeping half an eye on Kira. Ronnie, the bouncer, steps into my path before I can make my escape.
"Leaving so soon Rach mate?"?
"Saving you some unnecessary drama babe."? Kissing her on the cheek, I finally reach the door.
Gasping down the cool air I pound away down the street. I thought I'd cried all the tears I had, but the pressure is there behind my eyes and my throat tightens. With my hands buried deep into my pockets, fingernails digging into sweaty palms, teeth clenched, I refuse to cry in a public place.
"Rachel, wait."
That voice freezes me to the spot, my heart stops, my blood chills. Her footsteps are getting closer. I want to flee, to run and to keep on running until I collapse but my body won't obey.
Her hand on my arm is like an electric shock and I jump away as though burned. My heart is thumping so hard I think it's going to break out of my chest.
"Sorry. Are you all right?"
I fix my eyes on a piece of gum on the pavement. I don't dare to look at her. Just a glimpse of those eyes was always enough to make me cave. That's how she got me to go out with her in the first place.
"Say something Rachel, please."?
"What do you want me to say?" My voice is harder than I expected, colder than I wanted. But it's always up to me.
"I don't know. Anything. I miss you."?
A laugh bubbles up my throat and I shake my head. "Don't say that."?
"But it's true."?
"Maybe, but I don't need to hear it right now."? My whole body is beginning to shake, so I hug myself. "Things like that get my hopes up, even though you've made your choice and I need to forget you."
"Why? I thought we could still be friends?"?
"Because you still make me feel too much."? The words erupt out of my mouth before I have time to stop them. Taking a deep breath I continue, quieter, trying to keep my voice steady and reasonable. "And I won't let you or anyone else have that kind of hold over me again."? Turning, I stride off down the road.
"I might believe that if you'd stayed with your friends instead of running off in a sulk."?
I stop but refuse to turn around, refuse to rise to her taunting. "And ruin their night as well? Not to mention make yours awkward?"?
"As if you care how my night goes."
"Regardless what you think I do want you to be happy Kira."? Sometimes I wonder why I do, when she's taken so much from me and given me nothing in return but a broken heart. "Only problem is I still want you to be happy with me, but that's not going to happen."? The knot is twisting tighter, trying to choke me. "I can't be witness to Michaela making you happy when I couldn't manage it."
"So what happens now?"? Her voice is small and tight. I turn to look at her at last. Those gorgeous eyes are swimming in tears and her brow is knitted.
"We go our separate ways."?
The tears spill over and one hand moves shaking to her mouth. She didn't even look this stricken when she told me she was leaving me for someone else.
"But what about me? I still care about you a lot. I want you in my life."?
"Let me go Kira." Please let me go, let me think of myself for once instead of letting it all be about what she wants. "It's not enough for me. Alison told me something earlier."? A delivery truck rumbles passed and I welcome the moment to pull myself back together. "She said, at some point you have to realise some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life."?
Her face crumples and despite myself I pull her into my arms. A sense of relief floods through me as our bodies fit together as perfectly as before, her fingers clutching my shoulders and her face pressed against my neck. Slowly, I release my breath.
"So is this it? For good?"?
"I honestly don't know. Maybe."
She pulls away from me and wipes her face.
"Besides, you've got Michaela to distract you. You won't even notice I'm gone."?
She holds my face and draws my mouth to hers. The familiar taste of her makes my chest swell with the old warmth and the world twists beneath my feet. Her lips on mine are demanding, urgent, needy. I gently push her back.
"I won't forget you,"? she whispers.
"Go and live your life."? I turn and walk away.
The knot in my stomach is still there as the distance between us grows, but it's not as tight, the weight in my chest not as heavy, the cloud over my head not as black.
This short story is an entry into the Form and Genre Challenge #14: 1st Person POV. Check out the other entries and vote for your favourite here.
Final word count: 1252