Preparation, Preparation, Preparation That Hits The Limit

I’ve been neglectful (yet again) of this blog, and hope that one day, I’ll be able to get to squeeze in more time and opportunity to create more posts. I enjoy it, but with various other things happening, it gets forgotten about a bit too much for my liking. But that is for another blog post…

Back in June 2015, I ended up writing a blog post about preparation and planning. This is a sort of revisiting, because in the Cabin for the April 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo (one of the things keeping me busy, but in a good way,) was the comment “I tend to have issues planning ENOUGH if that makes sense. I never quite make my final word count because I run out of story.” This is an interesting problem, from my view. I’m not sure how to fully answer it, either. But I’m willing to give it my personal thoughts, because it might just produce something that can help someone.

The first thing I think of with this is the issue of word counts. After years of bumbling along, and making literary messes, I’ve come to the conclusion that how long a story is supposed to be determines quite a few things. I now regard short stories as episodes in a television programme, and novels to be like films. I think I have touched on this before, but I’ll go through it again, because it connects in with what I’m going to say a bit later on.

To summarise, I regard every hundred words in a short story to equate to a minute of screen time, and every thousand words in a novel to equate to a minute of cinema time. By looking at it in that way, I then have a basis to gauge the length of the story, and thus work out how long I want it to be. This visualising is important, because then I can sit down and think about how much needs to go in, to make it get to that limit. From there, I can decide on the location, and see what research I need to do to get it right, and what interesting details I can learn about the place that can help build the atmosphere of the story.

Take Odessa, Texas, as an example. This is a city of 1000,000 or so people, in the middle of the desert. It has a nearby city it is a huge rival to in terms of American Football, their teams doing quite well for themselves in the leagues. (The Permian Panthers was the idea for the television series Friday Night Lights.) The city also has a meteor crater (which was part of the group that crashed with the Arizona crater meteor,) a replica Globe Theatre, and a replica Stonehenge. It also has connections to the Bush family, if memory serves. Suddenly, from what I have just outlined, you can start to get ideas, because there are some really nice features that could really set things in the story in terms of tone.

I also consider the characters as well. How many will be needed to get to that limit? How do they all interact with each other, and how does that spark chain of events? If I need to, I’ll go and add a character or two whilst writing the story, to add more depth and potential to it. In a sense, the characters are like threads waiting to be woven into a tapestry: each strand adds to the colour and variety of the whole. Not only that, but pull away a thread, and the whole tapestry could unravel. Life is about the events that spark off from the encounters with people, places, knowledge and realisations, when you think about it. And this follows true for story weaving, too.

Of course, it can sometimes turn out that you have managed to get the end, but failed to get to your target. For me, that is no issue at all. It them means I’ll go back through, and try to see what I can do to add to it. Have I described all the characters fully? Have I described all of the locations? Is there any minor or trivial characters than should be expanded on, to help benefit the story? Finishing under the word target isn’t a crisis; you have finished the story, and thus can build on the structure some more.

This should serve as a helpful start to people. I’ll probably end up coming back to this topic, and adding some more in another post, when I have come up with more to say.

Oh, and Happy Easter to all of my readers. May you all have a great and wonderful weekend.

 

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Enter The Night (Part One)

I thought I would share what I read out this month. I intend to read the next part to the writing group next month… once I have worked on it a bit more. I thought it might interest people to see what I had produced.

Feel free to leave comments if you see any problems, or if you like it! Feedback is always useful.

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Enter the Night

She stared out, leaning over the rail in an attempt to look tough and mature. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but after Chicago…

Still, the sight of the ocean was something that captivated her. She had never seen the sea before. Never once gazed out, and saw endless stretches of water to the horizon. Even at night, with the stormy clouds above, it was a sight for her to see. Samantha just gazed away, not wanting to look away, to go back up the pier and to the reason why she was in this poky little tourist trap. Still, the clothes she had managed to rustle up while she had stayed for a few days in San Francisco helped to make her feel more edgy, more a streetwise brat.

Of course, before she had gone of on her quest to find her mother, she had thought herself streetwise. How could she not be, watching her father deteriorate as she had grown up? Having to clean up and after them both, and try to get some sort of food inside of them? Over time, it just became too much, for both of them. She had screamed and shouted, having a horrible tantrum. A wild, terrible force unleashed from the deepest centre of her. Throwing things, stuff smashing against the wall… and her father pressed against the wall, eyes wide in terror. His words, burned into her memory.

She did that, too…”

She had tried to apologise, to make amends. Samantha looked back bitterly at the memory. Why had her Daddy rejected her like that? Become so distant? Why couldn’t he help her, drive out of her the furious fuming anger that still swelled and welled inside her? And when she lost her temper, she ended up doing things. Maybe what everyone at school said about her was true. Both she and her father were losers.

Her father… she beat back the tears, not wanting to cry like a pathetic little baby. As much as she had defended him, she knew that there was truth in their words about him…

Her Daddy. The memories started to pour back to her, despite her efforts.

A failed musician with a crippling drug addiction that had given him the disease that had eaten him away. He’d tried to get clean, and stay clean, but it never took. Samantha didn’t hate her old man, just felt… disappointed in him. She had listened to his music, and there had been talent, particularly when he had been with her mother.

 The same mother that had vanished when she was just ten days old. According to the stories about her from her aunt. As much as she was mean and bitter at her aunt and uncle, she was also grateful that they had taken her in. a year of foster care had been more than enough for all sides to handle. Home after home ended up rejecting her, meaning she was back at the children’s home regularly. She wasn’t certain if it was her anger or her looks. She couldn’t help it if her Daddy had been a mix of different colours and backgrounds. Well, if her foster families hated it, she despised it. Looking into the mirror, with no clear idea what to describe herself as. Particularly as she had a tanned -like skin, jet black hair, and bright, piercing blue eyes. Like shards of ice staring and stabbing out. Her nose, mouth… one look at her face suggested she was a white girl, but the skin and hair… and then there were her eyes, the same as her mothers, light coloured.

Paler than the sea, for certain…

She had been there for hours, when it had been day and sunny. Strange how the storm had surged in like that. As if boldly announcing something ominous and dangerous. Maybe it was warning everyone that she was in town? Wandering amongst them in her white crop top, black fake leather jacket, fake black leather skirt with the black leggings. Black leather fingerless gloves and black shiny boots with flat soles and knee length sides. She had added the black trouser braces, though she didn’t need them to keep her skirt up. She had gotten hold of a chain, so she could swing it about and keep people back. Was she getting paranoid? After what she had encountered in Chicago, she wasn’t sure…

It had started off okay, her asking people about her mother, showing them the picture she had of them. It had taken her time to put together all of the information she could, researching as much as she could from the Internet before she even thought about setting off.

She might be fourteen, but she wasn’t a stupid child. Despite what everyone thought of her. she’d been patient, putting down into computer file every last scrap of information she could remember from what her father had rambled on about her mother. Towards the end, when the immune-devouring disease had eaten away at so much of him, his mind had started to become incoherent, and he would rave and mumble about her mother. She had been there, staying with him. To hell with school. Her Daddy was dying, and she wasn’t going to simply abandon him.

She had been found by his body, crying her eyes out as she gripped his cold, stiff hand. She had to have three grown men grip and handle her, her anger and mindless need to stay with the only family she had in the world. Then, after a year of the falsity and cold fostering system, her aunt had appeared. It had taken a moment to remember her, having met her… how old had she been? Samantha couldn’t remember now. All that mattered was that she had other family. Her brother’s sister, who had been trying to locate the pair. Daddy had been in the habit of moving them about a lot.

They were all probably celebrating, her aunt, uncle and cousins. She had been hell to live with, she knew it. She just couldn’t work out why, though. The burning, searing rage that ate away inside her. It was there now, stalking and skulking, like a caged animal waiting to escape and unleash itself onto anything or anyone it could. Of course, all of the adults in her life had tried medications with her, but it didn’t help. If anything, it made things worse, because she wasn’t clear headed enough to keep control of the fury. Or at least try to. It wasn’t as if she was successful. Particularly when the other kids at school tried to pick on her, or her cousins. Not that they did that any more. Even if they were much bigger and tougher than she was. So, when they shoved her, she ended up shoving them back harder. Boo hoo.

Of course, it had meant that she had ended up getting a reputation as a bully. What a surprise. The kid with the food blended ethnicity was the trouble maker. she’d spent time looking into it, and sure enough, there were medical studies that were turning up, saying there were an increase in the likelihood of mental problems in mixed race people. Samantha tried to put it out of her head. She knew she was a mistake, a screwed up example of how human relationships could go wrong.

Maybe that was why her mother abandoned them? She was staring at her little baby girl, and saw nothing in the child? What if – and Samantha tried to bury the notion as best she could yet again – had she been rejected? What if she found her mother, and she didn’t want to know her?

But then, what had her Daddy meant by saying that her Momma had gone into a destructive rage like she had?

And then there was Chicago…

The Coven (Prelude)

Back in January, I speculated on whether there was a story in Alan Rickman and David Bowie’s death. I managed to find a way to link it up, so I had homework completed for the writing group I now attend, which I have previously talked about. I thought I would share what I read out.

Hopefully, this will interest some people.

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She looked around, the black and white sleeveless dress with the symbols from playing cards adorning the knee-length edges, twirling and swirling at her knees. She swallowed hard. Was she dreaming, or was she awake? She never knew when it was like this…

Dark, gloomy night wrapped around her. She decided to run again, ignoring her knee, to escape them. She didn’t know who they were really, but she doubted that she was really being chased by Alan Rickman in his Snape outfit, or David Bowie, his head bandaged around his eyes. How did she know what he looked like? A large part of his face was covered up, silvery short spikey hair showing in tufts above his bandages. How could he see? All there were for eyes were buttons sewn onto the bandages, like he was a twisted rag doll. Snape was easy to understand, with just black spheres for eyes. The skin stretched over the skull and boney body, as if mute testimony of the grave. Both men were dead, so it should be a dream… but she had already scraped her knees when she had fallen over earlier. She could feel the blood starting to get sticky and hard.

If it wasn’t a dream, then who was chasing her? She didn’t know. She felt like she didn’t want to know, either. But where was she? The streets looked more and more Victorian, and not at all like the London she had lived in all of her life. Thick, swirling fog was sifting around, too. She quickly looked down, regarding the Gothic Alice in Wonderland costume she was wearing. Why? How? When had she put it on? If it wasn’t a dream, she would remember… right? But she couldn’t. Then again, she had blanks in her memories. She had worked it out a couple of years ago, though hadn’t dared tell anyone. She brushed a few stray strands of her dark hair out of her face, and back to the rest of her bob-cut locks. She looked about nervously, wondering if the dead men – or whatever they were – had followed her. Nothing. She started to run, twisting around to look ahead properly-

Colliding into a black robed figure. She shrieked in shocked panic. she tumbled to the floor, staring up at the dead Harry Potter actor. He… or it looked down on her.

“Love is more powerful than all of my magic,” the being intoned, then broke into a terrifying, rictusesque grin, the teeth stained and dirtied, like long inhabitants of the grave. She scrambled to her feet, and then started to run like crazy, heart pounding fiercely and forcefully, her lungs raw from the excessive oxygen usage, hands feeling tender from being scraped and scratched as she fell to the floor earlier. Pressing them to the floor to get up had only reinforced their tenderness, the pain locked away after years of experience. You didn’t cry in her family…

It took her several minutes to realise she wasn’t in any streets. She paused, to twirl around to take in her surroundings. Of course. She knew where she was. After all, Highgate Cemetery was at her doorstep, so to speak. She started to run, trying to get to a familiar part. Assuming she was in the right part. The Eastern Cemetery was further away from her home, whereas the Western Cemeteryif she went the right direction – would end at the junction that pretty much faced the Victorian gatehouse that allowed her to get home.

“Pretty Bella! Pretty Bella!” sang out a voice. She turned, swallowing hard. Revolving on a plinth was a horribly familiar bandaged man, grinning proudly as he held out a battered book with a black star on it, somehow revolving round and round, seemingly on display. Below the plinth were shuddering juddering, shaking figures. Thin and dirty, seemingly grave-raised. They moved forwards in a jerky dance-like style.

She looked up, seeing that it wasn’t really night. It was the sun, completely eclipsed. She fumbled, and took out a golden pocket watch. Four past ten… She looked up, and the Undead Alan Snape Rickman being was next to her.

“Fear is the mind killer, Pretty Bella.” It stroked her hair, as she stood, fear-frozen, the fingers on the strands making her feel tingly and wanting to shiver from the teases of electrical pulses being sent along her nerves. She swallowed, trying to get her heaving breathing into order. It gripped her by the chin, and then adjusted her head to make sure she was looking up, and into his eyes. The black pits of nothing that showed that this wasn’t a man, it was… she didn’t honestly know, but she knew that it was no man, whatever it really was. She just stared, suddenly enthralled by it. It kept on touching and stroking her hair, the corpse-cold hands making her shiver as much as the stroking. The pulsing and pounding in her head and ears made it feel all the more real, in a swaying, jilted way.

“Don’t fear… hate. Hate with all your black heart. Do and be what is your nature. Be the Pretty Isa, to prophesise the coming of the Harbinger of the Light-Bearer,” it said as it held a hand forwards, giving her something. A knife, with a handle made of… she felt like vomiting when she realised what she was holding. She started swallowing hard, to try and remove the acid taste in her mouth. The handle was so cold and smooth, though one look made it clear why it was so, and the curves and ridges that were a part of it’s nature. She dropped the spine handled blade, stomach churning further. She wanted none of what actions she knew she was being directed to do. Suddenly, she was pushed to the ground, arms splayed outwards as her hands were pierced with long, square nails.

“Suffer for your virtues!” Sang out the Bandaged Preacher. “Bella Isa, purify yourself! Anti-Anointed!” it sang out. She was gagged before she could scream, being carried on the wooden object she had been pinned to. Searing heat came from her side. She didn’t want to know what it was causing that. Suddenly, she could see a tower looming up from the horizon, electricity sparking and showing from the top, arcing and striking the clock that was set into the structure…

“I have to tell you about the future!” sang both the Bandaged Preacher and Undead Tutor-Mage. She blinked. How did they end up inside the tower? And there were robed, masked figures… and a rather large dog… she started whimpering.

“Happy birthday to you!” They all sang as the dog leapt forwards-

And she realised she was bolt upright in bed, screaming her lungs and throat raw, cold sweat streaming from her shaking body. The night light was streaming in, the curtains never closed. She was too scared to be in the dark. Especially when she had just come back from a family get-together. Being part of the Denby-Ashe family meant obligations and duties, even if you were the pariah in the family. Not only that, but she was feeling bruised and scratched, and unable to remember much of the weekend just past. As was usual, she reflected sadly.

The girl with the bob-cutted hair reached under her pillow, and pulled out her rainbow covered dream book. She had discovered a few years ago that if she wrote down the dreams and nightmares, she then could sleep again, having forgotten about them. She put on the desk lamp, quickly scribbling away in a neat, precise script that had been beaten into her as a child. Sloppy handwriting was not allowed in her family. No matter how much you were the black sheep of the flock…

It took her little time for her – her mind was still stuck on the name Bella, which was only half her name – to put down all of the details meticulously. Years of expert punishment had ensued she would always be meticulous in detail.

Bella…

She hated that name, because it made her think of Twilight, and she didn’t want to be connected to those stories. Why her friend Fleur loved them… To her, it seemed that Bella was choosing between necrophilia and bestiality. Neither was appropriate to her. Love should be with someone you… well, loved. You need to know that person, understand them. She much preferred the older stories, like Austen, Gaskill and Eliot. It also helped her positive feelings that she had read the tales from books that were either First Edition, or near enough. One thing she loved about the wealth of her family, which was a rather short list, indeed…

She put the book back under her pillow, and then switched off the light. Writing it all down had helped to calm her, ready for sleep. She was looking forward to it as well, the day at Sixth Form. She was up to date with all of her work, and had figured out ways to needle her tutors. And being at one of the families’ many estates had meant access to a lot of useful material. For example, reading from a three hundred year old edition of Shakespeare, memorising the texts, knowing how the differences translated to the modern letter renderings. Not only that, but she had used the library of the family estate she had stayed at to look for any books on Shakespeare and the occult. Not to impress her tutor, but to find anything that could serve as intellectual torment for him. And that book written in nineteen hundred and nine, by Theosophicals… whoever they were, was a perfect place to start, too.

As she closed her eyes to sleep, she thought up little schemes to wind her English tutor up, the arguments to use and try to infuriate him with… all the while silently watched by three owls, perched on her windowsill, looking in…

Is There A Story In David Bowie’s And Alan Rickman’s Death?

I have previously talked about writing a creative piece on the matter, and I felt I should explore the topic further, now that I have committed to it. I also feel I need to talk about it, if only to reassure myself I am doing the right thing.

As we all no doubt know, Alan Rickman and David Bowie have died. There is a lot of interesting details with them, but I also want to point out that a number of rock stars and actors have died during the same period,at about the same age that Rickman and Bowie. I also want to point out that there are a number of people suspicious of the whole affair, and are unconvinced of the pair’s demise, particularly when you have to consider the television appearance of a guy who looks uncannily like Bowie.

I want to highlight one essential fact: If they are still alive, then the identities are certainly dead. So, it matters not what has happened, we can say that they have passed away.

Alan Rickman is something of a disappointment to me, as I have certainly enjoyed his performances over the years. Amazing to think that the film Die Hard was his first major role, in both television and film. Before then, he had only a few minor roles. From there, he has had a career that has spanned decades, and covered a range of categories. He had a distinctive voice, and deliverance… It is hard to write about him, strange as it may seem. I am finding myself tearing up a little. No matter what may or may not come out about him, we certainly have lost a great actor. I want to share this quote, something he said, and I feel it tells us a lot about him:

“When I am eighty years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me ‘After all this time?’ And I’ll reply ‘Always.’ “

So, why write about him?

I’ll get on to Bowie in a moment, because there is a lot more interesting stuff I can say about him. But since I am now part of a writing group, I now have a homework to complete. And I need to include rainbows and current news into the piece. So, since I am constantly drawn to the supernatural, and horror, I have decided that a nightmare involving the two. Having them appear as animated corpses, along with other visual elements has proven a good starting point. And having Rickman as Snape – possibly his most iconic character – is a suitable homage to him, I feel. Moreover, at some point we will have to write about them, and use them creatively, even though they are dead. I am certain that Alan Rickman wouldn’t mind me doing so, particularly as I have just gone on record as saying he was accomplished, and I feel he had a powerful intellect, and a tenderness to him. I already used him as a basis for a character back in 2013, to create a hero that was so well hidden, the revelation that he was a good guy helping others was a shock to the few who have so far read the text.

As for Bowie…

Well, his real name was David Jones, and when he started off his music career, was going under the name “Davey Jones.” However, he discovered that a band called The Monkees had gotten famous, and had a member calling himself “Davey Jones” as well. So, he changed his stage name, calling himself after the famous knife, to make himself sound more dangerous and mysterious. Similar surrounds his ‘bisexuality.’ He admitted in the nineties that he had said he was bisexual to garner attention, and to cultivate a mysterious image about him.

One thing that is unmistakable is the occult connections Bowie has. Lyrics about the Golden Dawn, being in Crowley’s uniform, talking about the Kaballah… There is a huge amount of symbolism in his work, and he clearly had a fascination with the occult, even if he didn’t practice it. (I have no certainty he ever practised.) In fact, I noted the music Blackstar when it had first come out. It took three attempts for me to watch it over two weeks. There is such an overload of occultism and symbolism in the ten minutes long video that I was on overload, and was on some levels left traumatised by it. Lots of people have commented on it, and I’m not wanting to do a massive breakdown of the video. But if nothing else, there is a huge amount of visual imagery an detail crammed into it, and can be used as inspiration for many, many pieces of literature.

The video Lazarus is also filled with symbolism. Going in and out of that closet, the shadow rabbit that appears when his arms are outstretched and in bed, the dark blue with silver stripe astral travel suit he also wore in the seventies… again, there is quite a bit in there. And I have a sneaky feeling that this was intended, that we carry on talking about him for many, many years to come.

So, I will finish that piece, and go over it a couple of times, to make sure it is right, and respectful. And hopefully is read by them somewhere, somehow, and is enjoyed.

I’m Still Alive…

I know it has been some time since I last made a blog post. Well, there were reasons for that. I had a bad time with the NaNoWriMo 2015, though I did get the fifty thousand words done. Afterwards, I had a mental flop, of sorts. I’ve done very little, and I suspect that I had burned out mentally.

In the end, I sort of had a meltdown, of sorts, and stopped writing and working on all of my projects. It is only now I am trying to get back to writing, and finishing that November Novel, because I am curious to see what it is like finished.

Another change is the fact I have now started attending a local writing  group, which is now brining in some changes as well. I feel it is a good thing, because it is introducing a different dynamic and focus to my writing.

I will look at posting up some of the recent writings, to try and showcase what I have been attempting, and to see if anyone is interested in such posts. I am still trying to work out how to best use this resource, and what those who read the posts want to see.

All I know is that I am now planning to use some of the David Bowie music videos in upcoming writing, because Blackstar is utterly creepy. And if I can combine a rainbow somehow, I can then hand it in as the writing group’s homework…

I wonder if I can include Alan Rickman in somehow, and maybe Back To The Future? Additional challenges for myself, I suspect…