Tuesday, April 03, 2007

And we're back. With eurekas, and suchlike

Suchlike is a great word, isn't it? I'm also fond of somesuch. Not sure why I needed to tell you that, but there it is. Back in harness after a weekend away down south, visiting folk and taking it easy: no internet, no blogging. No thunder, no fire, no rain. Lots to catch up on, lots to mention, too much to do. Thursday night I went to Dumfries where I talked about the secrets of writing novels for two hours. In fact, I overran by ten minutes and could have happily kept talking for another hour - but I've always loved the sound of my own voice. All those who came along for the session seemed to get something out of it, and I even sold a few excess copies of my many, many tomes afterwards. The organisers from the dumfries and Galloway Arts Association seemed happy with my efforts, and there's even talk of a return fixture.

Firday was back to college at Screen Academy Scotland, having spent the previous Friday in Glasgow at Scottish Students on Screen. [Ever noticed how close the word strudel is in spelling to the word student? No? Must just be me then. Still, strudel - hmmmm. Cinnamon, apple, some light pastry. Hmmm...] Our research module session was set aside for three hours with writer-director Annie Griffith. She created Channel 4 series The Book Group, one of my favourite shows of recent years. She also wrote and directed a film called Festival, that I haven't seen yet. She talked with passion and verve about her career and experiences. She also waxed lyrical about US TV dramas like The Wire and The Sopranos, encouraging the students to think about TV as well as film for their careers. I couldn't agree more.

In the afternoon we had another good session with screenwriting tutor James Mavor. We've all got to deliver our first piece of assessed work for his module this Friday. It's the Easter public holiday, so there's no class, but thanks to the quirky nature of the academic calendar we have until Friday to submit our work. That's just as well for me, since I was still vacillating about what my project should be as of last Friday. However, I ruled out one of my choices by the simple expedient of writing it up as a one-page pitch document. That proved to me it wasn't a film idea: a TV series, a radio play or the first in a series of novels - but not a film idea. That means my other concept, a comedy horror thing, is looking the most likely choice.

I've been mulling that over during my weekend away and had an epiphany this morning while waiting for porridge to cook. Suddenly, it all became so much clearer and easier. Simply by inverting the central concept, I've created something that naturally leads to conflict and more drama, with clashing characters, simmering tension and all manner of sexual shenanigans. Huzzah. Of course, I've got a lot of development work to fit into the next seventy-two hours, but the path ahead has suddenly become so much clearer. Isn't it great when you leave your subconscious to solve a problem your conscious mind can't fix?

Having gotten back from three days away, I need to restock the fridge and cupboards. I also need to prep for this afternoon, when I'm bound for Glasgow to interview the head of drama at BBC Radio Scotland. I'm quizzing him as part of my research methods module, for which I'm interviewing industry practitioners in historical crime fiction narrative. Put more simply, I'm asking historical crime writers and producers about what they do, and the influence of research upon their work. It's a way to liven up my research dossier, rather than it simply being a dry recitation of stuff I've discovered about my chosen subject from reading academic texts and journals. Research should be fun and interesting, full of surprises and unexpected discoveries, otherwise the results will be as dull as the process of finding them.

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