Monday, March 09, 2009

Threading the needle of narrative stuff

Spent Friday night, much of Saturday and most of Sunday progressing the first draft of my script for the Lighthouse TV drama team writing project. Managed to get from one third of the way through to two thirds done. That doesn't sound like much, but I find the middle of any project the most problematic. Some writers struggle with endings, others don't know where to start. Me, I get bogged down when the story swells to its widest part.

You reach a point in the middle of any multi-stranded narrative where everything's pulling in different directions. The characters have splintered apart, every single one of the plot strands is crying out for attention and progression. It's the top of the bell curve, the most crowded part of the story, a juggling act to maintain momentum and excitement. Get past that point and everything should start accelerating towards the finish line.

So that was my weekend, getting over the story hump. It was punctuated with a joyful epiphany on Friday night, as I decided to throw a character over a balcony to their death. They stayed dead until Saturday afternoon, when I decided to offer some slight hope of survival. Bones crushed, back probably broken, years of pain and misery to come - but they might get out of this script alive. Meanwhile other characters are showing their colours.

Found a voice for one of the core cast: she speaks like Clint Eastwood. Taciturn as hell, less is more, a sound like gravel and cement colliding. Good find. And the best scenes are still to come, as the thrill-ride speeds towards an almighty showdown. Last but not least, I should mention my soundtrack for this script. When I'm working on particular projects, I select a particular music to accompany my writing, acting as an aural prompt.

For this script I have mostly been listening to When David Heard, a choral piece by modern American composer Eric Whitacre. By happy chance I went to a concert a few weeks ago where this was performed by 170 singers and it was absolutely electrifying. It's proven a powerful accompaniment to my writing, full of power and pathos. For some scenes I have to turn it off, unless the music would overwhelm the script, but it's been a massive help.

I've only got today and tomorrow to finish my rough first draft, as I'm back into work at Edinburgh Napier University on Wednesday. Deadline for delivery is midday Thursday, so that leaves me just Wednesday night and Thursday morning to polish the first draft, before firing it off to the rest of the Lighthouse team. Today will be all about keeping my arse in the chair, my mind on the job and my eyes of the prize. The end's in sight. Onwards!

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