My preferences in television viewing owe much to the writing. You can tell good writing from bad when you start predicting the outcome after a few moments viewing. When you have a limited time frame, be it one hour or two or a whole series, it becomes hard to maintain mystery in a plot, then resolve it convincingly.
Sometimes they show you the baddies straight up and the story is about the chase, that works, but it better be a really intriguing chase or there better be REALLY high stakes. Sometimes there are a selection of potential baddies to choose from and you watch them chase red herrings until they capture the shark. Or the whole programme offers an insight into the different minds of evil and the ‘unusual’ tricks used to ensnare them.
In other cases you know the outcome and the fascination is in the detail. I am watching the Kennedy series on Prime on Tuesday nights. I know how it ends and it ain’t pretty. But along the way I’m learning facts I never knew. My understanding is that it’s a bit sensationalized and the History channel originally commissioned it then turned it down when it seemed to be playing with history. But it’s not the extra-marital stuff that interests me, it’s the family relationships and the political machinations. Barry Pepper plays Bobby Kennedy and he is an extraordinary actor. We all know Jackie was long-suffering, well so was Bobby on a political level. His clashes with Generals over the ‘Bay of Pigs’ and the way the FBI stymied his plans to clean out the mobsters because of evidence they had on his brother, all riveting. Can’t help but wonder if he might not have made a sensational President, had he had the chance.
I am currently rewriting a film script concept as a novel. The first thing I did was write it out in prose, adding a bit of obvious inner thought as I went. It is plot driven and very visual at the moment, all action and dialogue. Now comes the fun part. Adding some back story and fleshing out the characters and I suspect, a lot of cut and paste as the plot “thickens” into a novel. The basic story is a good one and the main character is lovely, but far too good. He needs to be a bit more of a rascal so that the decision to do the ‘right’ thing becomes much harder.
Through Twitter I found a lovely article in the Guardian newspaper that consists entirely of lists of 10 tips from famous writers about writing. I have saved it and each day I shall share one writer’s tips. So this is the “Famous Writers Give Away Their Secrets” section. Today it is Roddy Doyle:
1. Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.
2. Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph….
3. Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.
4. Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.
5. Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.
6. Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”.
7. Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.
8. Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.
9 .Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.
10. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work.