An Imperfect Science

The narration over the wonderfully absurd opening* of Sunset Boulevard, where we learn that the man talking to us is the dead guy floating in the pool – includes every screenwriter’s favourite observation: that no regular moviegoer knows or cares what screenwriters do because ‘they think the actors make it up as they go along.’

If a screenwriter does their job right, all the artifice – setting up the story and introducing the characters and moving the narrative forward – disappears.  The viewers suspend their disbelief, ignore the contrivances and the coincidences that hold the story together, and let themselves imagine they are watching something real. The impression of spontaneity – that the ‘actors make it up as they go along’ is pretty much the effect every writer is trying to achieve. At the same time we’re also trying to make viewers forget they are watching actors at all, and convince them that that bloke who resembles Tom Hanks might just die horribly before the end of the movie.

Of course these days critics and audiences […] Continue Reading…

Social Notworking

Recently I was invited to a presentation for authors (Authors he says! Get him!) by a lovely woman from Facebook who explained how we could use their site to promote ourselves and our work. Relentlessly cheerful and upbeat – even when challenged by a surly and cynical Ulsterman (cough) – she concluded by announcing that Facebook had recently expanded the maximum size of an update to something like fifteen thousand words. Making it possible, she explained brightly, to publish an entire novel on their website with only a few postings!

Total silence. I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone in that audience when I say that my first thought was ‘I’ve put my blood, sweat, time and tears into this novel– and you think I’m going to publish it for nothing so you can flog more ads for singles-dating websites?’ To give her credit, the speaker knew as soon as she’d spoken that this was not exactly the target audience for that particular feature. But for me it sums up why writers should beware the […] Continue Reading…

Notes on the Bleeding Obvious

Those of you who subscribe to this site might have been surprised to receive an email claiming this was a new posting.  Clearly it isn’t – that was a technical glitch to do with the date. but hey, welcome back!  In fact this posting has particular relevance in the light of recent events – more details in the News & Announcements section… when I get round to announcing them. 

This year I took part in NaNoWriMo, a worldwide event where participants spend the month of November writing a short novel (50,000 words, the same length asBrave New World ) in thirty days, at 1,667 words a day.  I’m pleased to say I stayed the course.  In fact as a professional writer I thought I should aim for a total of 60,000 words, and ended up writing 70,000. I don’t know if the finished product is any good or not – it’s too early to say – but the point was not to be brilliant, the point was to have written a novel.

My friends and family will […] Continue Reading…