Thursday, 30 April 2009

Hooks: Location and Visibility

Google Earth oddity: Indian head with ipod.

I've found myself in something close to a routine now. I'm writing by 10am, and I pause to eat sometime in the afternoon, when a convenient break arises, and then I'll write again or do chores, and then watch tv for a few hours/spend the evening with my son, and then, if I'm still buzzing, and if my son's not around (he's in the Peak district on a school trip! Three days away from home! He took a torch, a joke book, and a plastic spider.) I'll continue writing.
(Crikey! I'm really not sure about my punctuation in those brackets! Anyone want to help me out?)
I finished my first draft of chapter fifteen at 1:45 this morning.
I'm feeling very peculiar, and here's why:
Half-way through the novel, we find the midpoint crisis. This is the point where the protag makes a choice, probably a binary choice, and probably the greatest revealer of his character, and from that point onwards, his course is charted and there is no return.
I knew what his choice would be, and what the incitement would be.
But writing such a scene is a unique experience.
Bob McKee is a big advocate of characters who are revealed to be more than they first appeared.
But, in crafting this change in my protag through the midpoint crisis, I became acutely aware that the change would only work (be credible) if everything was already in place. In writing this scene, I was as nervous as a lobster in Rick Stein's shopping basket, because if the change didn't begin to happen, then everything before was wrong.
A moment of truth if you will.
I knew I wouldn't sleep until I had discovered the truth, and so I wrote my way through some weird barrier.

Google Earth oddity: Parked fighter jet.

Been making some notes on this week's tv.
Sigh. What have I become?

Bob McKee made an appearance on The South Bank Show! He's a real person and everything! He came across as lovely, and far-removed from his character in Adaptation. The show celebrated the work of screenwriter William Goldman (who came across as bitter and angry).
The bit I most took away with me was when McKee praised Goldman's avoidance of dialogue in the opening scenes to Misery. I was interested because, after all the changes I have made to the opening of my ms, I'm still very keen to keep the silence - the removal of dialogue - which pervades the first few pages. However, McKee didn't explain why. (But I did! Here! N.B. Note from current solv to previous solv: The distinction you're making is between dialogue and summary.)

Stephen Hendry's 147 break was super, wasn't it! (Way to polarise the readers solv!) What really caught my imagination was, as the cue ball rolled back towards baulk with the colours remaining, the commentator remarked:
'... but the pink still looms up as a major obstacle.'
I like that. I like that, at that moment, every viewer was looking at this obstacle, this single problem which was only four balls away. Forget about the yellow and green and brown and blue: we were all looking to a specified point in the future, where we could clearly see a visible hindrance.
So the pink became the hook and the four preceding balls existed in this charged space between set-up and resolution. And, even then, we knew there was a black to find position on and to pot.
Consider the visibility of that pink - that obstacle.
Consider the differences between:
1) Mary drinks the wine. She dies. John shakes a bottle of poison at her dead body and walks away, laughing.
2) Mary drinks the wine. John shakes a bottle of poison at her and laughs. She stands, and falls, and dies.
3) Whilst Mary is powdering her nose, John tips poison into her wine. Mary returns and drinks the wine. John shakes the bottle of poison at her and laughs. She stands, and falls, and dies.
In each case, the resolution is the same: John has poisoned Mary.
In each case, the scene has turned, and a value has swapped: Mary is alive; Mary is dead.
But consider the effects of moving that hook (John poisons Mary's wine) around the scene.

Perhaps you caught The Speaker?
I accidentally watched the penultimate episode, and then deliberately watched the final.
A bunch of teenagers vied for the title of Best Young British Speaker, or somesuch.
One of the judges quoted someone whose name I should've written down:
'A good speaker speaks for others and not for himself.'
I found this to be a fascinating way to consider one's protag. Give it a bash, why not?

Last night, Timothy Spall starred in an hour-long drama called The Street.
You know you're in for a treat when Timothy Spall is starring! And you know you're in for a lot of depression too.
Written by Jimmy McGovern, it really was something special, and, to my mind, far superior to the recent Red Riding trilogy which I didn't understand at all. Tell me I'm not alone!
As ever, my writer's brain began dissecting the drama, examining the conversion of exposition into ammunition, the timing of the inciting incident (five minutes in), the conflicts and the choices under pressure ... but very soon, I was so absorbed that my writer's brain fell silent (although, before curling up, it did warn me that the drama would end with the discovery of Steve Davis).
Timothy plays downtrodden cab-driver, Eddie.
Here are a few insights from him:

'Eddie has made a huge mistake by seeing his old sweetheart. He's heading straight for a brick wall, but like all the best tragicomic characters, he just can't see it coming ...
'Eddie is ultimately a figure of benignity. There's something I really like about him. He represents decency in what we like to call the ordinary man ...
'... The decency of ordinary people and the tragicomedy of ordinary life are things that will always be with us and will always fascinate us.'
P.S. To celebrate the half-way mark (200 pages), I've renamed my novel. New title to be announced soon.

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