Tuesday, 30 September 2008


Sat up working on the outline last night.

Beats so far:

Angus pours out bilge water. Handsome yacht in a small port.
Sees a cormorant. Sees Kate. It's high tide, slack water.
Ship comes in; hull's shadow on Kate. She hides.
A. rows ashore, crosses ship's wake.
Cock of the walk.
Chats up Kate; she gets him to buy a drink.
Rows Kate out; Kate drinks. They go below, compare scars.
On deck tides rushing out too fast to row back.
Kate cries to go home; falls in fast current.
A. rescues, boat capsizes, they end up on sandspit.
D. picks them up. Drops A. back on the salty, takes K. shore.
Low water. Angus prepares escape, hears boat, hides knife.
Dad comes aboard. "She's in hospital. You're going to hand yourself in."
"What for?" Scuffle. A. pulls knife, D. knocks him senseless with fire-extinguisher.
A. Comes to. "Thought you were taking me to police." "Change of plan."
Bashes hatch with anchor. Door opens. Over he goes with anchor.
Climbs up anchor rope. D. unties. Splash. A grabs fender.
Both overboard; life and death struggle.
A. comes up. Tries to pull in D. with boathook.
A. tries CPR. No good.
Angus fires a flare, 'small boat in a big sea.'

Still pretty rough, not quite got it yet, but starting to come together.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Tutorial 2

Had the tutorial tonight, on my second assignment. I've got a stinking cold, feels like it's clogging up my brain as well as nose, but the tutorial went well in spite of that.

The tutor asked me what the point of it was. Hmm, good question. I told her I was trying to write a contemporary story that had the feel of a dark folk ballad, of the sort that might have been sung here in the olden days. She liked that, and asked some questions about the characters and their arcs, etc. The conversation soon homed in on a problem area, namely the father character, and how to make sure he was believable. Then something really cool happened. As I was talking it through, I hit on something that worked, just like that. Just said it, and she's like, 'That's it. Try that.' Now I've got everything but the very, very ending. I know what's going to happen, but not how, exactly. My tutor suggested I work through some more outlines and see what happens.

Need to do the Unit One rewrite by October 15th, but will put it off for a week. Work on this one while it's hot.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


Now my blog is called pancakes. I'll try to keep them light and fluffy. Sorry for when they get gluey or stodgy. You can pick your own toppings, and have them for breakfast, tea or pudding.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Writer Song Meme

I've been tagged by the ever lovely Potdoll, to post a song about writing.

Since she's already taken Chumbawumba, I'll have 'Love, love me do,' by the Beatles.

I tag anyone who's not done it.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


I've written a rough treatment for the 30 minute arena script. Still loads to sort, but I've got a story I believe. As I was writing it, I started having the feeling of folk ballads, especially House Carpenter. I like the simplicity and strong emotions. In House Carpenter, an unfaithful woman goes to sea with her lover, but finds he's Satan taking her to hell - When you listen to the song, you feel her fear and regret, though she made the choice of leaving her home and children for the lover's promised riches, power and freedom.

So I had that tone ringing in my thoughts as I wrote, and it pushed me out off Gale's Hill, into the harbour and the salty, letting the tide play a full role in a story of three characters, a lover, a daughter and a vengeful father. I'm going to write another treatment of it, then jump in in a couple days time.

Just found out who my tutor's going to be. Very excited!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Tutorial, Arenawatch Wrap-up

Tutorial went really well yesterday. I have very clear notes on what to do for the next draft. Something between major overhaul and minor tweakage required. I need to show, through action, something that I'd only alluded to in the voice over: a new sequence to be blended in. I need to fix a few lines which were too pat, knowing, on-the-nose. One or two cuts. A couple typos as well.

Today, I need to do the final installment of my observational research, and also write up yesterday's notes. Still don't have a story, which is mildly concerning, since I need to have the initial outline in by Wednesday, noon.

The final script is supposed to be substantially related to what the outline says it's about. That's a tricky one, an aspect of my writing that needs serious work: being able to stick to an outline. The more I write, the more I realize I'm a dive-in-and-write-it sort of person. The story only really emerges in the second draft. That's no good in the real world of TV writing, where you sometimes have to write an episode already roughly blocked out by story-liners, and you also have to deliver what you pitched at the meeting.

I've got some serious work to do between now and Tuesday night, when I'll have to email the outline. At the least, I think I should write a full treatment, and preferably a rough script. I can actually write a thirty page script in a couple of days, at a push.

Okay, here's the plan. Spend a couple of hours down on Gale's Hill, hopefully getting whacked upside the head by a great story idea. Come home, write it.

Ready, break!

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Just printing out the 20 minute voice-over script for a pre-tutorial read-through. I purposely have not look at it since turning it in, so I should be reading with fresh, clear, critical eyes in a minute.

I'm actually feeling quite nervous about this tutorial. It's my second one, but the first one with a tutor (a writer with more screen, stage and radio credits than I have rejections) who's read my work. What's he going to say about it? I find out in a couple of hours.

Yikes! Better get reading and making a few notes of my own. I take comfort from looking at Jason Arnop's mug, and reading Danny Stack's article, The Three Stages of Feedback. I'm at stage one.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Arena Watch 2

Went down to Gale's Hill with thumping headache last night. It was a high spring tide; Gale's Hill under water.

I sat in the dark with the water lapping near my feet, making notes. A bunch of kids were fishing off the fish quay, wearing headlamps. Lots of dogs were running around. A big ship tied up at the commercial quay. It all felt sort of menacing: rising water, boys with lights on their heads, a big ship, dogs, dark. A car came and drove down the boat ramp. Stopped a moment, then reversed back out again. What that was about?

Got a story idea. Rejected it. Must keep an open mind and see this process through.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Arenawatch, Day 1

Went down to Gale's hill this morning, to start my observational research. Gale's Hill is not a hill at all. It's a beach on the Teign estuary. As I arrived, the boys from a local shellfish company were loading up their oyster barge, or challand if you want the French. I told them what I was up to, and they were all quite friendly and happy to chat, and explain a bit about seeding and harvesting shellfish.

There's been a managed shell-fishery on the river for over a thousand years; the Teign provided shellfish to the Bishop of Exeter and his cronies.

Next up for launching were a couple of serious fishermen from Tiverton. They looked the business in waders and camoflage and greasy hats. They told me they were headed out about ten miles to fish a wreck.

And so it went. Men came to launch all manner of craft; I interrupted them with silly questions, and they all responded amiably, except one. This was an older guy, who rowed up and unpacked a skiff, carrying rods and buckets and other bits and pieces away to his car. 'Been out fishing?' I asked. 'Nope,' he said, and that was the end of the interview. He was the exception though. Most men love to tell you what they're up to on Gale's Hill. I didn't meet any women there.

The assignment I'm working on, a 30 minute script, based on observational research into a place, is designed to help us screenwriting students get to grips with arena. I had heard about arena from Lucy Vee (a graduate of the Bournemouth screenwriting program), but I didn't quite know what it meant.

Arena means using your setting as a character in its own right. Snoopy understood the importance of arena, when he began his novel, 'It was a dark and stormy night.' That's an angry, dangerous arena to get mixed up with. Billy Crystal's character in Throw Mama From the Train was also struggling with arena, when he was tyring to describe a 'warm, moist' night. The Watch-list the tutors provided includes films such as:

Miller’s Crossing (Coen)

I’m Not Scared (Salvatores)

Psycho (Hitchcock)

Red Road (Arnold)

Tsotsi (Hood)

My arena is going to be Teignmouth Harbour (top right, though you're looking at Shaldon), and specifically Gale's Hill. Various snippets of story ideas keep occuring to me, but I'm ignoring them. I want to keep an open mind during the research phase. If you pushed me to say what I'm going to write about, I'd say 'A stranger comes to Gale's Hill.' I won't go further. In fact, I'm not even going that far. It's a story which takes place on and around Gale's Hill, a beach. It was in a pleasant, accomodating mood this morning.

Maybe next time I go down it will be a dark and stormy night.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Keeping an Open Notebook

I've got a week or so before the phone tutorial on the 20 minute voice-over script. That gives me time to start the research on Unit 2: the 30 minute research-based thing.

I like this one. You have to make observations on a place, and then use them to write a story. I'm going to go into it with an open mind, and just see where my notes take me.

The point of this assignment is to get you writing from life, developing your point of view, not writing something that reads like you saw it on TV.

So, this week, I'll be hanging around Teignmouth Harbour with a notebook and a flask. If weather demands it, I'll don an anorak.

Oh, oh, I know. I'm going to be a life-spotter.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Happy With It

Had a read through the 20 minute assignment. As usual, I found lots to cut, but was basically happy with it. It's about a guy who goes to a beautiful cove to scatter his wife's ashes, but they're sealed in a tough plastic packet, and he tries all these stupid ways of getting it open. Might sound like I'm trying to be funny, but it's pathos, really. Maybe a little sad-funny in places.

So, after an hour or so's reading and chopping, I had a tinkle at the piano, to express a little writer's joy. With a sad song, of course.

I had a go at Ben Harper's Walk Away, which sort of expresses the emotion I was after with the story, especially the lines,

'They say, time will make this go away,
But it's time that's taken my tomorrows
And turned them into yesterdays...'

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sharps Planet

Last June, I entered the BBC Sharps competition. My entry made the second round, and WritersRoom kindly sent some feedback. Frustratingly, it was all positive. I was like, 'Well, if you liked it so much, why didn't you put me through?' The answer's obvious, of course. They liked other scripts better than mine.

Anyway, Red Planet is looming, so I'm going to rewrite the Sharps entry for that. I think it can stretch to 60 minutes, and improve and mature in the process. In any case, I have a pretty killer first ten pages, good enough to get through Red Planet? I think so.

But then, it's not up to me. Whatever. Red Planet is free to enter, so silly not to, with the fabulous prize they have on offer.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

On the Blog Again

Apologies first. I'm sorry about the title of this blog. It sounded cool at the time I thought of it. Apologies especially to Paul Campbell. I realise I must have done a bit of a 'My Sweet Lord' with his blog title, Scriptuality.

I gave up blogging for a while. Just got tired of it. Now I'm tired of not blogging. Well, to be honest, my friends are tired of me not blogging. I don't know if any of you have noticed this, but civilians smile and nod politely whenever we writers-wannabe start going on about our latest script. What this means is, 'Shut up! Shut up! Oh please God make him shut up before I die.'

So, if you have already started to smile and nod, click away now, because I'm going to go on about my scripts.

I'm just tidying up my 20 minute assignment for the MA Screenwriting course at Bournemouth Uni. Yeah. An MA. In screenwriting. Is that a cry for help, or what? I had to write a 20 minute script, with voice-over, no dialogue. I have hated being deprived of dialogue. Every time I thought up a cool story, I'd have to reject it as unworkable without dialogue. I've written four different scripts, and am now totally away from the outline I submitted at the end of July. Hope that's okay.

Don't get me wrong. I understand their reasons for giving this assignment. It makes you think in visuals, and develop your ability to write in a character's voice. It's just that, well, I like writing dialogue. When I was a kid, I liked to draw monsters. The fun bit was putting in the teeth and claws and blood and fire and destruction. Writing with no dialogue is like drawing monsters without all that.