Word on a Whim

What began as a blog about writing and publishing has become a blog of whatever I feel like writing. Jules Lucton.

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Tense?

All the books I wrote before ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ were written in the past tense, which I believe is the more traditional style of telling a story.  I wrote those early stories without having to give a thought to the grammar – it just seemed to flow. With the Serge character, I felt that the present tense seemed appropriate for Serge’s outlook; he lives in the present moment and his actions are responses to what is happening right now.

I started my latest book in the present tense, as this now feels more natural to me, but at the end of the first chapter I decided to do this one in the past and rewrote it.  Rewriting it was more than just a case of sticking ‘ed’ on the end of words as I found that some bits just didn’t sound right and had to be rephrased. Moving forward, if I finally settle with the past, I will have to concentrate to use ‘said’ instead of ‘says’ and so on, until it becomes natural again.

I did go looking on the internet to see if people had tense preferences, and I think it was this comment on a forum that swayed me towards the past:

“Reading an extended piece in present tense often makes me feel as if I’m being hit repeatedly over the head with a teaspoon.”  (Emma)

I kind of know what she means, but yet it was this same quality that I felt gave my book a freshness, a faster pace and a sense of the seasons rolling quickly by.

To help me decide, I took an extract from ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ and converted it into the past.

Here it is in the present tense:

Leo has had enough – it had been funny and intriguing at first – but now he will block the number.  Better still he will plunge the mobile into the water – as far down as he can sink it – and then jump in after it and follow it down to the depths where the water turns to mud.  He raises it above his head to achieve the maximum downward thrust but slips on the ice and falls to his knees – the phone flying from his hand and almost slithering over the edge.  He remains kneeling on the ice and clasps together his painfully cold hands, and sobs in despair…

  “Oh, Lord.  If you really do exist – as my mother believes you do – then please don’t let me ruin her Christmas.”

… and this is my ‘translation’ into the past tense.

Leo had had enough – it had been funny and intriguing at first – but now he would block the number.  Better still he would plunge the mobile into the water – as far down as he could sink it – and then jump in after it and follow it down to the depths where the water turns to mud.  He raised it above his head to achieve the maximum downward thrust but slipped on the ice and fell to his knees – the phone flying from his hand and almost slithering over the edge.  He remained kneeling on the ice and clasped together his painfully cold hands, and sobbed in despair…

  “Oh, Lord.  If you really do exist – as my mother believes you do – then please don’t let me ruin her Christmas.”

Have I got myself confused here? Do I need to change “will block the number”, “will plunge” and “can sink it” to “would block the number”, “would plunge” and “could sink it”, or are they still valid in the future when I am writing in the past?  I think I could have got away with the future, but it grates a little when followed by “He raised” instead of “He raises” – or would that read okay to everyone else?

Anyone’s feelings or advice on this will be very much appreciated and will help me to decide whether to go forward in the present or the past.

Thanks,

Jules

Opportunity to become a script writer

Alongside starting another novel I am having a bash at writing a film script.  The BBC offers ‘windows of opportunity’ for writers to submit scripts – not only for films but for TV drama, Radio drama, TV sitcom, Radio sitcom, Children’s drama and Children’s sitcom.  It is unlikely that submitted scripts will become productions as the BBC is not looking for ideas but for script writers who show strength and originality and can deliver their idea effectively in script format.

Since “The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo” is still firmly etched in my mind, it makes sense to me to base my script on this story.  (You are only allowed to adapt a novel into a script if the novel is your own work).  When I was writing the novel I could see it played out as a film and I can still see the images, so my challenge now is to convey the images within the script but without explanation or narrative.

The action sections in the script must be concise, and the characters must be portrayed through their dialogue and not through my description of how the actor should deliver the lines, since actors apparently resent being directed by the script writer.  I struggle with this and find it tempting to use parentheticals (‘wrylies’) to put across the tone of the dialogue; (brightly, sadly, flippantly, wryly) and, just looking critically at the excerpt in the photo above, I think my action sections might be too detailed.

Feature films are generally 80-120 minutes long; the length being important to fit into scheduled time slots between regular TV programmes, or to allow optimum screening at the cinema. I guess this is why, when you watch a film after you have read the book, you keep thinking (or saying out loud if you’re very annoying) “That’s not what happened in the book”.  The length of a film is gauged approximately by the length of the script, a rough guide being one page per minute, so I will have to butcher my story quite ruthlessly to fit it into 120 pages of script, and the story line may have to change so that essential characters can be retained when their key scene in the book has been excluded.

The BBC states that the competition is extremely tough and they receive thousands of scripts every year and can only concentrate on a selected few, but nonetheless, this is an opportunity for new writers to get a foot in the door.  The manuscript must adhere to a strict format, but don’t be put off by this; there are plenty of examples on the internet and on the BBC website, and once you get started it does begin to flow.  I downloaded a free template called Script Smart, but I have read that templates are available in Microsoft Word.

The next opportunity to submit a script will be some time in the autumn (dates to be provided).  Here is the link if anyone else fancies giving it a try:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/send-a-script

Good luck,

Jules

Writing under the alfluence of incohol

I have always been unusually attracted to alcohol to the extent that I must discipline myself to abstain for a while when guilt starts to override the pleasure.  I buy ‘Every Day’ vodka and, whilst I realise that’s a brand and not a prescription or a recommendation, I do find it’s the best thing for easing aches and pains or picking me up when I come home knackered and still have stuff to do. Most people I know would only have a drink with a companion, to be sociable.  I have never had a problem with drinking alone. I have been on the wagon for seventeen days and I look forward to starting to drink again at some point in the future, but with a little more reverence, and certainly not Every Day.  I don’t particularly feel healthier for not drinking … there are still days of feeling tired and crappy, which I might have put down to having one too many the night before, except I haven’t had any the night before.  Not that I do very often have a hangover these days – I am careful to get the ‘dosage’ right since ageing makes hangovers worse and longer lasting, and during the week I am conscious of early morning driving.  Maybe the aspartame and sucralose in the soft drinks I knock back to quash the cravings at my habitual drinking time are doing more harm than the alcohol?

So, where is the connection with writing?  I’m getting there but you can see how fixated I am!

Last weekend I was looking forward to starting to write my new novel.  It was the Jubilee weekend so I had two extra days off work to get stuck in and expected to have it well underway by the end of Tuesday … only it didn’t happen.  I spent hours staring at the laptop screen and then wandering off; finding no end of distractions to avoid writing.  I would rather have scrubbed the kitchen floor (it needs it) than start the new novel – but I didn’t do that either (maybe tomorrow).

Now, I’m not saying I write well when drunk – the reverse is true – but at least I would have written something. Alcohol loosens up my keyboard like it loosens some people’s tongues, and my fingers would not have been able to keep up with the flow of narrative – and I would have felt good for being on a roll and for getting so much done.  Then the next day, sober, I would have tightened it up by deleting a fair portion of superfluous waffle but at least I’d be much further on than I am now.

At least I’ve written this, on a Saturday night, without booze … so I have written something.  Hopefully I will make better progress with the book tomorrow.  I might even clean the kitchen floor.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: