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Thursday, March 31, 2011

And the rest, as they say,.....

I love those random events and decisions that pepper our lives. Those unintended and unexpected consequences of decisions that are made on the spur of the moment  or as a result of sudden twists of circumstance.  Here are three of my favourites from the recording studio 1) Raphael Ravenscroft  booked to play a tiny part on the Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street” session tries out the guitar part on the out of tune saxophone that he fetches from the car.  2) Session musicians are paid by the number of instruments they play so Herbie Flowers needing to get an extra few quid doubles his electric bass with string bass on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” 3) Al Kooper realises his guitar playing is not as good as Mike Bloomfield , so slips unnoticed into the studio to play the hammond organ but, as he is not a natural organ player, he follows the rest of the musicians a semiquaver behind  in an effort to keep up with the chords the others were playing.  They are recording “Like a Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan
Listen to these tracks again and marvel at the power of serendipity

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

100 words is all you need

How many words do you need to communicate with other people?  And what would your list of 100 include?  The article here gives the 100 most commonly used words in the English language but, of course, that doesn't mean they are the ones you need most.  I would have thought there ought to be a fair sprinkling of nouns - for that would have to include "tea" coffee" "computer" "phone" "car" or "bus".  There would have to be "sea" "rain" "cold" "sun" and something to do with money like "pound" (or "dollar" or "Euro") and "card".  States of mind: ""miserable" "happy" "sad" or could I do those with mime?  And I would need some numbers, too.  In fact, if I could mime one to ten with my fingers, I would still need enough of those, say twenty and so on to make up the list.  And then there are those things you need to be able to understand on the phone when trying to get through to the call centre "press" "key" "hash" and "star" and probably "Could I speak to your supervisor?"  What about shopping "Have you got this in a larger size?" and "will you give me a discount because these are weeks past their sell-by date?"  There' that's my 100 already.  But wait a minute, can I find room for "friends" "Facebook" and Blog"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing for Radio

However experienced you are in a subject, you can always learn something new.  Here is a link to a BBC scriptwriting site. Even if its fairly basic it still manages to crystallise many of the routines that we need to keep in mind when writing.

The Mary Anning Play - update

Well, I've achieved the first goal which is to deliver a 25 minute monologue based on the play to Jane McKell at AsOne theatre Co. I've entitled this "Mary Anning's Fossil Depot". Jane rang me on Saturday to say that she liked it so I feel fairly satisfied.  But this is only a draft.  I've asked Jane to pick the bits she likes from what I've done and I'll amplify these and drop out bits that may not suit.  There is still a lot of information that needs to go in but the crucial thing is that I have got the character of Mary Anning (as I see her) pretty well established and I can now use her in various situations. Once the character has reached this stage the writer begins to realise what the issues are that surround her.  The fact that her work was largely unrecognised in her lifetime because of her class and sex will inform her character and what she does but this is a better approach than to start with the issues as many inexperienceds writers do and then try and make the character a mouthpiece for them.  It is also important when dealing with these sort of issues that a twenty-first century writer doesn't distort the actuality of the situations with his or her own sensibilities.  For instance, Mary Anning was putting a pretty hefty spoke in the wheel of religion at that time because her work was disproving the accepted biblical interpretation of history.  On the other hand, Mary herself was a staunch supporter of her church, first as a Congregationalist and later as an Anglican.  We must accept that Mary was able to square this circle and not impose some sort of later ideology on her thinking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How the play is progressing

I’ve extended Mary’s monologue to about three pages.  Now I find that little phrases and sentences are becoming significant and are starting to emerge as needing little scenes and extra characters of their own.  This is a process that I call “Chasing”.   I’m chasing these details out of the undergrowth, ferreting out the titbits that will make up the drama and the piece.  A play is different from a simple narrative or monologue in that the writer must show how the character acts within different circumstances.  We need to look for events that will demonstrate the characters and their interaction rather than just describing them.  Eventually the monologue will disappear as the information it contains is subsumed into dialogue and action.
The little dialogue interplays are taking on a life of their own.  I love writing dialogue.  As the conversations develop we learn more about the characters and their relative status and stand point.  Of course, at the moment, I am still gathering material about the characters.  I don’t even know who or what the other characters will be.  But I am beginning to find what other types of character I am going to need in order to show up my central character.  At the same time, the shape of the narrative is becoming clear.  We talk about narrative arc and character arc.  Basically, that just means how the situation will change and how the characters will develop from beginning to end.  For me, the narrative arc, the story, will come after I’ve discovered something more about the characters.  Once I’ve got that I can then place them in a landscape.

I've also just been given a little target to meet.  The monologue, which will be the first incarnation of the piece, will need to be about twenty-five minutes long.  Good.  Now for a lot more research into the actual events and circumstances of mary Anning's life that will provide the framework of the narrative.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Quantum Entanglement (1) another story about The Boy From the year 2000

For no particular reason except that he was bored, Jimmy was running across the lawn. These days, although he had everything he wanted, he sometimes just felt like running.  In the year 2000 there was not a lot of need to run anywhere.  Hover cars got you everywhere even right to the top of hills.  In the big centres and buildings there were escalators, lifts and moving walkways.  Air tubes shot people from building to building. Now Jimmy was hot and somehow his silver suit wasn’t keeping him as cool as he would have liked in the sunshine.  As he was running he suddenly became aware of another boy running beside him.  But before Jimmy could say anything he disappeared.  For a moment Jimmy wondered who it was and then he wondered where he had come from and, more puzzling, where he had gone.  He knew it wasn’t his friend Tommy because Tommy wasn’t allowed out on a Thursday as he had to do special lessons at home with his father.  And besides Tommy’s hair was dark brown and this boy’s hair was a sort of reddish fair.  “Rather like my own.  I think.” Thought Jimmy to himself.  He went and examined the gate.  It was closed and the latch was firmly in place.  “I would have heard it squeak as it always does.” He thought.  Then he went and looked at the fence which was made of high plasti-lap panels.  It had been newly painted by his mother last weekend using her old insta spray-gun but there was no sign of any gaps or marks where someone could have clambered through or over. 

That afternoon, the boy appeared and disappeared again.  And again.  Each time Jimmy tried to engage him in conversation.  He wasn’t afraid, just curious as to who this could be.  But the sudden appearance and disappearances puzzled him. He looked over the garden fence to see if Tommy was playing in his garden and, sure enough, there was his friend.  “He must have finished his lessons early.” Thought Jimmy and called out but, at that moment, Tommy disappeared.  Not in a puff of smoke but he just seemed to disappear before his eyes just as the other boy in his own garden had done.

Jimmy rang the Smith’s bell and within a few moments the door opened.  The most disturbing thing about Mrs. Smith was the way in which some parts of her emerged through the doorway quite a time before the rest of her.  “Hello Jimmy.”  She said.  “How nice of you to come and see me.  You are such a nice boy.  Not like some of the rough boys that live in this street.”  
“Umm” said Jimmy.  For some reason he could never think of the right thing to say and, besides he didn’t know any of the rough boys that Mrs. Smith might be talking about.  The boys that kept appearing and disappearing didn’t seem particularly rough to him.
“You are growing up. Quite like your father.  And where is he today?  On the golf links again?”  purred Mrs Smith.   “I know all about him and his golf.  He and I have had the pleasure of playing a round from time to time.  He has very strong arms and a long, long drive.  And so will yours be very soon.  If you practise”
“I... I ... don’t like golf.” Said Jimmy wondering why he was stuttering.
“Never mind, I’m sure we can find another sort of sport to interest you.”

“Ah,well.  I expect you’ve come to see Tommy, haven’t you?  Nobody comes to see little old me.”  She pouted.
“Who’s that?”  Jimmy heard someone say.  It was Mr.  Smith.
“It’s that lovely big boy Jimmy Brown.” She breathed.  “He’s come to see Tommy.”
“Tommy’s busy at the moment” shouted Mr Smith, “But send him in all the same.”
Jimmy was fascinated by Mrs. Smith’s little pink tongue that peeped out between he lips when she smiled.  “Come in Jimmy.” She said and stood back just enough so that Jimmy had to brush up against her as he went through to the front room.
“Heelo, Youngun.”  Chuckled Mr Smith tapping his pipe in his hands.  “Tommy won’t be a minute.  Just finishing up some calculus I’ve given him to do.”
“Umm.” Said Jimmy beginning to recover his voice.   “It’s you...  I mean... could you help me...”
“Hello?  In trouble again.  You young rapsacllions are always up to some mischief or other.”

Jimmy spent the next few minutes explaining what he had seen.
“Ah, I think you’ve come to the right place.” Said Mr. Smith and his voice was suddenly grave.
“is it a clone?” asked Jimmy.
“Why no,” chuckled Mr Smith.  You see a clone is an exact copy of  someone but it is constructed at the cellular level.  A clone is a copy in the way that an identical twin is.  You know, like the twins, Amelia and Margaret who live down the street.”
Jimmy felt himself colouring again.  He didn’t like to think about big girls like Amelia and Margaret. 
“They are, in fact, clones who have identical cellular make up.  But, of course, as you know they can still be individuals.  One likes to wear pink and the other likes to wear, well, a different shade of pink.  They grow up differently because minute differences in the environment they live in sets them on entirely different paths as they grow. You don’t have an unknown twin brother, do you?  Of course you don’t.  No, what you saw was an exact copy of yourself and of Tommy.   This Jimmy is, to all intents and purposes, you.  And I think I know it might have occurred.”

“Gosh an identical copy.  Would he be able to talk and think like me?  I’d love to have him as a chum.  There aren’t many people who understand how I think.”
“Oh yes.  You and he would have exactly the same thoughts at exactly the same time because all the neurons in your brains would be firing in exactly the same sequence.”
“Gosh I’d really like to talk to him. I’ve always wanted a brother.”
“Obviously you can only exist at a distance because you both cannot occupy the same place at the same time.   There comes a time when one or other of you must disappear.”
“Would we annhialate each other in a great explosion?  Are these other boys made of anti-matter?” asked Jimmy wide-eyed.

“Why no.” Smiled Mr. Smith, “But well done on thinking about anti-matter as a possibility.  If you were to meet a boy made of anti-matter then you would indeed come to a very sticky end.  But that is very unlikely in our current universe as there isn’t enough anti-matter to make a growing boy like you.  But it might happen one day, I suppose.  If the scientists like me keep creating anti-matter particles in our synchrotrons.  But not yet.  Not for a week or two anyway.”  And he laughed heartily although Jimmy couldn’t see much to laugh about.

“Look, I’ll level with you” said Mr. Smith tamping his pipe and returning to his more serious demeanour.  “If you remember a little while ago I told you about some  well... Unhappy People.  People who are unhappy about the way most of us live our comfortable lives.  The thing is, they want what we’ve got without.... “ For once Mr. Smith seemed to be struggling for an explanation.
“Without playing the game.” Breathed Mrs. Smith from the doorway.
“Bravo.  I couldn’t have put it better myself” winked Mr. Smith.
“You see, down at the Government labs we’ve been playing with quantum particles in our synchrotron.  What we’ve found is that if you make a collision between two atoms, the quantum particles that fly off will behave exactly as if each of them knew what the other one was doing.  We can get particles to be exactly the same as each other so that even at a distance if one changes its state then the other does the same.   Even if they’re miles apart.  We call it quantum entanglement.  Are you following me?”
“Yes, I think so. Quantum particles can behave as if they were exactly the same as each other.”
“Bravo.  You’re on the ball.  But what I’m going to tell you know is tip top secret.  Do you understand?”
“Yes.  I won’t breathe a word.”
“Excellent. Because if you did I might have to have you kidnapped and shut up for a very long time.”
Jimmy felt his bottom lip begin to tremble.  “If you’d rather not tell me....”
“No, no.  You’re an intelligent lad.  I know I, and the government, can trust you.”  And then Mr Smith’s voice dropped to just above a whisper. “Just last week it was discovered that some Unhappy People living outside our dome had stolen a synchrotron from some other facility and were doing their own experiments in entanglement.   I think that they may have moved faster than us and they’ve succeeded in entangling a bunch of atoms at a distance.  I think, for some reason, you’ve become a victim of entanglement and you and Tommy have exact quantum doubles.”

 (Part 2 to follow)